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McKenzie Method and back pain

I recently just read a case study, which I will be referencing a lot in the future paragraphs, regarding the use of MDT in the treatment of a patient with pain.  This is not uncommon, but what makes it special is that that the patient has a diagnosis of recent transverse process fractures in the spine.  Hope you find it interesting also!

 

First, Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) is also known informally as the McKenzie Method.  You can read more about the method with this link.  Also, this method is used by therapists all across the world as seen  here. Finally, if you are looking for more in depth information on the method, it can be found here.  There is so much information out there regarding MDT that there is no need for me to go back and explain it all again.  Read the previous stuff that I did. 

Patient characteristics

  1. 24 y/o female referred with left sided back pain
  2. 10 week previous involved in accident in which she was hit by a car while walking
  3. Transverse processes fractures from L2-L4
  4. Evaluation occurred about 10 weeks following accident

Examination:

  1. PT and MD agreed to patient generated forces only
    1. This is important! The most important part of this statement is the communication that is taking place between the PT and the physician prior to the patient entering the clinic. Also of importance to note is the trust that the physician has in not only the therapist, but also the method, as the patient was specifically referred for an MDT assessment. 
  2. Left low back tightness and numbness constantly
    1. Pain was intermittent
  3. Sometimes worse with sitting and tenderness when sitting against a hard-back chair, sometimes worse with activity and waking a few times per night due to pain
    1. The above is also important as this indicates high irritability as the symptoms can be constant and pressure can increase the symptoms. Also, the patient is waking during the night, which is historically correlated to an inflammatory process, but can also be position related. 
  4. The patient was better with standing, walking and lying
    1. This could mean that the patient has a directional preference for extension, prefers to be unloaded or is better with movement. The only way to figure out how these variables play a role in her symptoms is to start playing/manipulating the variables and watch the outcomes.  This is no different than any other science-based projects.  We have the opportunity to work with patients that trust us.  We have a responsibility to work with the patient in order to educate them as to the process of attempting to narrow down the variables at play regarding the symptoms.  Once the patient is agreeable to working together, we can change the inputs to the brain and assess the outputs in terms of physical changes and perceived changes from the patient. 
  5. Worse with postural correction, but no worse with using a lumbar roll.
    1. Postural correction, when performed according to the book is a hands-on technique and in doing so may be too much for the patient to tolerate. The fact that the patient is no worse with a lumbar roll means that extension, in and of itself, may not be bad but increasing the range in a loaded position may not be preferable at this time.
  6. Patient was issued back bends, repeated extension in standing, after the first session due to her complaints with flexion based movements and improving with standing and walking.
  7. Visit 2 overall unchanged and the patient was instructed to lean against a countertop to provide a fulcrum to lean against during the movement. This is, theoretically, to allow for increased force during the movement.
    1. The worst response to any movement that I can see in the clinic is “no overall change”. If we can’t change the patient’s symptoms or movement patterns, or strength, then it is hard to predict if the patient will respond to therapy over the course of care.  If the patient gets worse during the evaluation, it is not good/bad, just a response.  The thought is that if the patient is able to change for the worse, then the PT should be able to create a change for the better.  It’s simplistic thinking, but in the presence of a mechanical and not chemical issue, it is a common response to see in the clinic.
  8. Patient was better with either the countertop version of backbends or when doing pressups
    1. This is a version of progression and alternative versions of the same exercise. For example, the thought is that during a pressup, the patient is able to move further into the range of extension than during a back bend.  This may be because of eccentric loading of the global flexors or because of gravity assistance during the pressup on the lumbar spine.  I haven’t seen any research that definitively states why, but these are the thoughts.
  9. By the third visit, the patient reported 80% improvement with no pain.
    1. This is very common to see when a patient presents with a mechanical response and is categorized as a derangement (see all of the links above). It’s not uncommon to reduce symptoms in less than 7 visits. 

 

The big picture lessons from this case are:

  1. Don’t be afraid to assess a patient systematically.
  2. Communicate with other members of the health care team.
  3. Be willing to change your plan when something isn’t progressing accordingly.

Elenburg JL, Foley BS, Roberts K, Bayliss AJ. Case Report: Utilization of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) for the treatment of a lumbar pain in the presence of known lumbar transverse process fractures: a case study. JMMT. 2016;24(2):74-79.

If you are having back pain and want to be evaluated by a certified MDT therapist, you can find me here.

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