This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of three distinct interventions – Yoga, Naturopathy, and Conventional medical management – in alleviating pain, reducing disability, enhancing spinal mobility, and improving the quality of life in individuals with low back pain. Ninety participants were recruited and randomly divided into three groups.
- The first group (group 1) received Yoga,
- the second group (group 2) received Naturopathy treatments,
- the third group served as the control and received conventional medications.
Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) scores, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Flexion Test-Finger to Floor Test (FTFT) results, and Quality of Life (QOL) were assessed at baseline and after a 10-day intervention period for all groups.
Overall comparisons between the groups, utilizing ANOVA, revealed marked differences in pain severity, disability index, daily functional capacity, and Quality of Life (QoL) improvements following respective interventions. Substantial improvements were also noted within the yoga and naturopathic medicine groups across multiple variables.
The authors concluded that the results of this comparative analysis emphasize the effectiveness of Yoga, Naturopathy, and Conventional Medical Treatment in managing low back pain. All three interventions demonstrated significant improvements in pain intensity, disability, spinal mobility, and quality of life. This study contributes valuable insights into the diverse therapeutic approaches for low back pain management, highlighting the potential of holistic and alternative treatments to enhance patients’ well-being.
This is a remarkably poor study. Its flaws are too numerous to account for them all here. Let me focus on just a three that stand out.
- All we learn about the 3 treatment regimen is this (and it clearly not enough to do an independent replication of this trial):
Participants in the Yoga Group underwent a specifically designed integrated approach of Yoga therapy (IAYT) for back pain, incorporating relaxation techniques, spinal movements, breathing exercises, pranayama, and deep relaxation techniques. The intervention was conducted by qualified yoga instructors at SDM College of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences.
Participants in the Naturopathy Group received neutral spinal baths and partial massages. The spinal bath was administered at Government Yoga & Nature Cure Out Patient Center, Puttur, and massages were performed by trained naturopathy therapists.
Conventional Medicine Group:
Participants in the Conventional Medicine Group received standard medical treatments for low back pain as recommended by orthopedic physicians from S.D.M Medical College, Dharward
- As an equivalence trial, the sample size of this study is far too small. This means that its findings are most likely caused by coincidence and not by the interventions applied.
- There was no attempt of blinding the patients. Therefore, the results – if they were otherwise trustworthy – would be dominated by expectations and not by the effects of the treatments.
Altogether, this study is, I think, a good example for the fact that
poor research often is worse than no research at all.
The case of a 91-year old male patient developing acute neuropathic pain along the sciatic nerve distribution following spinal manipulation has been reported. Manipulative treatment with an Activator Adjusting Instrument (AAI) had been performed. During this treatment, three applications of the AAI were administered. The applications were bilateral (1) over the sacroiliac joint, (2) gluteal area, and (3) paraspinal region just above the iliac crest.
Within 24 hours, the patient developed severe 10/10 pain originating from the left gluteal area at the site of one of the activator deployments with radiation all the way down his left leg to the foot. He was able to maintain distal left leg strength and sensation. Subsequently, the patient developed insomnia, confusion, and adrenal gland dysfunction in response to changes in steroids, gabapentin, and other drugs, thus highlighting some nuances of managing elderly patients with back pain.
Relief was achieved with subsequent physical therapy techniques aimed at relaxing the patient’s deep gluteal muscles, raising the hypothesis of temporary injury to the deep gluteal muscles, with painful contractions resulting in gluteal region pain as well as sciatic nerve inflammation as the nerve passed through that region.
The authors concluded that this clinical case illustrates some of the perils and risks of spinal manipulation, particularly in the elderly, and the need for careful patient selection.
The authors of this (stranely incomplete) case report discuss whether any manipulation was truly necessary or indicated as part of his initial chiropractic treatment plan. They state that, given that complications associated with similar practices are not often reported in the literature, this case highlights important considerations to be made in the elderly given the potential impact of transient/permanent neuropathic pain in that population subset.
