Kinetic Chain Release: Why would you choose it?

The views of senior Sports Massage Therapist: Sean MacDonald

Sean MacDonald
Senior Sports Massage Therapist

As a company Physio-flex have been aware of numerous articles and posts on social media saying how fantastic Kinetic Chain Release (KCR) is.  Physioflex are always open to new ideas and are committed to provide the best treatments for our customers, so I was asked to investigate this treatment. I was booked on a two day course to get ‘trained’ on KCR and asked to report back to the team.

In summary I was not impressed at all. The basic premise of KCR is that about 96% of the adult population have an apparent leg length discrepancy and that this is the catalyst for a whole host of issues in our bodies and causes us pain. Fix the imbalance, cure EVERYTHING! Well, that is the claim made by the KCR folks!!!

The truth is this imbalance is actually perfectly natural and present in most of us due to the way our muscles have adapted throughout our whole life to accommodate for our trips, falls, normal shifts in our positions, being right or left handed, the sports we played, our best kicking leg, and so on.

What seems to ‘sell’ KCR is the promises it makes. Hugh Gilbert, it’s founder, is a Physiotherapist, but the techniques and approach with KCR do not follow the physiotherapy model.  With KCR there is no diagnosis of the issue that is causing you pain or discomfort. Diagnosis is not required as no matter what your issue KCR is meant to fix it!!

KCR makes some pretty bold claims regarding what it can help with, all by putting the body back into balance. (See Insert). The claims are even more remarkable given that it only takes 2 days to train a KCR Practitioner! You don’t even need any background or understanding of health! Two days, and then you are ‘allowed’ to treat clients!

In my KCR training we were given some basic Physiotherapy and Massage techniques and some stretches. There was nothing wrong with what we were taught, all perfectly valid, but simple, techniques, but there was no attempt at any assessment or diagnosis. With KCR, however, these techniques are delivered in a robotic/scripted way, the same process for every client regardless of what is wrong and  the lack of any assessment or diagnosis is shocking. The KCR practitioner performs these techniques without any understanding of the body, the underlying body tissues or cause of the problem. Any time I asked a ‘why’ question it was met with ‘because that is what Hugh did’ and that is just not acceptable – no clinical reasoning or medical evidence for any of the process.

Therein lies my real gripe with the whole KCR movement. The taught technique MAY provide some relief (after all the placebo effect is real and the techniques will work for some conditions) but the majority of patients will not have any lasting benefits as there is no diagnosis and the real problem is not addressed, As for some of the other claims, like helping Irritable Bowel Syndrome, please do NOT come to us if that is your condition, go to a doctor! Even if you get some symptom relief from your KCR treatment, relief is likely to be temporary. I question how we stay ‘fixed’ when our muscles and tissues have all adapted over time and will simply pull us back out of this ‘new aligned’ position and we are back to where we started anyway! KCR gives no advice or direction for the client to improve things over the longer term.

My KCR training also never discussed pain, which is strange because that is normally what drives people to see a Physical Therapist even in sport and remedial massage you are taught the type of injuries and pain you can work with, what you can’t work with and how to work it out via safety checks and red flags (Danger signs of underlying issues and things we shouldn’t be treating before being medically checked). Every region of the body has its own red flags and considerations and considering KCR is foot to head I was expecting to be trained on these, I wasn’t. Understanding these red flags is what keeps you safe in treatment. As a Sports Massage Therapist it is essential that I keep my patients safe when treating them. If I have any issues or spot any red flags, I refer the patient to one of our qualified Physiotherapists, and they might even refer you on to a doctor or surgeon

In summary, KCR might help some people but from my experience on the course I would be very concerned about the lack of anatomy, physiology and clinical reasoning being taught. I can’t see how someone can actually learn these complex things in 2 days, and then apply them correctly and safely in every instance. Never once did they teach the difference in joint type, muscle type, nerve supply, origin and insertion, or action of the muscle. How can they treat something if they can’t find it on the human body nor understand how it works?

I don’t know why anyone would you choose a therapist or practitioner that learned their craft in 48 hours, that delivers the same scripted therapy for every condition, as opposed to a clinician that has a few years of supervised, intense training that gives them an understanding of the body and pain? The benefit of choosing treatment at Physio-flex is that the massage therapists here know what they can treat, more importantly we know what they cannot treat. When required we will involve a qualified Physiotherapists.

I may be now be ‘trained’ in KCR but it is neither something I will promote nor ever recommend.


Direct Quote from KCR Official Site:

… frequently providing a high degree of relief and even instant resolution in many cases from the pain and discomfort caused by conditions such as:

Chronic Back Pain; Fibromyalgia; Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Migraine Headaches; Scoliosis; Teeth Clenching/grinding; Snoring/Sleep Apnoea; Bloating; Tennis (golfer’s) Elbow; Behavioural Disorders in Children; Weak (frequently sprained) Ankles; Chronic Knee Problems;Breathing difficulty; Chronic neck pain: Plantar Fasciitis; Chronic Stress; Menstrual Pain; Tired Shoulders; recurrent hamstring issues; recurrent groin strain; Tight Calves; Insomnia; Wrist pain and weakness; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Direct KCR in Pregnancy:

One of the things that really concerned me on my KCR training was the use of KCR during pregnancy. In other treatment methods you cannot treat in the first trimester unless you have been trained to do so. In KCR you can only treat in the first trimester, I don’t understand the discrepancy, why is it reversed?

The answer is really worry-some, in my opinion and to put it quite simply, lying on the tummy is part of KCR treatment and that after the first trimester pregnant clients can’t easily be in that position. With KCR they have NO ALTERNATIVE as the whole process is set in stone. KCR Trainees are just given the same order and positions to carry out every time. There is no follow up, no strengthening or stretching prescribed which in the long run is what gets people better.

We can’t guarantee full recovery for all problems as this is just not possible for chronic conditions. Our job, in that situation, is to help you to understand and manage your condition to maximise your function, recovery and pain management.
What we do care about is the way we treat you.
We care about you and the service we provide you.
If you are NOT happy with our service or approach then please let us know. We would love the opportunity to immediately rectify it. We all make mistakes but we believe in making as few as possible, and when we do, we look to make things right.

At any point if you are still unhappy with our service we will immediately refund your treatment fee.

Caroline Bennett
On Behalf of PhysioFlex (West Lothian) Ltd