Stachura J. The testing of frontal plane movements in the loaded position in the absence of a lateral shift-A case study. International Journal of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy. 2009;4(3):17-23.


  1. “It is estimated that 80% of the adult population will experience low back pain at some time during their life. During a typical year, 40% of adults will experience back pain.”

I realize that this statistic gets thrown around so often, but it is only because 8/10 people will have the pleasure of being a back pain statistic. Very few people will live their life without going through an episode of back pain. Like Lavar Burton would say…”The more you know”.


  1. “It has been reported that up to 90% of patients referred for low back pain cannot be given a specific anatomical diagnosis”

Think about this. Most people that I see just want to be educated. How would you feel about going to your doctor to better understand what your problem is and being told you have back pain. DUH! “I came to the office to tell you that I have back pain and all you can tell me is what I told you!”. That is the best we can do in most situations. Everyone wants to know about the exploding disc or the pulled muscle or the DUM DUM DUM…ARTHRITIS! Typically there is not one cookie cutter answer to your pain and 9/10 times we can not state with certainty what is the problem tissue causing pain.

  1. “The MDT model involves a movement examination in which single and repeated end range movements are performed and the patient’s response to these movements is assessed.”

In order to figure out how your symptoms respond and to better understand your symptoms, you will have to be moved while in our presence. This statement above does a good job of explaining MDT, AKA the McKenzie Method. You will be moved, not once, but tens to hundreds of times in order to determine what makes you better and what makes you worse. Once this is figured out, the rest is easy. Avoid what makes you worse and continue what makes you better. I spent almost $80K to learn this! It’s a little more complicated than this, but not much, which has been part of the stigma against this method: “It’s too easy”. Look, would you rather I looked very pensive and gave you 20 exercises and treated you for months on end, or would you rather I smiled with the thought that “I got this!” and then only treated you for 6-8 sessions?

  1. “When a specific movement or combination of movements results in the patient’s symptoms being centralized, reduced or abolished, it is said that this is the directional preference of movement for the patient. If a directional preference is found, this determines the treatment intervention strategy…allows the MDT trained practitioner to make a provisional classification…then drives the principle of management.”

I wrote all of this out because I can’t stress the importance of all of the above. We have a ton of research since Donelson came out the term directional preference over 20 years ago. To make this very simplistic, many back pains are like a locked door. When we find the one movement that makes your pain better, it is like the key to open the door. Many patients, about 49%-64%, with back pain can be unlocked with the right key. If the therapist is trained to find the key, then it’s like solving a rubix cube. If a therapist doesn’t even understand the basic principle of directional preference, there will be a lot of attempts to open the door with CORE TRAINING (buzz word), massage, manipulation, rest and relaxation and heat or ultrasound. Not many of these have great evidence (albeit manipulation is growing in the research) of turning off back pain.

  1. “ A lateral shift was not detectable with visual inspection”

Let’s start with “lateral shift” and what it is vs. isn’t, because not every therapist can agree on this. I have absolutely no problem advertising for someone else if it also aids in educating the patients that I treat. A lateral shift literally means that the patient, when attempting to stand upright and straight, leans to one side or another due to pain and is unable to attain an upright position.

FUNNY STORY: I had a patient years ago that walked in with a lateral shift. There are some rules to determine whether or not the person’s crooked posture is relevant to the symptoms, but as a young know-it-all, I knew that it had to be relevant. Anyway, I treated this shift for over 40 minutes trying to get this person to walk straight and his symptoms weren’t changing nor was his posture improving. I called his wife back to the clinic and asked her to watch him walk. I didn’t tell her what I was looking for and just asked “what’s the most obvious thing that you see”. She said “he looks like he always looks like that” WHAT?! “Look at the guy…he’s crooked”. She followed with, “now that you mention it, he is crooked, but he’s always been that way.” I essentially let my eagerness to play the hero override the basic premise of ensuring that his being crooked actually has something to do with his symptoms. I was WRONG! Note this date, because I don’t say it often. Anyway’s, a few press-ups (look up a video of repeated extension in lying) and this crooked patient was pain-free, but still crooked.

