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The McKenzie Method versus guideline-based advice in the treatment of sciatica: 24-month outcomes of a randomised clinical trial.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the effectiveness of a McKenzie Method intervention in patients with sciatica with guideline-based patient education.

DESIGN: Multi-centre, assessor-blinded, parallel-group, randomised trial.

SETTING: Two tertiary hospitals providing operative spinal care.

SUBJECTS: Sciatica patients with magnetic resonance imaging-confirmed lumbar disc herniation compressing a nerve root.

INTERVENTIONS: The McKenzie group received specific back exercises for seven visits combined with an educational book, and the Control group received a single session of self-management guidance according to usual practices.

MAIN MEASURES: The primary outcome was the number of surgical operations. Secondary outcomes were pain measured using the Visual Analogue Scale, disability using the Oswestry Disability Index and health-related quality of life using a RAND-36 questionnaire at baseline and 24-month follow-up.

RESULTS: Altogether 66 patients, mean age of 43 years, of which 50% were females with long-lasting sciatica, mean 16 weeks, were randomised to two groups. Nineteen patients (29%) had surgery. There was no significant difference in surgery rates between the groups. Back and leg pain decreased, and disability improved in both groups. Health-related quality of life improved in six dimensions out of eight in both groups. There were no significant between-group changes in the patient-reported outcomes at the follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: Multiple sessions of McKenzie-based back exercises with a McKenzie-specific patient's educational book produced effects equal to guideline-based advice at long-term follow-up. However, the power of these results is diminished due to the small patient population and confounding factors.

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