Somehow, I doubt that we can be certain that the patient improved due to the physical therapy and not due to the drugs he received. Moreover, I question the authors’ repeated assertions that such adverse effects of chiropractic spinal manipulation are truly rare. Here is a section from our own 2002 systematic review of the subject:
A systematic review of five prospective investigations of the risks of spinal manipulation concluded that mild-to moderate transient adverse reactions occur in approximately half of patients who undergo spinal manipulation. The largest of these studies involved 1058 patients who received a total of 4712 treatments from 102 chiropractors in Norway. At least one adverse reaction was reported by 55% (n 580) of patients. About one quarter (n 1174) of treatments resulted in at least one adverse reaction. The most common reaction reported was local discomfort. Eighty-five percent (n 824) of reactions were described as “mild or moderate” and 1% (n 14) as “unbearable.” Seventy-four percent (n 1052) of reactions disappeared within 24 hours. No serious, permanent complications of spinal manipulation were reported, but follow-up was not described. These results were confirmed by a similar study in Sweden with 625 patients and a smaller one (68 patients) from the United Kingdom …
Non-life-threatening adverse effects after spinal manipulations are not rare – they are merely rarely reported!
Manual therapy is considered a safe and less painful method and has been increasingly used to alleviate chronic neck pain. However, there is controversy about the effectiveness of manipulation therapy on chronic neck pain. Therefore, this systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) aimed to determine the effectiveness of manipulative therapy for chronic neck pain.
A search of the literature was conducted on seven databases (PubMed, Cochrane Center Register of Controlled Trials, Embase, Medline, CNKI, WanFang, and SinoMed) from the establishment of the databases to May 2022. The review included RCTs on chronic neck pain managed with manipulative therapy compared with sham, exercise, and other physical therapies. The retrieved records were independently reviewed by two researchers. Further, the methodological quality was evaluated using the PEDro scale. All statistical analyses were performed using RevMan V.5.3 software. The Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations (GRADE) assessment was used to evaluate the quality of the study results.
Seventeen RCTs, including 1190 participants, were included in this meta-analysis. Manipulative therapy showed better results regarding pain intensity and neck disability than the control group. Manipulative therapy was shown to relieve pain intensity (SMD = -0.83; 95% confidence interval [CI] = [-1.04 to -0.62]; p < 0.0001) and neck disability (MD = -3.65; 95% CI = [-5.67 to – 1.62]; p = 0.004). However, the studies had high heterogeneity, which could be explained by the type and control interventions. In addition, there were no significant differences in adverse events between the intervention and the control groups.
The authors concluded that manipulative therapy reduces the degree of chronic neck pain and neck disabilities.
Only a few days ago, we discussed another systematic review that drew quite a different conclusion: there was very low certainty evidence supporting cervical SMT as an intervention to reduce pain and improve disability in people with neck pain.
How can this be?
Systematic reviews are supposed to generate reliable evidence!
How can we explain the contradiction?
There are several differences between the two papers:
- One was published in a SCAM journal and the other one in a mainstream medical journal.
- One was authored by Chinese researchers, the other one by an international team.
- One included 17, the other one 23 RCTs.
- One assessed ‘manual/manipulative therapies’, the other one spinal manipulation/mobilization.
The most profound difference is that the review by the Chinese authors is mostly on Chimese massage [tuina], while the other paper is on chiropractic or osteopathic spinal manipulation/mobilization. A look at the Chinese authors’ affiliation is revealing:
- Department of Tuina and Spinal Diseases Research, The Third School of Clinical Medicine (School of Rehabilitation Medicine), Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Hangzhou, China.
- Department of Tuina and Spinal Diseases Research, The Third School of Clinical Medicine (School of Rehabilitation Medicine), Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Hangzhou, China; Department of Tuina, The Third Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Hangzhou, China. Electronic address: [email protected].
- Department of Tuina and Spinal Diseases Research, The Third School of Clinical Medicine (School of Rehabilitation Medicine), Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Hangzhou, China; Department of Tuina, The Third Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Hangzhou, China. Electronic address: [email protected].
What lesson can we learn from this confusion?
Perhaps that Tuina is effective for neck pain?
What the abstract does not tell us is that the Tuina studies are of such poor quality that the conclusions drawn by the Chinese authors are not justified.
