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What’s the Sarah Key Method all about?

As one of the UK’s leading London physiotherapists, I regularly write about injuries, treatment and assessment techniques.

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Nell standing on Sarah Key

Nell is one of the only qualified Sarah Key therapists in London – but what is the Sarah Key Method? Sarah Key is a leading physiotherapist and an expert in back pain – and physiotherapist to the Queen. Put simply, she’s revolutionised the way we treat chronic back issues – so if you’ve tried and tested traditional treatments and they haven’t worked, this is something worth researching! In later posts, Nell will be looking into the five stages of back pain and what can be done to help, as well as looking at the anatomy of the spine and how healthy backs should work.

Physiotherapist to HM The Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales, Sarah Key is an Australian legend whose revolutionary method of assessing, diagnosing and treating chronic back pain is increasing in popularity due to its outstanding effectiveness.

I discovered Sarah’s theories in 2002 when I read her book The Back Sufferer’s Bible. Her theories seemed more logical and focused than anything I’d been taught about backs up to that point, and I gradually began to introduce her exercises — also new to me — to my patients, with good results.

Some years later, I learned that Sarah had begun to teach her theories and techniques to other physiotherapists. I immediately jumped at the chance to train with her, and over the course of two years, I completed all of her training courses, passed her exams and became an accredited practitioner of the Sarah Key Method — the only one in central London. She then invited me to join her as her assistant on her Back in a Week course, and in due course I trained as one of the first teachers of her method.

A lot of teaching for physiotherapists focuses on strength and stability, and a lot of NHS physiotherapists seem to be discouraged from touching patients (something I totally disagree with). Sarah does touch her patients; more than that, she treats them with her feet, stands on them, using her bodyweight to feel for and encourage movement in the spinal joints as the patient lies on the floor.

In fact, what makes Sarah’s system so revolutionary can be summed up in three points:

  1. Five Stages of Spinal Breakdown: all chronic pain starts with disc dehydration and is ultimately reversible.
  2. Pressure Change Therapy: unique daily exercises work to rehydrate stiff, dry discs.
  3. Pedal Therapy: Sarah believes that the most effective method of mobilising stiff spinal joints is using the therapist’s heels.

This is a completely different approach to standard physiotherapy, which we believe tends to focus too early on “core strength” and stability work, without recognising and effectively addressing the underlying issues of segmental stiffness.

Time and time again, I’ve treated patients who had already been referred for orthopaedic surgery — but thanks to my treatment using the Sarah Key Method, by the time they were seen by the orthopaedic surgeon, they were well on the road to recovery and did not need the surgeon’s knife.

Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be writing about Sarah’s theories and method in a a lot more detail; but for the moment, if you are struggling with a stiff or painful back — no matter how mild or severe — come and see me, and revolutionise the way you look after your back.

This blog post is the first in a series:

  1. What’s the Sarah Key Method all about?
  2. Spinal anatomy – how does it work?
  3. Phase 1 – stiff spinal segments
  4. Phase 2 – facet joint arthropathy
  5. Phase 3 – acute locked back
  6. Phase 4 – disc prolapse
  7. Phase 5 – unstable spinal segment

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