Sarah Key MVO

‘Five Stages of Breakdown of the Human Spine’

Endorsed by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (UK)

‘Acquiring Knowledge at Your Own Convenience’

Announcing the new Sarah Key Masterclasses Stages 1 and 2

presented as

Theory Webinars followed by 2-day Practical Adjunct modules


for SKMC Webinars comprising Levels 1 and 2

will be held at University of Salford near Manchester on

June 5th and 6th 2018

Contact Eleanor Leach by email on



for SKMC’s Level 3 (Webinars available from February 2018)

Will be held at University of Salford near Manchester

June 8th and 9th 2018

Contact Eleanor Leach by email on



for SKMC Webinars comprising Levels 1 and 2

will be held at the Sarah Key Physiotherapy Centre in Sydney. 

May 3rd and 4th 2018


for SKMC’s Level 3 

May 6th and 7th 2018

Contact Front Desk at

Or pay direct with the ‘Register Now’ button below

See additional short videos at:

 An Introduction to The Sarah Key Method

A new perspective on low back pain and its management’

Most practitioners in the workforce today wish they were better with backs

Levels 1 and Level 2 of Sarah Key’s Masterclasses are now presented through webinars, followed by highly intensive practical modules run by Sarah herself, and Accredited Teachers of the Sarah Key Method.

The SKMC Level 1 Theory component of is presented via 4 online webinars. Level 1 starts off with an introductory lecture on the anatomy and biomechanics of the spine, which Sarah believes is essential learning in order to understand effective spinal therapeutics.

After this important familiarisation with the spine itself and critical knowledge about the intervertebral disc and the apophyseal (facet) joints, Level 1 SKMC then moves on to the important second lecture about ever-present ‘stiff spinal segment’ – something that we therapists feel all the time with our hands, without ever really knowing what it is. Sarah makes the argument that this common-or-garden ‘stiff segment’ is the neo-pathology behind ‘simple’ or ‘non-specific’ back pain, or ‘low back pain of unknown aetiology’ accounting for over 90% of cases of LBP today.

Very importantly, Sarah’s working hypothesis about ‘non-specific’ LBP proposes that this palpably stiff and painful spinal link – the ‘stiff patch’ we so commonly feel – is the seed condition in spinal breakdown, from which other more complex spinal syndromes can grow. Her ‘5 stages of spinal breakdown’ illustrate the progressive breakdown of a lumbar motion segment – how they present and how each should be treated.

The third lecture is about the second most common spinal syndrome ‘facet joint arthropathy’. Here, Sarah also explains how this condition comes about, its objective and subjective clinical features and how it should be treated.

The final webinar lecture is all about spinal compression and the importance of decompression in therapeutics, both as administered by you, the therapists, and the patients themselves in their essential Sarah Key Method home routine.

Sarah’s SKMC Level 2 Theory component consist of another 5 comprehensive webinars delivered online.  SKMC 2 takes you through the less common spinal disorders that progress on from the stiff segment and facet arthropathy. It also describes objective and subjective findings for these conditions and – most importantly for you – the ways they can be treated, both by you and your patients at home.

The fifth lecture (and first lecture in Level 2 SKMC) is about demystifying the drama of ‘acute spinal locking’ and what you can do about it. Lecture six talks about the furphy of the slipped disc and how rare this condition is, though often diagnosed. The (also over-diagnosed) condition of ‘segmental instability’ is the last discussed of the 5 in the sequence of breakdown as proposed by Sarah. ‘Bending’ and ‘Sitting’ make up the other two highly relevant and informative lectures

What’s Different About Sarah Key’s Masterclasses Level 1 & 2?

Sarah explains how to recognise – and treat – each of five distinct spinal syndromes in this linear sequence of breakdown: a stiff spinal segment where a spinal segment is less mobile and palpably sore; facet joint arthropathy where stiffening and thinning of the disc alters the forces through the facet joints at the same level; acute locked back where reduced disc pressure and muscle imbalance can allow a crisis locking of a facet joint; disc prolapse where reduced proteoglycans concentration of the nucleus coupled with annular break-up causes local biomechanical and biochemical effects; segmental instability where loss of nuclear cohesion and facet breakdown weaken the intrinsic stability of a segment.

Sarah postulates that a cascade of degenerative change may progress from a benign and easily-reversed ‘disc stiffness’ to pathological breakdown of the entire motion segment. As each progressive syndrome acquires greater complexity it becomes harder to reverse. But since most spinal conditions (up to 90%) fall into the category of ‘non-specific LBP’ Sarah proposes that ideal treatment has every opportunity to arrest the development of incurable spinal disorders while still in this early and reversible stage.

