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.

Author: Dr. Vince Gutierrez, PT, cert. MDT

After having dedicated 8 years to growing my knowledge regarding the profession of physical therapy, it seems only fitting that I join the social media world in order to spread a little of the knowledge that I have gained over the years. This by no means is meant to act in place of a one-one medical consultation, but only to supplement your baseline knowledge in which to choose a practitioner for your problem. Having completed a Master of Physical Therapy degree, the MDT (Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy) certification and currently finishing a post-graduate doctorate degree, I have spent the previous 12 years in some sort of post-baccalalaureate study. Hopefully the reader finds the information insightful and uses the information in order to make more informed healthcare decisions. MISSION STATEMENT: My personal mission statement is as follows: As a professional, I will provide a thorough assessment of your clinical presentation and symptoms in order to determine both the provocative and relieving positions and movements. The assessment process and ensuing treatment will be based on current and relevant evidence. Furthermore, I will educate the patients regarding their symptoms and their likelihood of improving with either skilled therapy, an independent exercise program, spontaneous recovery or if the patient should be referred to a separate specialist to possibly provide a more rapid resolution of symptoms. Respecting the patient’s limited resources is important and I will provide an accurate overview of the prognosis within 7 visits, again based on current research. My goal is to empower the patient in order to take charge of both the symptomatic resolution and return to full function with as little dependence on the therapist as possible. Personally, I strive to be an example for family and friends. My goal is to demonstrate that success is not a byproduct of situations, but a series of choices and actions. I will mentor those, in any way possible, that are having difficulty with the choices and actions for success. I will continue to honor my family’s “blue-collar” roots by working to excel at my chosen career and life situations. I choose to be a leader of example, and not words, all the while reducing negativity in my life. I began working towards the professional aspect of the mission statement while still in physical therapy school. By choosing an internship that emphasized patient care and empowering the patient, instead of the internship that was either closest to home or where I knew that I would have the easiest road to graduation, I took the first step towards learning how to utilize the evidence to teach patients how to reduce their symptoms. I continued this process by completing Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy courses A-D and passing the credentialing exam. I will continue to pursue my clinical education through CEU’s on MDT and my goal is to obtain the status of Diplomat of MDT. Returning back to school for the t-DPT was a major decision for me, as resources (i.e. time and money) are limited. My choice was between saving money for the Dip MDT course (about 15,000 dollars) and continuing on with the Fellowship of American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT) (about 5,000 dollars), as these courses are paired through the MDT curriculum or returning to school to work towards a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree. I initially planned on saving for the Dip MDT and FAAOMPT, but life changes forced me to re-evaluate my situation. The decision then changed to return for the tDPT, as my employer paid for a portion of the DPT program. My goal for applying to and finishing the Dip MDT and FAAOMPT is 10 years. This is how long I anticipate that it will take to finish paying student loans and save for both programs, based on the current rate of payment. I don’t know if I will ever accomplish what I set forth in the mission statement, but I do know that it will be a forever struggle to maintain this standard that I set for myself.

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