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. Physio-Flex is 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. 

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 which cause us pain. KCR practitioners claim that if they fix the imbalance, it will cure all ailments. 

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, and so on. 

What seems to sell KCR is the promises it makes. Hugh Gilbert, KCR founder, was 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 as no matter what your issue, KCR is claimed 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 two days to train a KCR Practitioner to a level where they can treat clients – you don’t even need any background or understanding of health. 

In my KCR training we were taught some basic Physiotherapy and Massage techniques and some stretches. There was nothing wrong with what we were shown, all perfectly valid, but simple techniques, but there was no attempt at any assessment or diagnosis. With KCR the techniques are delivered in a robotic and scripted way, the same process for every client regardless of what is wrong. In my opinion, KCR lacks any individualised treatment approach and the KCR teachers encouraged us to perform 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 in clinical practice – no clinical reasoning or medical evidence for any of the process. 

Even if you get some symptom relief from your KCR treatment, relief is likely to be temporary. I question how we stay ‘fixed’ after a treatment, when our muscles and tissues have all adapted over our lifetime and will simply pull us back out of this ‘new aligned’ position and we are back to where we started anyway. KCR gives no assessment or diagnosis and the real problem is not addressed as there is no advice or direction provided for the client to improve or strengthen and change their symptoms over the longer term. 

In my KCR training pain was never discussed, which is strange because that is normally what drives people to see a Physical Therapist. Understanding pain is really important and 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, if KCR helps you, that is great, but from my experience on the course I would be very concerned about the lack of anatomy, physiology and clinical reasoning being taught. Someone is unable to learn these complex things in 2 days, and then apply them correctly and safely in every instance. Never once on the KCR training did they teach the difference in joint type, muscle type, nerve supply, origin and insertion, or action of the muscles. I don’t understand how KCR practitioners, trained in this way, are expecting to treat something if they can’t find it on the human body nor understand how it works. 

I wouldn’t choose a therapist or practitioner that learned their craft in 48 hours, that delivers the same scripted therapy for every condition. I would choose a clinician that has a few years of supervised, intense training that gives them an understanding of the body and pain. A clinician who will treat YOU in an individual way for your specific problem and help you to improve it over time. 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 Physiotherapist. 

I may be now be ‘trained’ in KCR, and I may use some of the techniques they taught but this will be in addition to all the other techniques I have trained extensively in. Any techniques I choose will be selected specifically for YOU and for your individual issues.  

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? 

There was no explanation in the course and it may simply be that 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.

If you are pregnant and needing treatment for pain, please see a Physiotherapist, your doctor or speak to your midwife for advice. 

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