Masterclass physiotherapy courses
for lower back pain





17th - 19th February (Level 3)

For further details contact:

Content of Biomechanical Treatment of Back Pain
Physiotherapy Courses

Level 1 SKMCs Online Webinars

Lecture 1: 'Anatomy, Physiology and Biomechanics of the Lumbar Spine'
Lecture 2: 'The Stiff Spinal Segment, its Causes and Treatment'
Lecture 3: 'Facet Joint Arthropathy, its Causes and Treatment'
Lecture 4: 'The Importance of Spinal Decompression'

Content of Level 1 Practical Adjunct

1. Fine Tuning Lumbar Spine Manual Palpation
Lumbar spine assessment using the hands (Sarah palpates each participant)

2. Demonstration of the Techniques Using the Heel
Sarah shows the first basics of using the heel

3. Each Participant Experiences What It's Like
Sarah uses her heel on each participant

4. In Vivo Patient Assessment & Treatment
Participants observe a new patient being treated by Sarah:

  • History taking
  • Clinical examination
  • Scans reviewed
  • Sarah’s diagnosis and clinical reasoning
  • Treatment by Sarah
  • Sarah’s treatment summary read
  • Powerpoint slide template
  • Basic spinal conditions inventory
  • Taking photographs

5. Dictating an audio-summary using iPhone

6. A Spinal Decompression Class Using the BackBlock

Content of Level 2 SKMCs Online Webinars

Lecture 5: 'Acute Locked Back, its Causes and Treatment'
Lecture 6: 'The Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc, its Causes and Treatment'
Lecture 7: 'The Unstable Spinal Segment, its Causes and Treatment'
Lecture 8: 'To Bend or Not to Bend'
Lecture 9: 'The Trouble with Sitting'

Content of Level 2 SKMCs Practical Adjunct

1. Group Presentations of the 5 Stages of Breakdown

2. Going Through Typical Treatment Protocols for the 5 Stages of breakdown
Both acute and chronic conditions  - the signs and symptoms, clinical picture, palpation, mobilization and home regime

3. Going Through Correct Bending and Sitting

4. Students Learn to Use Their Heel to Mobilise the Lumbar Spine - each student is taught (in front of the group). Practice in pairs. Several sessions of this

5. Other Lumbar Spine Decompression Techniques

Content of New Level 3 SKMCs online Webinars

Lecture 10: ‘Posture and Leg Length’
Lecture 11:’A New Perspective on Lifting’
Lecture 12: ‘Muscle Spasm: The Wild Card’
Lecture 13: ‘Understanding and Treating Crisis Situations, Common Conditions and Congenital Disorders’ (scoliosis, stenosis, spondylolisthesis, instability, lumbarisation, sacralisation, failed back surgery syndrome)

Content of Level 3 Practical Adjunct

1. Fine Tuning Cervical & Thoracic Spine Manual Palpation Spinal assessment using the hands (Sarah palpates each participant’s neck and thorax)

2. Mobilizing the Neck from the Front

3. Demonstration of the Techniques Using the Heel on Thoracic Spine and Ribs 

4. Each Participant Experiences What It’s Like Sarah uses her heel on the thoracic spine 

5. In Vivo Patient Assessment 

6. Participants observe a new patient being treated by Sarah:

  • History taking
  • Clinical examination
  • Vertebral Artery Testing
  • Scans reviewed
  • Sarah’s diagnosis and clinical reasoning
  • Treatment by Sarah
  • Sarah dictates audio-summary

7. Thoracic Spine Decompression Using the BackBlock

8. Mobilisation Self-Treatment Techniques for Cervical and Thoracic Spine

9. Questions and Discussion About Treating Necks and Backs: The Content of Webinars Reviewed



Levels 1&2 in Central London 2021 TBC

Level 3 in Comber, N Ireland 2021 TBC

To contact about reserving a place and making payment for webinars and the UK

For more information contact


Sarah with Liz, from the first group where we did the combined Back-in-a-Night-or-Two with patients having treatment during the Masterclass Practicals (March 2019)

Sarah Key has been running 'The Problem Back Masterclasses', comprehensive multiple-level physiotherapy courses for advancement in the treatment of back pain, since 2003 in both the United Kingdom and Australia. See here more about the Masterclasses for Physiotherapy Graduates

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has helped Sarah over the years to make her concept more public. This has involved convening scientific meetings with some of the UK's leading academics in the world of backs at the important Clarence House Meeting in 2009, hosting open days at his royal estate of Highgrove and making the Orchard Room at Highgrove available for Sarah to run her physiotherapy courses.

Sarah Key's 'Problem Back Masterclasses' have a strong evidence base in spinal biomechanics, spinal anatomy and the physiology of the intervertebral discs. Equally so, the Sarah Key Method has a strong emphasis on self-treatment with patients using known physiological concepts and physical measures to increase the fluid flow ~ and hence the critical nutritional supply to the intervertebral discs.   

Student presentations have always been a large component of the 'Problem Back Masterclasses'. Their purpose is to make students more familiar with the basic scientific concepts and make them better able to explain these on the run to both patients and other professionals. To a degree, presentations have been replaced by multiple choice exams after each lecture in the new-format webinars (see below) although they still take place in abbreviated form. 

