Andrew ewell 1
Featured Story 20 April 2021

Treating Back and Neck Pain

Written by Andrew Ewell

Andrew, Ewell, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at Ivinson's Rehabilitation Center. He discusses the cause of back, neck and extremity pain and a technique he utilizes to treat patient's pain.

Throughout our lives, it is estimated that as much as 80% of the population will experience a back problem. Back pain is now the most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office. 

Experts predict that 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given point and ½ of the working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. In most cases, a person’s back pain are mechanical or non-organic; meaning, they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture, or cancer.

While back pain is the most common, most people will also experience pain in the neck, across the shoulders, around the shoulder blades, or in extremities (shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, hip, knee, ankle, or feet) that can be disabling, and limit their ability to function. If a person has not had neck or low back pain in their lifetime, then perhaps they have experienced some pain in their extremities that comes and goes, and can be impacting their life negatively, it may reduce their physical activity and fitness level. 

While these ailments are common, there is no need for them to continually impact the lives of so many. Through a discovery of the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy by Robin McKenzie in the 1956, neck, back and extremity pain can be treated. The McKenzie Method, a research backed method, educates patients and teaches them how to fix themselves,” and how to avoid medications, injections, or even surgery in the process. 

Research estimates that 80% of patients with back, neck, or extremity pain (musculoskeletal pain) can resolve their problems themselves with the help of a physical therapist specialized in the McKenzie Method. As physical therapists we teach and give our patients the necessary mechanical tools to self-adjust” their bodies. 

What is the McKenzie Method? 

Also known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), the McKenzie Method is a philosophy of active patient involvement and education for back, neck, and extremity problems. 

The key distinction is its initial assessment component — a safe and reliable means to accurately reach a diagnosis and only then make the appropriate treatment plan. 

If a person answers yes to any of the following questions, they may benefit from seeing a MDT trained physical therapist.

Back Pain

  • Do you have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning due to back stiffness or pain?
  • Does sitting for a while make you feel stiff?
  • When getting out of the car do you feel pain or stiffness in the lower back which improves after 5 minutes of walking?
  • Do you have pain that moves from the lower back to your hips, thigh or even down your leg to your foot?
  • Do you have buttock pain that sometimes goes back up to the lower back and sometimes down your leg?
  • Do you have good days and bad days?
  • When standing at a cocktail party — do you find yourself having to sit down after a while due to back pain?
  • Does your ability to walk become progressively worse?
  • Do you have days when you look shifted with the upper body and shoulders to one side and have pain in the back or radiating pain down your leg?

Neck Pain

  • Do you have days where it is difficult to move your neck left or right?
  • Do you have neck pain that radiates down to one or both of your upper trapezius muscles?
  • Do you have shoulder blade pain that comes and goes?
  • Pain that moves up or down the arm from your neck, elbow, or even to your fingers?
  • Do you have headaches that move up from your neck and wrap around your head to your forehead?
  • Do you have mornings when you wake up and your neck is stiff and painful to turn?
  • Do you find that you have good days where your neck feels great, and bad days where you can hardly hold it up?


  • Does your knee lock up every once in a while? Is it hard or painful to squat?
  • Do you have any pain or limitation in range of motion at your hip?
  • Were you told you have hip bursitis, shoulder bursitis, patella femoral syndrome, or just chronic tendonitis?
  • Do you suffer from tennis or golfers elbow?
  • Does your wrist and or fingers feel painful or stiff?
  • Can you turn your pain on and off?
  • Did you lose shoulder range of motion or suffer from frozen shoulder”?
  • Were you told you have rotator cuff pain that is coming from your neck?
  • Is your pain constant, or do you have good and bad days?

If you answered yes’ to any of the questions above, there is a good chance that you are suffering from a mechanical lower back, neck or extremity problem and need appropriate education on self-healing. 

The McKenzie method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) is the best assessment to help you understand and fix your problem.

Practicing the McKenzie Method

I have been practicing as a physical therapist at Ivinson’s Rehabilitation Clinic since 2015. I started my journey to become credentialed in the McKenzie Method in 2016 and have taken all of the courses Part A‑D and will take the credentialing exam in 2021 to become fully credentialed in the McKenzie Method. 

Throughout my journey with the McKenzie Method, I have seen amazing results that have allowed my patients to become pain free and return to sport or activities of daily living or being able to perform job responsibilities that they were unable to do prior to learning the necessary mechanical tools to overcome current issues and prevent future reoccurrences. 

If you have felt symptoms like described above, you would benefit from the McKenzie Method. Please call and schedule an appointment with our Rehabilitation team at (307) 7554730.

To locate a clinician trained in the McKenzie Method visit the McKenzie Institute website.