What we do learn – yet again – is that
- Chinese papers need to be taken with a large pintch of salt. In the present case, the searches underpinning the review and the evaluations of the included primary studies were clearly poorly conducted.
- Rubbish journals publish rubbish papers. How could the reviewers and the editors have missed the many flaws of this paper? The answer seems to be that they did not care. SCAM journals tend to publish any nonsense as long as the conclusion is positive.
This systematic review with meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) estimated the benefits and harms of cervical spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) for treating neck pain. The authors searched the MEDLINE, Cochrane CENTRAL, EMBASE, CINAHL, PEDro, Chiropractic Literature Index bibliographic databases, and grey literature sources, up to June 6, 2022.
RCTs evaluating SMT compared to guideline-recommended and non-recommended interventions, sham SMT, and no intervention for adults with neck pain were eligible. Pre-specified outcomes included pain, range of motion, disability, health-related quality of life.
A total of 28 RCTs could be included. There was very low to low certainty evidence that SMT was more effective than recommended interventions for improving pain at short-term (standardized mean difference [SMD] 0.66; confidence interval [CI] 0.35 to 0.97) and long-term (SMD 0.73; CI 0.31 to 1.16), and for reducing disability at short-term (SMD 0.95; CI 0.48 to 1.42) and long-term (SMD 0.65; CI 0.23 to 1.06). Only transient side effects were found (e.g., muscle soreness).
The authors concluded that there was very low certainty evidence supporting cervical SMT as an intervention to reduce pain and improve disability in people with neck pain.
Harms cannot be adequately investigated on the basis of RCT data. Firstly, because much larger sample sizes would be required for this purpose. Secondly, RCTs of spinal manipulation very often omit reporting adverse effects (as discussed repeatedly on this bolg). If we extend our searches beyond RCTs, we find many cases of serious harm caused by neck manipulations (also as discussed repeatedly on this bolg). Therefore, the conclusion of this review should be corrected:
Low certainty evidence exists supporting cervical SMT as an intervention to reduce pain and improve disability in people with neck pain. The evidence of harm is, however, substantial. It follows that the risk/benefit ratio is not positive. Cervical SMT should therefore be discouraged.
MEDLINE (Pubmed), PEDro, SCOPUS, Cochrane Library and Web of Science databases were searched from inception to February 2022. PICO search strategy was used to identify randomized clinical trials applying visceral techniques in patients with LBP. Eligible studies and data extraction were conducted independently by two reviewers. Quality of the studies was assessed with the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale, and the risk of bias with Cochrane Collaboration tool. Meta-analyses were conducted using random effects models according to heterogeneity assessed with I2 coefficient. Data on outcomes of interest were extracted by a researcher using RevMan 5.4 software.
Five studies were included in the systematic review involving 268 patients with LBP. The methodological quality of the included ranged from high to low and the risk of bias was high. Visceral osteopathy techniques have shown no improvements in pain intensity (Standardized mean difference (SMD) = -0.53; 95% CI; -1.09, 0.03; I2: 78%), disability (SMD = -0.08; 95% CI; -0.44, 0.27; I2: 0%) and physical function (SMD = -0.26; 95% CI; -0.62, 0.10; I2: 0%) in patients with LBP.
The authors concluded that this systematic review and meta-analysis showed a lack of high-quality studies showing the effectiveness of visceral osteopathy in pain, disability, and physical function in patients with LBP.
Visceral osteopathy (or visceral manipulation) is an expansion of the general principles of osteopathy and involves the manual manipulation by a therapist of internal organs, blood vessels and nerves (the viscera) from outside the body.
Visceral osteopathy was developed by Jean-Piere Barral, a registered Osteopath and Physical Therapist who serves as Director (and faculty) of the Department of Osteopathic Manipulation in Paris, France. He stated that through his clinical work with thousands of patients, he created this modality based on organ-specific fascial mobilization. And through work in a dissection lab, he was able to experiment with visceral manipulation techniques and see the internal effects of the manipulations. According to its proponents, visceral manipulation is based on the specific placement of soft manual forces looking to encourage the normal mobility, tone and motion of the viscera and their connective tissues. These gentle manipulations may potentially improve the functioning of individual organs, the systems the organs function within, and the structural integrity of the entire body. Visceral osteopathy comprises of several different manual techniques firstly for diagnosing a health problem and secondly for treating it.
