A focus on spinal reconditioning and strengthening

Functional Physio is one of the foremost treatment providers in New Zealand for chronic and acute back and neck pain. This is due to the experience and expertise of our physiotherapists, our unique strengthening facility and specialised MedX Medical Spinal Strengthening equipment.


“[…] “With regular visits to Functional Physio under the professional eye of David and Andy, using the Spinal Strengthening Machine, the improvement to my back has been phenomenal! I never thought that I would get to a stage to where I am now […]. I cannot sing the praises of David and Andy enough! […] so caring and supportive and after over 20 years of various treatments I have never come across a facility as professional as Functional Physio and MedStrength.

- Grant Fyfe, Auckland, September 2012

[…] I saw seven different physiotherapists […] and none were able to return me to good health, despite several hundred sessions of physiotherapy (and acupuncture and osteopathy) over almost two years. Two of the best spinal surgeons in Auckland suggested I should consider a spinal fusion […]. I then found Andy […] After one year I am 95% pain free […] I wholeheartedly endorse Andy to anyone with back problems of any description. He is streets ahead of any of the other physiotherapists I saw in his ability to diagnose and treat a severe back condition competently.”

- Christoph Hoessly, March 2017

A multi-directional approach to the treatment of back and neck injuries is important in the long-term recovery from acute and chronic conditions. After a comprehensive examination we utilise treatment such as manipulation, manual therapy, massage, acupuncture and exercise prescription to treat the disorder.

A focus in our treatment of back and neck injuries is spinal reconditioning and strengthening. Research clearly shows a strong correlation between increased strength in the spinal extensor muscles and decrease in patient’s pain and neurological symptoms, if present.
Strengthening the muscles around the area of injury is imperative to help prevent the recurrence of the injury. Research shows that the local muscles around the level of the spine that is injured become switched off due to the pain and begin to waste quickly. These muscles do not return to their normal strength by themselves and instead you use other muscles to compensate. The MedX Medical Spinal Strengthening equipment  enables us to target the wasted muscles in order to strengthen them to normal or above normal strength.

Spinal conditions we treat include:

  • Disc injuries
  • Spinal joint injuries
  • Sciatica
  • Spondylosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Scoliosis (adult and teenage)
  • Muscle strains
  • Postural disorders
  • Torticollis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Post surgical rehabilitation

The MedX Lumbar Extension Machine

We pride ourselves on being the first clinic in New Zealand with MedX Spinal Strengthening equipment. By following the MedX-researched protocols, Functional Physio has been successfully incorporating the MedX Medical Lumbar Extension Machine in the treatment of our back pain patients for over fifteen years.

Back Neck Pain MedX Spinal Strengthening

Learn more about the MedX Spinal Strengthening and the MedX Lumbar Extension Machine – how it works, what you can you expect and the research behind it.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Why does back pain cause muscle weakness?

Just like any in any injury, pain will stop you using the affected muscles in their full range. This reduction in activity causes the healthy muscles to rapidly decline in size and strength.

Is MedX Spinal Strengthening suitable for chronic back pain?

Yes. In chronic lower back conditions the core stabilising spinal muscles become deconditioned and weak. This can be clearly seen in an MRI. This causes excessive pressure on the passive structures of the spine such as the facet joints and discs. If this progressive weakness is allowed to persist, then the passive structures become degenerative and can often proceed on to failure e.g. bulged or herniated disc or facet joint arthropathy.
Sore backs are weak backs and weak backs become sorer backs, a vicious cycle.
Functional Physio lumbar therapy and rehabilitation breaks this cycle by strengthening and stabilising the spine, reducing and eliminating pain.

Is MedX Spinal Strengthening suitable for acute back pain?

Yes. We have had excellent results treating acute back pain with the MedX Lumbar Extension Machine. The protocols for treating patients with acute pain vary to our standard lumbar spine protocols, as we are not aiming to increase strength in the acute phase.
The aim in the acute phase is getting the muscles to lightly contract, flushing the local inflammatory exudate, breaking muscle spasm, reducing patient apprehension and encouraging early movement. The patient actively moves the machine in their pain-free range with virtually no load. This may only be 10 or 20 degrees. During the session, as the muscle spasm abates and the patient’s confidence to move increases, their range of movement usually increases. Of course the patient’s pathology and degree of pain is always taken into account.
What we have observed is that our patients are able to move more freely directly afterwards and this leads to a more rapid recovery.

Is there research supporting medical Spinal Strengthening?

Yes. There are over 75 peer-reviewed articles supporting the use of the Medical Lumbar Extension Machine in the treatment and prevention of low back pain. See Research

Does Pilates provide the same type of therapy?

No! Pilates helps stimulate and control the lower abdominal muscles to help back pain and also helps provide a degree of segmental control of the spine through range. However, Pilates cannot fully strengthen muscles such as the important lumbar extensors through range, because it does not isolate the lumbar extensors in order to strengthen them and it does not exercise these muscles to fatigue, which is a scientific requirement to regain full strength.
Why is medical Spinal Strengthening not available throughout New Zealand?
The main reason that this very effective evidence-based treatment is not readily available is because the medical rehabilitation machines are very expensive and require significant training to be able to produce the most effective results. These costs are prohibitive for most health professionals. The therapy is widely available throughout Europe and more recently in Australia and Asia. Functional Physio physiotherapists have been utilising the medical Spinal Strengthening Therapy for over fifteen years now and are leaders in this field in Australasia.

How long does a course of medical Spinal Strengthening Therapy take?

The usual number of treatment sessions for chronic or recurrent back pain is 12 to 18 treatments at two to three times a week. Science suggests that the muscles need to be stimulated to fatigue at least twice a week to improve their strength at the optimal rate. In the first three weeks the neural messages from the brain recruit the maximum number of muscle fibres of the targeted muscle and then the muscle begins to grow in size, strength and function. This is when the patient will notice the biggest improvement in their symptoms and function.