Please be aware that the SKMC L1 and L2 online theory module each contain 6 hours of online content, including webinars and exams. Past course attendees have found that completing the two levels may take anywhere from 1 week full time to 1 month part time. There is a lot of content in the courses. Please be aware too that Practical Adjunct Days are scheduled around a minimum number of attendees.

For payment and access to your username and password, please click HERE

Content of 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

5. How to Compile a Treatment Summary

  • Powerpoint slide template
  • Basic spinal conditions inventory
  • Taking photographs

6. A Spinal Decompression Class Using the BackBlock

Students participate

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) and then go off to practice in twos. 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’ (acute locked back, 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. Demonstration of the Techniques Using the Heel on Thoracic Spine and Ribs
Sarah shows the first basics of using the heel

3. Each Participant Experiences What It’s Like
Sarah uses her heel on the thoracic spine of each participant

4. In Vivo Patient Assessment & Treatment
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’s treatment summary read

5. Thoracic Spine Decompression Using the BackBlock

6. Mobilisation Self Treatment Techniques for Cervical and Thoracic Spine

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


Cost of SKMCs Level 3

including Theory Webinars and 2-Day Practical Adjunct: 

Australia – AUD$950.00  Salford, UK – GBP 599.00

Contact for Australian SKMC details 

Contact Eleanor Leach at for UK SKMC details

Content of Level 4 SKMCs online Webinars

Lecture 14: ‘Treatment Soreness: Don’t Be Afraid of Drugs’
Lecture 15: ‘Difficult Cases: Are You Technician or Healer?’
Lecture 16: ‘Movement versus Inactivity’
Lecture 17: ‘Is Disc Healing a Myth?’
Lecture 18: ‘The Pitfalls of core Stability Training’

Followed by SKMC 4: 2-Day Practical Adjunct 


Sarah Key MVO, Dip Phys SRP MCSP is the author of the popular books ‘The Back Sufferers’ Bible’, ‘Back in Action’ and ‘The Body in Action’.

Sarah is an Australian physiotherapist with an international reputation for treating problem backs. Over her years in clinical practice she has developed a working hypothesis comprising a rational blend of clinical experience and cutting edge evidence-based theory. She bases her concept on a solid foundation of spinal biomechanics and pathological processes, to provide the clinical reasoning behind her unusual treatment techniques.

The primary authors of Sarah’s source material are Michael Adams, Associate Professor of Anatomy at Bristol University, UK and Nikolai Bogduk, Faculty of Medicine, Newcastle University, New South Wales, although she uses over 400 other papers to help throw light on the complexity of understanding and managing low back pain.

Kay Bradley-Higgins   Grad Dip Phys, MSc Advanced Clinical Practice, Dip Orthopaedic Medicine, APSKM Physiotherapist,

Kay graduated from the Salford School of Physiotherapy in 1991. Upon graduation, she worked at the Royal Oldham Hospital as a Junior Physiotherapist and completed a number of rotations in various specialities over two and a half years. She decided quite early to specialise in the treatment of Musculoskeletal (MSk) disorders (the treatment of pain, muscle and joint problems). In 1995, Kay moved to Huddersfield to work solely in MSk.

Whilst working in Huddersfield, Kay developed an interest in the management and treatment of back and neck pain.  She went on to complete a Masters Degree at Huddersfield University in 2004, doing a lot of the work around back pain.  In 2005, Kay took an Advanced Practitioner post, which involved the triage of patients with MSk problems, particularly back pain. This post allows her to refer patients for imaging as well as to other agencies.

Kay attended a variety of courses to help patients deal with spinal pain over the years. All pain can be disabling, but there are so many myths and fears surrounding back problems that patients often don’t know what to do for the best. Kay wanted to be able to give practical advice to help people on the road to recovery.

In 2006, she attended the Sarah Key Masterclasses and found that Sarah’s explanations and treatment for back and neck pain really struck a chord. Kay found the course useful for her own back problems as well as for those of her patients. She went on to become an Accredited Sarah Key Practitioner, and continued training to become one of Sarah’s teachers.



At the completion of all three Stages of the SKMC delegates may sit a half day exam to become an Accredited Practitioner of the Sarah Key Method [APSKM].

The exam consists of a 60 minute Theory Exam, followed by short Practical exams with three different examiners on the lumbar, thoracic and cervical spines.

THE APSKM exam also entails 3 Case Studies.


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