Several studies have assessed the diagnostic reliability of the techniques involved. The totality of this evidence fails to show that they are sufficiently reliable to be od practical use. Other studies have tested whether the therapeutic techniques used in visceral osteopathy are effective in curing disease or alleviating symptoms. The totality of this evidence fails to show that visceral osteopathy works for any condition.
The treatment itself seems to be safe, yet the risks of visceral osteopathy are nevertheless considerable: if a patient suffers from symptoms related to her inner organs, the therapist is likely to misdiagnose them and subsequently mistreat them. If the symptoms are due to a serious disease, this would amount to medical neglect and could, in extreme cases, cost the patient’s life.
My bottom line: if you see visceral osteopathy being employed anywhere, turn araound and seek proper healthcare whatever your illness might be.
 Guillaud A, Darbois N, Monvoisin R, Pinsault N (2018) Reliability of diagnosis and clinical efficacy of visceral osteopathy: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med 18:65
Massage is frequently used for recovery and increased performance. This review, aimed to search and systemize current literature findings relating to massages’ effects on sports and exercise performance concerning its effects on motor abilities and neurophysiological and psychological mechanisms.
One hundred and fourteen articles were included. The data revealed that massages, in general, do not affect motor abilities, except flexibility. However, several studies demonstrated that positive muscle force and strength changed 48 h after the massage was given. Concerning neurophysiological parameters, massage did not change blood lactate clearance, muscle blood flow, muscle temperature, or activation. However, many studies indicated a reduction of pain and delayed onset muscle soreness, which are probably correlated with the reduction of the level of creatine kinase enzyme and psychological mechanisms. In addition, massage treatment led to a decrease in depression, stress, anxiety, and the perception of fatigue and an increase in mood, relaxation, and the perception of recovery.
The authors concluded that the direct usage of massages just for gaining results in sport and exercise performance seems questionable. However, it is indirectly connected to performance as an important tool when an athlete should stay focused and relaxed during competition or training and recover after them.
The evidence about the value of massage therapy is limited through the mostly poor quality of the primary studies. Unfortunately, the review authors did not bother to address this issue. Another recent and in my opinion more rigorous review identified 29 eligible studies recruiting 1012 participants, representing the largest examination of the effects of massage. Its authors found no evidence that massage improves measures of strength, jump, sprint, endurance, or fatigue, but massage was associated with small but statistically significant improvements in flexibility and DOMS. Massage therapy has the additional advantage that it is agreeable and nearly free of adverse effects. So, on balance, I think massage therapy might be worth considering for athletes.
The Shakti Mat is all the rage! It is claimed to offer an “unforgettable experience that targets mind and body tension through acupressure. The nail bed is an ancient healing practice that has been used in India for over 3,000 years. 20 minutes is all it takes. Common uses are for pain and stress relief, muscle tension, soothing headaches and deeper sleep … Join a Shakti community of millions experiencing the benefits of relaxation and rest through this consciously crafted wellbeing tool. 20 minutes is all it takes to decompress and reset your body, unravel your mind and completely transform your sleep. Alleviate and unwind with powerful Eastern acupressure that will give you sanctuary within the demands of the modern lifestyle.”
Yes, that sounds like pure hype. A hopelessly uncritical article for physios is hardly any better; it concluded that “acupressure Mats are not something to be ignored if you have chronic pain, stress and anxiety, trouble sleeping or want to do everything you can to help recover faster. There is definitely some scientific reasoning and research backing up its use although not all research is conclusive or agrees.”
As it turns out, the Internet is full of such hype:
But is there any real evidence, at all?
Not a lot!
Here are two trials that I found:
This study investigated subjective and physiologic responses of lying on a bed of nails (BN) called the Shakti-mat and of listening to relaxing instructions and music. The BN has 6210 sharp-edge 5-mm plastic nails about 5 mm apart.
