McKenzie Exercises for Low Back Pain

By James Bolger
The followthrough of the golf swing can put strain on the lower back with its twisting.
The followthrough of the golf swing can put strain on the lower back with its twisting.

If a tender or painful back keeps you off the golf course, there's good news. Simple stretches and mild exercise may relieve your back pain. That's the theory promoted by New Zealand physiotherapist Robin McKenzie. Increasing numbers of physicians and chiropractors now recommend McKenzie exercises for patients with back pain. Here's a look at some of these simple, but effective, techniques.


McKenzie advocates believe that only the patient fully understands his or her pain. Therefore the patient is encouraged to feel his or her way through each exercise, stretching the muscles so that any pain is focused (or "centered") on the center of the back. While McKenzie exercises can be performed at home, most advocates urge that patients have at least one session with an experienced practitioner, so they learn to centralize their pain effectively.

Standing Back Extension

Keep your feet apart with your knees straight. Put your hands behind your back, just above the waist. Lift off your heels while you arch your back as far as comfortable. Repeat five to six times.

Lumbar Extension

Lie on your stomach. Hold the position for up to 10 minutes. If you feel little or no pain, slowly raise your head and upper back, supported by your elbows. Rest in this position for five to 10 minutes. Return to the flat position. Remember to move slowly through these exercises.

Standing Lumbar Extensions

Support yourself against a wall using your elbows. Without moving your legs, slowly move your lower body toward the wall. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat as often as is comfortable.


Some back conditions can be made worse by stretching. Be sure to consult with a health provider before beginning a McKenzie exercise program. These exercises are not recommended for pregnant women or people who have recently had back surgery.

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