Robin McKenzie and Craig Kubey - 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life: How to Rapidly Relieve Back and Neck Pain

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To Relieve/Prevent Neck or Back Pain, Consider This Book (with Its Illustrated Exercises)

Jun 8, 2010 (Updated Jul 17, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Exercises from this book (plus using McKenzie’s lumbar-roll product) have largely eliminated my pain.

Cons:Disclaimer: I'm no doctor; and I'm certainly not saying McKenzie's exercises/products are suitable for everybody.

The Bottom Line:

I'm glad I discovered Robin McKenzie's book (plus his lumbar roll). My neck/back pain is now mostly just a memory.

Prefatory note #1: Reportedly, New Zealander Robin McKenzienow retired from active practice as a physical therapistmade "breakthrough" discoveries in the 1950s and spent over 40 years perfecting "the McKenzie Method," which, according to a blurb on the flyleaf of his 2000 book 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life [ISBN: 9780452282773], is "hailed as the ultimate cure for back and neck pain." Various related products (including the lumbar roll that I separately reviewed) also bear his surname.

Prefatory note #2: My own experience suggests that you should ALSO consider the importance of regularly performed, conventional exercises, especially the types that strengthen and benefit the neck, shoulder and back muscles (as well as the spine). In fact, I suspect that an individually tailored weight-resistance (not to mention cardiovascular) exercise program could prove the MOST important factor--in the long run--for alleviating or eliminating neck and/or back pain. [For example, I myself benefit from using a simple "rowing" machine; but countless other forms of exercise could be equally (or more) helpful for a particular individual.]

This rather sizable (9.25" by 7.25"), 224-page, softcover book appeared one decade ago. However, McKenzie had previously authored Treat Your Own Neck and Treat Your Own Back, which were originally published about three decades ago and comprise, respectively, only 72 and 46 pages. Given that either of the latter, less in-depth titles costs ten bucks at Amazon; and given that 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life ($11.56) costs scarcely more [and sometimes less], I can't imagine why any consumer wouldn't opt for this more recently produced volume encompassing McKenzie's best advice regarding both neck and back pain—either of which may involve distortion of spinal discs and may be relieved by the author's exercises, which, he claims, allow the spine largely to regain its natural shape.

As the title suggests, this book—well illustrated with over a hundred black-and-white photos (many of which show a lady demonstrating the essential movements)—features seven exercises for the back, plus seven for the neck.

Also, several chapters provide supplementary information on such topics as correct lifting, sitting, and sleeping positions; the use of such ancillary products as McKenzie’s lumbar roll; and more.

According to a blurb on the back cover, McKenzie’s respective back and neck exercises "can save you from a life of pain."

The author adds:

"The exercises I have developed allow the discs to return to their normal shape. The result is that pain disappears. The amazing thing is that sometimes the pain disappears almost instantly."

Regarding the latter sentence, I'm compelled to say that my relief (from neck pain primarily—and lower-back pain occasionally) came somewhat more gradually than that. In fact, it took at least a couple of weeks for the maximum benefit to occur. Moreover, in the beginning performing the exercises wasn't entirely painless, though it was certainly tolerable. In any case, I suggest that you exercise patience, and, by all means, don't exaggerate any of McKenzie's carefully prescribed ranges of movement, etc.

The book's rear cover also states:

"The exercises are easy to do. Each session will last no longer than 60 seconds from start to finish. To remain pain-free for life, readers will need to adopt good posture and perform the exercises twice dailyjust two minutes out of their day."

Indeed, that pretty well describes the daily time frame I've allocated to my neck exercises. And regarding the "adoption of good posture," McKenzie's separately available lumbar roll (illustrated on page 144 and available via, etc.) has significantly helped me whenever I'm sitting. [Incidentally, my "Arc 4 Life" pillow has likewise helped whenever I'm sleeping.]

Though this book's 16 chapters comprise considerable "back" and "neck" information, the most important sections for me are Chapter 5 (particularly "Back Exercises" 1, 2, 3 and 4) and Chapter 12, particularly the following four "Neck Exercises." [NOTE: Do not try these movements yourself without first studying the complete textual instructions, and viewing the pertinent how-to illustrations, in McKenzie's book!]

Neck Retraction in Sitting. (This is McKenzie's "Neck Exercise 1.")   

This simple exercise makes you directly counteract the unhealthful tendency of allowing your head to protrude forward.

Neck Extension in Sitting. (McKenzie's "Neck Exercise 2.")

Here you'll initially retract the neck again, and then you'll lift your chin and tilt your head backward, finally turning your nose only half an inch to the left (and subsequently to the right) of the "midline" position.

Sidebending of the Neck. (McKenzie's "Neck Exercise 5.")

Here you'll initially retract the neck again, and then you'll bend the neck sideways and move your head toward the side on which you feel the most pain.

Neck Rotation. (McKenzie's "Neck Exercise 6.")

Here you'll initially retract the neck again, and then you'll turn the head far to the right, then far to the left.

Note: I sometimes alternatively do those so-called "sitting" exercises while standing, though I'm not sure what Mr. McKenzie would say about this.


Incidentally, related McKenzie videos also exist. I once checked out (via interlibrary loan) the 1991 VHS tape, Treat Your Own Back and Neck Pain. But, though I duly appreciated that brief (23-minute) video's relatively limited content, I found this book's coverage of varying exercises not only much more thorough but also easier to repeatedly review while I was learning the respective movements.


Perhaps some folks would frown while reading the following fragment from Amazon's "Editorial Review" of this book:

"But forget the doctorsMcKenzie asserts that the management of your back pain is your responsibility. Practice his seven unique exercises ... consistently and at regular intervals and just about anyone can cure his or her own back or neck pain without the help of professionals. McKenzie believes self-treatment is actually more successful than medical interventions like surgery, chiropractic, or physical therapy, and indeed, recent research does show self-treatment to be a highly effective method."

Regardless of whether "everybody" should actually try this book's exercises without first consulting a doctor [though most of these movements strike me as only somewhat more intense than what the average human might inadvertently do anyway—at least occasionally—during the course of a typical week], I can only say I'm satisfied that I did so. Not only was this book (together with McKenzie's lumbar rollmucho cheaper than a single consultation with the average American physician, but also I'm feeling much better now.

Recommend this product? Yes

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