Design: Thirty-two (32) healthy participants went through four conditions in randomized orders combining BN and relaxing instructions.
Results: The subjective pain ratings on the BN increased immediately and reached a peak within 30 seconds. The pain then subsided gradually, indicating a habituation effect. Self-rated relaxation increased over time in all conditions. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures were higher, heart rate was slower, and there was more high-frequency power heart rate variability (HRV), and signs of increasing circulation in the back on the BN. The relaxation instruction especially affected breathing and the HRV-indices standard deviations of normal interbeat intervals and low-frequency power, both known to be responsive to slow breathing. There were no differences in saliva cortisol.
Conclusions: Healthy participants habituated to the induced pain on the BN and were able to subjectively relax. When on a BN, signs of both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity were observed. The pain may hypothetically have triggered a parasympathetic response.
Self-care treatments with bed of nails or spike mats have gained increased popularity world-wide; advertised as a method for pain reduction and wellbeing. Scientific studies regarding effects are still lacking. The aim of the present study was to investigate if daily relaxation on a spike mat for three weeks could induce beneficial effects. Participants were 36 individuals suffering from muscle ten-sion pains in their back or/and neck. They were randomly assigned to a control group or an experimental group, who were treated with 15 minutes daily rest during three weeks on the spike mat. Significant reduced experi-enced worst pain intensity was found. There were no effects on normal pain intensity, opti-mism, anxiety, depression, stress, energy, or sleep quality. The participants appreciated the treatment, but their enthusiastic verbal reports of experienced beneficial effects could not be verified in the statistical analyses. The reduction of worst pain may be explained by the gate-control theory, where competing stim-uli applied over the affected area produce a pain reduction. It can also be an effect of place-bo or the relaxation. More research on relax-ation on a spike mat is needed before its possi-ble effects can be confirmed. No negative effects were found in the present study, but it has to be remembered no studies investigating risks for treatment on spike mats exist.
So, unless you have a masochistic streak, you might save the money and time the Shakti therapy would cost you for something more worthwhile and enjoyable.
This systematic review evaluated all available randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the clinical effects of hydrotherapy according to Kneipp which is characterized by cold water applications. All RCTs on therapy and prevention with Kneipp hydrotherapy were included. Study participants were patients and healthy volunteers of all age groups. MEDLINE (via PubMed), Scopus, Central, CAMbase, and opengrey.eu were systematically searched through April 2021 without language restrictions and updated by searching PubMed until April 6th 2023. The risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane tool version 1.
Twenty RCTs (N=4247) were included. Due to the high heterogeneity of the RCTs, no meta-analysis was performed. The risk of bias was rated as unclear in most of the domains. Of 132 comparisons, 46 showed significant positive effects in favor of hydrotherapy on chronic venous insufficiency, menopausal symptoms, fever, cognition, emotional function, and sickness absenteeism. However, 81 comparisons showed no differences between groups, and 5 were in favor of the respective control group. Only half of the studies reported safety issues.
The authors concluded that although RCTs on Kneipp hydrotherapy seem to show positive effects in some conditions and outcomes, it remains difficult to ascertain treatment effects due to the high risk of bias and heterogeneity of most of the considered studies. Further high-quality RCTs on Kneipp hydrotherapy are urgently warranted.
This is certainly the best review of the subject so far. It makes it very clear that the evidence for Kneipp hydrotherapy is weak, mostly because of the many flaws in the primary studies. One needs to add, I think, that 20 RCTs are an absurdly small amount considering that many indications this type of therapy is advocated for – many enthusiasts even consider it a panacea.
It follows, I fear, that Kneipp hydrotherapy is almost entirely not evidence-based. This should be bad news for the numerous institutions and Spa towns (mostly in Germany) that live on employing this treatment and telling patients that it is effective. They usually claim that experience shows this to be true. But this was the mantra of medicine ~100 years ago. Since then, we have learned that experience is a very poor guide that regularly leads us up the garden path.
Kneippians will counter that clinical trials are difficult to conduct and expensive to finance. Both arguments are of course true but, considering that an entire industry lives on telling patients something that essentially amounts to a lie (i.e. the claim that it works), it surely is obligatory to overcome these obstacles.