  1. “Single movements were tested…demonstrated a major loss of lumbar flexion, moderate loss of lumbar extension, and a minimal loss of side gliding”

What this means is that the patient was unable to bend forward, had much difficulty bending backwards and sidegliding was not blocked much. Most patients don’t know what side gliding is, and don’t feel bad because many PT’s don’t know it either. This is a movement of shifting the hips like 1. You are holding a baby on your hips or 2. You are trying to hip check someone into the glass. This movement is important because it is more likely to test the problem area than just sideways bending. If your therapist has you bend sideways instead of side gliding, try your best to educate the therapist (You heard right!) and if the PT still doesn’t understand…walk out.

  1. “ A stud by Feinberg on 2320 patients with low back pain demonstrated that the most common site of disc pathology was the L4-L5 and L5-S1 level in combination followed by L5-S1 alone. Side glide in standing has been demonstrated to better isolate the lower lumbar segments than side bending”

Again, this relates to the above statement. Most people have back pain originating from the bottom two segments of the low back. Think about it, the lowest portions of the spine have to carry more weight than any other portions of the spine. It makes sense that they will be screaming for help at some point. To the point, side gliding affects these two segments moreso than sidways bending affects the bottom segments. Follow me for a second. Ninety-five percent of problems happen at these segments. If I am not testing the segments, then what am I doing?! It’s akin to me asking you move your arm in order to determine what’s wrong with your ankle. I understand that it’s an extreme example, but the theory is still the same. If you have a back problem that looks and smells like it could be coming from the lowest segments, we should be looking at the lowest segments in the best way possible. You will know more about this than most new graduates after reading just this segment of the blog.

  1. “While there is no evidence to support the following, this author believes that the loaded position (standing) is more functional and therefore, should be fully tested before testing unloaded (lying) positions.”

This guy just took a huge leap. Okay, when practicing MDT it is taught, no drilled into us, that we should always follow the form. The author of this study is no longer following the form. That is not a bad thing. This guy is able to give a rationale for why we test some things in standing and some things in lying. The biggest picture item to understand about this method is that we will continue testing you to determine what helps you compared to what hurts you. For me and many other practitioners, our primary goal is to understand how your symptoms respond to certain movements. When we see patterns or certain “phenomenon” after moving you, we can start to play your symptoms like a fiddle. This means that we should be able to accurately predict what will make you worse and better. I personally like to test this to see if I am right. It will put the patient through a little more symptoms than they have to be, but so be it. (I really am a nice guy though). From my experience with patients, therapists aren’t doing this and the patient’s may never experience a cause and effect moment during the entire therapy episode, or even worse, traditional therapy may create a cause-effect relationship in a negative way and actually make the patient worse. It’s not the patient’s fault.

FINAL STORY: I had a patient back in 2009 that came walking into the clinic on crutches. Her diagnosis was sciatica and I couldn’t figure out why the crutches? I asked and she said that she walked in to a local clinic and needed crutches in order to leave the clinic. The PT was performing hamstring stretches. RANT: I hate seeing the traditional picture of the therapist in the Polo shirt stretching a patient’s hamstring. I never look that good stretching a patient! END RANT. The patient in question responded rapidly (good book: Rapidly Reversible Back Pain by Dr. Ron Donelson) to lumbar extension and not only did she not need crutches after the first session, but she had no pain whatsoever. Forghettaboutit!


MORAL: Not all therapists have the same knowledge even though we all have the same baseline education. Educate yourself in order to be better informed when going to see your healthcare practitioner.

If you are experiencing back pain or know someone that would benefit from an evaluation to determine how rapidly the symptoms can be resolved give them my name. I can be found at

Functional Therapy and Rehabilitation

Now part of the Goodlife family

903 N Infantry Dr

Joliet Il



Categories non-professionals, Physical therapy, Written BlogsTags

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