Treat Your Own Back by Robin McKenzie

Book Review

Man with hands on his lower back
BURGER / Getty Images

Robin McKenzie packs a lot of useful information in a small number of pages with Treat Your Own Back. Along with posture exercises (his hallmark), he carefully covers the best way to apply the exercises (i.e. which ones to do if you have a lot of pain, if your pain has subsided, if it is recurring, and more). And he gives his point of view regarding common remedies, causes, and low back pain in general. If your doctor has cleared you for exercise, this little book may go a long way toward helping you manage your spine-related pain.


  • Good coverage of the low back and its pain scenarios.
  • An easy read.


  • Minor, but the page numbers are written out in all caps, rather than communicated with numerals.


  • Treat Your Own Back, 7th ed. by Robin McKenzie
  • Published by Spinal Publications, Waikanae, New Zealand. 2002
  • 80 pages


Robin McKenzie’s Treat Your Own Back is a companion book to his Treat Your Own Neck. Both are consumer-friendly how-to books giving background, exercises and lifestyle tips to address spine pain. Treat Your Own Back, as the name suggests, focuses on the low back. It is a bit longer than Treat Your Own Neck, but it includes McKenzie’s ideas on holistic therapies and special situations such as pregnancy and back pain. (Treat Your Own Neck does not cover these topics in as much detail.) 

McKenzie begins Treat Your Own Back by acknowledging the elusive nature of most types of back pain. But, as he does in Treat Your Own Neck, the author maintains that, regardless of cause, your back pain is your responsibility.

McKenzie is a physiotherapist from Australia. He has been around the back pain world for a very long time, and his work is respected. Treat Your Own Back clearly demonstrates that he is an expert on how and where to draw the line as to when you should consult with your doctor and when it’s okay to fashion your own program. (Creating and working on your own program is based on his recommendations, of course). So although he is firm in his approach of "you are responsible for your own pain," his instructions for accomplishing this objective can be trusted, in my opinion.

As mentioned earlier, it's amazing to me how much valuable information is packed in such a thin volume. For example, in Treat Your Own Back, McKenzie will show and tell you how to sit, drive, lie on your side, stand, vacuum, lift heavy boxes, and use a lumbar roll for support. He will then go on to thoroughly and clearly instruct you as to how to perform his exercises and how to use them, whether for therapy or for prevention of pain. (Some of the aspects of the exercises that change, based on your condition include but are not limited to the number of sets and reps.)

In the book, McKenzie reviews common treatments, including a few holistic ones (acupuncture and chiropractic). He also covers back pain in special populations: osteoporosis in the elderly, athletes' issues, pregnancy, and more. As with Treat Your Own Back, McKenzie gives careful instruction for different pain scenarios several times, in a few different ways. If you pay attention, you won't miss the special instructions for various pain patterns. If you are at all unsure about how to use the exercises in the book, or if your particular pain pattern is not discussed in the book, please consult your doctor or ask your physical therapist for specific guidance.

Like Treat Your Own Neck, Treat Your Own Back provides exercise instruction and guidance for daily activities and tasks in a succinct but readable form. But Treat Your Own Back goes further. It includes discussions relevant to a variety of back pain types. These discussions are long and meaty. We particularly love his last topic "Back Pain in the Community."

Was this page helpful?