Cervical artery dissection (CeAD), which includes both vertebral artery dissection (VAD) and carotid artery dissection (CAD), is the most serious safety concern associated with cervical spinal manipulation (CSM). This study evaluated the association between CSM and CeAD among US adults.
Through analysis of health claims data, the researchers employed a case-control study with matched controls, a case-control design in which controls were diagnosed with ischemic stroke, and a case-crossover design in which recent exposures were compared to exposures in the same case that occurred 6-7 months earlier. The researchers evaluated the association between CeAD and the 3-level exposure, CSM versus office visit for medical evaluation and management (E&M) versus neither, with E&M set as the referent group.
2337 VAD cases and 2916 CAD cases were identified. Compared to population controls, VAD cases were 0.17 (95% CI 0.09 to 0.32) times as likely to have received CSM in the previous week as compared to E&M. In other words, E&M was about 5 times more likely than CSM in the previous week in cases, relative to controls. CSM was 2.53 (95% CI 1.71 to 3.68) times as likely as E&M in the previous week among individuals with VAD than among individuals experiencing a stroke without CeAD. In the case-crossover study, CSM was 0.38 (95% CI 0.15 to 0.91) times as likely as E&M in the week before a VAD, relative to 6 months earlier. In other words, E&M was approximately 3 times more likely than CSM in the previous week in cases, relative to controls. Results for the 14-day and 30-day timeframes were similar to those at one week.
The authors concluded that, among privately insured US adults, the overall risk of CeAD is very low. Prior receipt of CSM was more likely than E&M among VAD patients as compared to stroke patients. However, for CAD patients as compared to stroke patients, as well as for both VAD and CAD patients in comparison with population controls and in case-crossover analysis, prior receipt of E&M was more likely than CSM.
What seems fairly clear from this and a previous similar analysis by the same authors is, I think, this: retrospective studies of this type can unfortunately not provide us with much reliable information about the risks of spinal manipulation. The reasons for this are manyfold, e.g.: less than exact classifications in patients’ records, or the fact that multiple types of spinal manipulations exist of which only some might be dangerous.
There is widespread agreement amongst clinicians that people with non-specific low back pain (NSLBP) comprise a heterogeneous group and that their management should be individually tailored. One treatment known by its tailored design is the McKenzie method (e.g. an individualized program of exercises based on clinical clues observed during assessment) used mostly but not exclusively by physiotherapists.
A recent Cochrane review evaluated the effectiveness of the McKenzie method in people with (sub)acute non-specific low back pain. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) investigating the effectiveness of the McKenzie method in adults with (sub)acute (less than 12 weeks) NSLBP.
Five RCTs were included with a total of 563 participants recruited from primary or tertiary care. Three trials were conducted in the USA, one in Australia, and one in Scotland. Three trials received financial support from non-commercial funders and two did not provide information on funding sources. All trials were at high risk of performance and detection bias. None of the included trials measured adverse events.
McKenzie method versus minimal intervention (educational booklet; McKenzie method as a supplement to other intervention – main comparison) There is low-certainty evidence that the McKenzie method may result in a slight reduction in pain in the short term (MD -7.3, 95% CI -12.0 to -2.56; 2 trials, 377 participants) but not in the intermediate term (MD -5.0, 95% CI -14.3 to 4.3; 1 trial, 180 participants). There is low-certainty evidence that the McKenzie method may not reduce disability in the short term (MD -2.5, 95% CI -7.5 to 2.0; 2 trials, 328 participants) nor in the intermediate term (MD -0.9, 95% CI -7.3 to 5.6; 1 trial, 180 participants).
McKenzie method versus manual therapy There is low-certainty evidence that the McKenzie method may not reduce pain in the short term (MD -8.7, 95% CI -27.4 to 10.0; 3 trials, 298 participants) and may result in a slight increase in pain in the intermediate term (MD 7.0, 95% CI 0.7 to 13.3; 1 trial, 235 participants). There is low-certainty evidence that the McKenzie method may not reduce disability in the short term (MD -5.0, 95% CI -15.0 to 5.0; 3 trials, 298 participants) nor in the intermediate term (MD 4.3, 95% CI -0.7 to 9.3; 1 trial, 235 participants).
