How Cobra Pose Gave Birth to MDT

TAYS's picture

Hi Everyone,

Recently I completed a certification in something called MDT which is short for Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, also known as the McKenzie method. This system of physiotherapy was developed based the clinical experience of Robin McKenzie from New Zealand.

The story goes that Robin was treating patients for back pain back in the day when the usual approach to this problem was to get people to flex the spine. He had the end of the treatment table put up on an angle when his patient, Mr. Smith, arrived and was told to lie down on the treatment table. Instead on lying on his back he lay down on his stomach. Since the end of the table was up he ended up lying in a deep back bend much like cobra or up-dog pose but with support under the abdomen. Mr Smith lay on the table in this way while he waited and by the time Robin got to him and saw how he was lying, Mr Smiths pain had pretty much dissapeared.

Based on this "mistake" Robin decided to explore the use of extension movements and positions to treat back pain and with time, the MDT post secondary school of physical therapy was developed.

It turned out that the reason this position happened to work was that Mr Smith was suffering from a herneated disc in the low back. Often, although it needs to be tested with a clinical assessment, herneated discs will respond to the extended position because it helps reduce the disc back into place.

For more information on MDT you can view their site here. MDT is now offered throughout the world with thousands of therapists practicing this system internationally.

If you have any questions about physiotherapy or MDT please feel free to write me at

Best wishes,

Mike Munro PT                                                                                                                                            Cert MDT