The McKenzie Method for Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review of the Literature With a Meta-Analysis Approach

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Study Design and Objectives.

Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to evaluate the effectiveness of the McKenzie method for low back pain (LBP).

Summary of Background Data.

The McKenzie method is a popular classification-based treatment for LBP. The faulty equation of McKenzie to extension exercises (generic McKenzie) is common in randomized trials.


MEDLINE, EMBASE, PEDro, and LILACS were searched up to August 2003. Two independent reviewers extracted the data and assessed methodologic quality. Pooled effects were calculated among homogeneous trials using the random effects model. A sensitivity analysis excluded trials reporting on generic McKenzie.


Eleven trials of mostly high quality were included. McKenzie reduced pain (weighted mean difference [WMD] on a 0- to 100-point scale, −4.16 points; 95% confidence interval, −7.12 to −1.20) and disability (WMD on a 0- to 100-point scale, −5.22 points; 95% confidence interval, −8.28 to −2.16) at 1 week follow-up when compared with passive therapy for acute LBP. When McKenzie was compared with advice to stay active, a reduction in disability favored advice (WMD on a 0- to 100-point scale, 3.85 points; 95% confidence interval, 0.30 to 7.39) at 12 weeks of follow-up. Heterogeneity prevented pooling of studies on chronic LBP as well as pooling of studies included in the sensitivity analysis.


There is some evidence that the McKenzie method is more effective than passive therapy for acute LBP; however, the magnitude of the difference suggests the absence of clinically worthwhile effects. There is limited evidence for the use of McKenzie method in chronic LBP. The effectiveness of classification-based McKenzie is yet to be established.

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