Robin McKenzie died in Raumati last month after a courageous battle with cancer. As a physiotherapist at the beginning of his career in 1956, a chance happening changed Robin McKenzie’s life and was the catalyst for curing pain in the lives of others.
Suffering from acute back pain, a ‘Mr Smith’ was shown into a physiotherapy room and lay on the treatment table which had been left with an upraised head end for another patient. When Robin McKenzie entered the room a few minutes later, he was concerned to find the patient in what was considered to be a most damaging position for his condition… yet the patient told him after the short time lying that way, he felt the best he had been in three weeks.
This clinical observation led Robin to begin systematically evaluating the effects that simple movements and positions had on his patients’ back pain. A clear assessment process gradually emerged. This system, now known as the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, has achieved worldwide recognition and is now regarded as part of management for low back pain.
Robin’s further vision was that all patients with musculoskeletal pain be taught how to manage their own pain. The two books he wrote specifically for patients: Treat Your Own Back and Treat Your Own Neck have sold over 6 million copies and are available in 17 languages. Two more books followed in the last four years and he also wrote five textbooks for professionals during his career.
He founded the McKenzie Institute International in 1982 and led its growth into a worldwide educational organisation. Physiotherapists, doctors, chiropractors and allied health professionals in 37 different countries have been educated in the McKenzie Method.His last major achievement was an animation that he and a fellow physiotherapist released last year, to show people what was really happening inside their disks. Even at 81 he was still very involved, even with current technology!
Robin was a huge inspiration to patients, scientists and clinicians worldwide. He was very much a family man, and his hobbies were sailing and gardening and he established a beautiful native plant garden at this home.
Though he gradually eased away from work over the past few years, Robin is sadly missed by the teams at Spinal Publications and the McKenzie Institute, who appreciated his visits and regular email contact.