Click here for more information about the CONTENT OF

Webinars Levels 1 & 2 and Level 3


Practical 1, 2 & 3 Modules 

2 important papers relating to 
SK physiotherapy courses on lower back pain 

Sarah Key, Mike Adams and Manos Stefanakis co-authored two papers published in Physical Therapy Reviews in 2012. 

Narrative Review
'Healing of painful intervertebral discs:implications for physiotherapy
Part 1 — the basic science of intervertebral discs healing' 2012
Click here for Abstract and download

Narrative Review
Healing of painful intervertebral discs:implications for physiotherapy
Part 2 — pressure change therapy: a proposed clinical model to stimulate disc healing' 2012.

Click here for Abstract and download

The second paper describes using a BackBlock to stimulate disc healing. 

The 4 scientific advisors to the sarah key physiotherapy courses for lower back pain 

Four highly-acclaimed academics are the scientific advisors to the Sarah Key 'Problem Back Masterclasses'. The work of Professor Mike Adams has been the chief source of Sarah's scientific evidence base. Mike is one of the most cited spinal researchers in the world today, with over 400 papers to his name. 

Mike Adam's wife and co-researcher is Patricia Dolan . Trisha is a pre-eminent authority on the biomechanics of lifting, with her work supporting Sarah's view that we may have been getting it wrong with what we're saying to patients about bending and lifting. This has important and far-reaching implications for the two worlds of clinical Physiotherapy and Occupational Health and Safety.

Manos Stefanakis is a brilliant scientist and physiotherapy clinician. He completed his Masters of Physiotherapy at Curtin University in Western Australia and his PhD with Mike Adams and Trisha Dolan at the University of Bristol. After Manos completed the 'Problem Back Masterclasses' he assumed oversight of a twelve month teacher training program for ten Accredited Sarah Key Practitioners. Julie McCammon, Kay Bradley Higgins and Eirian Jones are the first to take on teaching roles. He now teaches at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus. 

Jivko Stoyanov is a leading researcher on stem cell implantation. He is Project Leader at the Swiss Paraplegic Centre near Bern in Switzerland. Jivko became interested in Sarah's work after reading her books and relieving his own sciatica using the Sarah Key BackBlock. Jivko has completed all levels of the Problem Back Masterclasses and passed the written exam for Accredited Practitioners (see below). He is also an Accredited Sarah Key Exercise Therapist. Jivko and has father have translated the book Back Sufferers' Bible into Bulgarian, his mother tongue.

the earlier years of the sarah key masterclass   

Early Masterclasses were run at the Heavitree Hospital in Exeter (UK).
Julie McCammon, in black second from left is now an SKM teacher

The middle years were held at Highgrove, the estate of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in Gloucestershire, UK. Here we are setting up.

The Orchard Room at Highgrove with Vicki Roberts, who later became co-author of the book 'Back Sufferers' Pocket Guide' explaining the days ahead 

And yes, here's the famous feet-on they're all waiting for 

Who will ever forget Carmel Neale and the mountain of work she did for us?

Masterclasses in Australia have always been held at The Sarah Key Physiotherapy Centre in downtown Sydney, just one block back from the dazzling Circular Quay and Sydney Harbour. Students make their way to SKPC from all parts of Australia. It perhaps speaks volumes about the outward-looking West Australians that we have more Accredited Practitioners of the Sarah Key Method from Perth (the most remote city on Earth!) than any other Australian city outside Sydney. 

Sydney, Circular Quay, the place of milk and honey

the question is, Do these masterclasses really make a difference to people with lower back pain?

As you all know, it's one thing to go on all sorts of physiotherapy courses. Quite another to learn something new ~ that works ~ and that makes a defining difference to the lives of long-suffering patients. Of course, it goes without saying what a difference this makes too, to your own morale and confidence as a treating therapist.

Prospective students of the Sarah Key Method may be interested to glance at this survey. It evaluates the self-treatment aspect of this clinical treatment model, where patients do their 3-step daily decompression regime using a BackBlock. See - Survey Monkey results - of over 100 spontaneous respondees in a simple 10 question survey, many of whom had seen a Sarah Key trained practitioner.

Graph of patient responses to 'pain score after using the BackBlock'.
The average initial pain score was 8

new webinar format of the sarah key
physiotherapy courses for lower back pain

In 2013 the Masterclasses went live as webinars for the theory component of Level 1 and Level 2. Provided their internet access and speed is passable, this allows students to take in some 9 hours of theory for each of the SKMCs Levels 1 & 2 (followed by multiple choice exams) in the comfort of their own homes. It has proved fantastically successful, with face to face contact with Sarah then focused entirely on intensely practical sessions on how to understand, diagnose and effectively treat back problems.

Since 2013 Practical modules have been held in both the UK and Australia. It is hoped these modules can be held elsewhere in the world, at least while Sarah has enough fuel in the tank to go there and teach! Practical Adjunct modules in Australia are held at Fernleigh Hall as in-house 'residentials' for two nights, in the Upper Hunter Valley NSW.  

Return to sarahkeyphysiotherapy Home page 

See more about Physiotherapy Masterclasses in the Biomechanics of Back Pain

Sarah Key Video Library

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Or Buy the Books from Amazon UK

Australian and New Zealand buyers can buy the books from Booktopia

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