McKenzie method versus other interventions (massage and advice) There is very low-certainty evidence that the McKenzie method may not reduce disability in the short term (MD 4.0, 95% CI -15.4 to 23.4; 1 trial, 30 participants) nor in the intermediate term (MD 10.0, 95% CI -8.9 to 28.9; 1 trial, 30 participants).
The authors concluded that, based on low- to very low-certainty evidence, the treatment effects for pain and disability found in our review were not clinically important. Thus, we can conclude that the McKenzie method is not an effective treatment for (sub)acute NSLBP.
The hallmark of the McKenzie method for back pain involves the identification and classification of nonspecific spinal pain into homogenous subgroups. These subgroups are based on the similar responses of a patient’s symptoms when subjected to mechanical forces. The subgroups include postural syndrome, dysfunction syndrome, derangement syndrome, or “other,” with treatment plans directed to each subgroup. The McKenzie method emphasizes the centralization phenomenon in the assessment and treatment of spinal pain, in which pain originating from the spine refers distally, and through targeted repetitive movements the pain migrates back toward the spine. The clinician will then use the information obtained from this assessment to prescribe specific exercises and advise on which postures to adopt or avoid. Through an individualized treatment program, the patient will perform specific exercises at home approximately ten times per day, as opposed to 1 or 2 physical therapy visits per week. According to the McKenzie method, if there is no restoration of normal function, tissue healing will not occur, and the problem will persist.
The postural syndrome is pain caused by mechanical deformation of soft tissue or vasculature arising from prolonged postural stresses. These may affect the joint surfaces, muscles, or tendons, and can occur in sitting, standing, or lying. Pain may be reproducible when such individuals maintain positions or postures for sustained periods. Repeated movements should not affect symptoms, and relief of pain typically occurs immediately following the correction of abnormal posture.
The dysfunction syndrome is pain caused by the mechanical deformation of structurally impaired soft tissue; this may be due to traumatic, inflammatory, or degenerative processes, causing tissue contraction, scarring, adhesion, or adaptive shortening. The hallmark is a loss of movement and pain at the end range of motion. Dysfunction has subsyndromes based upon the end-range direction that elicits this pain: flexion, extension, side-glide, multidirectional, adherent nerve root, and nerve root entrapment subsyndromes. Successful treatment focuses on patient education and mobilization exercises that focus on the direction of the dysfunction/direction of pain. The goal is on tissue remodeling which can be a prolonged process.
The derangement syndrome is the most commonly encountered pain syndrome, reported in one study to have a prevalence as high as 78% of patients classified by the McKenzie method. It is caused by an internal dislocation of articular tissue, causing a disturbance in the normal position of affected joint surfaces, deforming the capsule, and periarticular supportive ligaments. This derangement will both generate pain and obstruct movement in the direction of the displacement. There are seven different subsyndromes which are classified by the location of pain and the presence, or absence, of deformities. Pain is typically elicited by provocative assessment movements, such as flexion or extension of the spine. The centralization and peripheralization of symptoms can only occur in the derangement syndrome. Thus the treatment for derangement syndrome focuses on repeated movement in a single direction that causes a gradual reduction in pain. Studies have shown approximately anywhere between 58% to 91% prevalence of centralization of lower back pain. Studies have also shown that between 67% to 85% of centralizers displayed the directional preference for a spinal extension. This preference may partially explain why the McKenzie method has become synonymous with spinal extension exercises. However, care must be taken to accurately diagnose the direction of pain, as one randomized controlled study has shown that giving the ‘wrong’ direction of exercises can actually lead to poorer outcomes.
Other or Nonmechanical syndrome refers to any symptom that does not fit in with the other mechanical syndromes, but exhibits signs and symptoms of other known pathology; Some of these examples include spinal stenosis, sacroiliac disorders, hip disorders, zygapophyseal disorders, post-surgical complications, low back pain secondary to pregnancy, spondylolysis, and spondylolisthesis.
“Internationally researched” and found to be ineffective!