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The Effect of McKenzie Therapy as Compared With That of Intensive Strengthening Training for the Treatment of Patients With Subacute or Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Petersen, Tom, PT, BSc,*‡; Kryger, Peter, MD, PhD,†; Ekdahl, C., PT, PhD,‡; Olsen, Steen, PT, MDT,*; Jacobsen, Soren, MD, PhD

Randomized Trial

Study Design. A randomized controlled comparative trial with an 8-month follow-up period was conducted.

Objective. To compare the effect of the McKenzie treatment method with that of intensive dynamic strengthening training in patients with subacute or chronic low back pain.

Summary of Background Data. Randomized studies indicate that the efficacy of the McKenzie method in the treatment of patients with acute or subacute low back pain is debatable. Currently, no randomized studies examining the effects of this method for patients with chronic low back pain have been published.

Methods. For this study, 260 consecutive patients with low back pain and at least 8 weeks duration of symptoms (85% of the patients had more than 3 months duration of symptoms) were randomized into two groups: Group A was treated with the McKenzie method (n = 132), and Group B was treated with intensive dynamic strengthening training (n = 128). The treatment period for both groups was 8 weeks at an outpatient clinic, followed by 2 months of self-training at home. Treatment results were recorded at the end of the treatment period at the clinic, then 2 and 8 months after. In both groups, 30% of the patients were lost to follow-up evaluation. An intention-to-treat analysis of the main effect variables, disability, and pain was performed for all the patients included in the study. A supplementary analysis of the 180 patients who completed the full treatment program also was undertaken.

Results. Intention-to-treat analysis showed a tendency toward a difference in reduction of disability in favor of the McKenzie group at the 2-month follow-up assessment (P = 0.04), but no differences at the end of treatment and at the 8-month follow-up evaluation. No differences in reduction of pain were observed at any time between the groups. The supplementary analysis of the patients whohad completed the full intervention showed a tendency toward a difference in favor of the McKenzie method in reduction of pain at the end of treatment (P = 0.02). This difference reached statistical significance at the 2-month follow-up assessment (P = 0.01), but no difference was found after 8 months. The supplementary analysis showed no differences between the groups with regard to reduction of disability.

Conclusion. The McKenzie method and intensive dynamic strengthening training seem to be equally effective in the treatment of patients with subacute or chronic low back pain.

From the *Back Center of Copenhagen, Denmark, the

†Rheumatology Research Unit, Hvidovre University Hospital, Denmark, and the

‡Department of Physical Therapy, Lund University, Sweden.

Supported in part by grants from the Danish Physiotherapy Organization, the Madsens Fund, and the Danish Rheumatology Association.

Acknowledgment date: May 23, 2001.

First revision date: November 21, 2001.

Acceptance date: February 12, 2002.

Address reprint requests to

Tom Petersen, PT, BSc

Back Center of Copenhagen

Hans Knudsens Plads 3D

2100 Copenhagen



Ethical approval was granted by Copenhagen Research Ethics Committee, 01-147/96.

Device Status/Drug Statement: The submitted manuscript does not contain information about medical devices or drugs.

Conflict of Interest: Foundation funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

© 2002 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins