Insights Interview: Dr. Craig Liebenson

Dr. Liebenson has authored over 100 articles and three books. He is an internationally known speaker and a great teacher. Dr. Liebenson re-sparked my interest in my profession at the time I needed it most. When I thought all was lost, I stumbled onto a copy of Dr. Liebenson’s book Rehabilitation of the Spine which opened a new door to my practice.  Thanks for taking the time to do the interview Dr. Liebenson.


Tell us about you background. How and when did you decide to do what you are doing now?


Let me start by saying I have always been into athletics. From a young age I was playing the usual sports – baseball, tennis, football, basketball. When I decided to enter chiropractic college I did it to promote a healthy lifestyle, not to limit my practice to adjustments. Ironically, in the early 80’s it became apparent that even though manipulation was gaining traction as an evidence-based treatment that all passive care was being acknoweldged as less effective than an active care approach.

I was very fortunate to come into chiropractic college without a chiropractic “belief”. The evidence has guided me and I was lucky to have as teachers some of the greats such as Dr Karel Lewit, Pr. Vladimir Janda, and orthopaedic surgeons Dr’s WH Kirkaldy-Willis and Gordon Waddell – all strong proponents of an active approach.


What prompted you to edit Rehabilitation of the Spine?


You have to realize in the mid-1980’s most exercise approaches were influenced by bodybuilding strength training approaches. Pr Janda was an early pioneer trailblazing for a motor control approach. Also, Dennis Morgan DC, PT & Michael Moore, PT were teaching in Folsom, CA spine stabilization exercises but none of these individuals had put their work together in a textbook. Even, Dr Lewit’s book, now called Manipulative Therapy focused more on manipulation than exercise. I needed a guide to learn from myself and none existed, so I asked my teachers to contribute chapters and I collected them, filled in the gaps where needed and came out with my text.



I assume that getting multiple authors to collaborate on the book was difficult. How did you go about doing that without having the authority you have now? What was the biggest challenge to the first edition?


Amazingly they were all excited about the project because the paradigm was switching at that time. I was fortunate to have dialogued and met most of my contributers and we all shared a common passion for promoting a functional approach.


What was your biggest mistake in life and what did you learn from it?


Too many to name! I guess I regret not doing more research. I would have really liked to have left my comfortable American life behind and spent a few years with Pr Janda helping him to do more rigorous scientific study of his movement patterns and gait analysis. What did I learn? Get off your ass and get on with it. I have a lot of friends in the musculoskeletal medicine field and hope to continue my ongoing work w/ Pr McGill and with John Miller, PT, PhD’s help at Penn State University study in greater detail the clinical value of functional testing.


How do you deal with patients that do a no show or are late?


I am not much of a business person. That is something my office takes care of.


If you could live anywhere else in the world, would you?


Italy. Without a doubt.


What area of spinal rehabilitation interested you the most at the moment? What is getting you excited in regards to research?


Finally, functional assessment has grabbed the imagination of health care professionals. Gray Cook’s program has struck a cord with PTs, S & C coaches, & DCs. Pr Janda always taught “time spent in assessment will save time in treatment”. And, Dr Lewit said, “I don’t begin treatment until I have examined everything. I must see a picture… and find the “key link” that is causing the trouble.”


Tell me about your new book.



It is called The Functional Training Handbook and will come with 3 new DVDs – Yoga, Posture & Ergonomics; Core Stability Training; & Functional-Performance Training. The contributers represent the broadest possible swath of experts from sports such as Mike Boyle, Greg Rose, Stuart McGill, Pavel Kolar, Ken Crenshaw, Eric Cressey, Sue Falsone, Mike Reinold, and others. It is about functional training and bridging the gap from rehabilitation to sport specific skill. Each chapter has a developmental emphasis and the book takes great pains to address the needs the young, weekend warrior, or elite athelete.


What would be some of your best advice for a new doctor of chiropractic or physical therapy?


Learn the difference between pain management, rehab & performance training. Study the brain, psychology & biomechanics. Learn from everyone because we are just beginning on this journey and everyone is a student.


I heard you like Tool and you got to meet their drummer. How cool is that?


Wow! What a creative band. They are out there, but I love their shows.


What’s next for you? Are there any upcoming events or seminars?


I’m always in the clinic trying to see what works and what doesn’t. Writing all the time for Leon Chaitow’s JBMT and now a bit for my new blog – And, of course teaching. I will be in Seattle soon for Jim Kurtz who is now the team chiropractor for the NFL Seattle Seahawks. And, I look forward to my upcoming visit to Athlete’s Performance in AZ to host a DNS-A & DNS-B course led by my friend Pavel Kolar.

Seattle contact info/flyer – CLICK HERE

(253) 838-6070

pic w/ Pavel & DNS contact info – CLICK HERE
(310) 470-2909


Dr. Liebenson received his Bachelors degree from the University of Colorado and chiropractic degree from the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic. He is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Chiropractic, Division of Health Sciences at Murdoch University and a member of the International Association for the Study of Pain and the American Pain Society.

Dr. Liebenson is the organizer of the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic and Scandinavian College of Chiropractic Rehabilitation Diplomate Courses. He is also consultant and lead faculty for the Murdoch University and Anglo-European Chiropractic College M.Sc. programs in Chiropractic Rehabilitation. Dr. Liebenson treats many world-class elite athletes and serves as a consultant for the Arizona Diamondbacks MLB baseball team, and Athlete’s Performance International.

The first ever chiropractic member of the McKenzie Institute (U.S.) Board of Directors he has been a frequent lecturer at national and international multidisciplinary meetings. Dr. Liebenson has published extensively in numerous journals and books on the subjects of rehabilitation and chronic pain.

He maintains a private practice specializing in rehabilitation in Los Angeles and is the author of patient education books on both the neck and low back and editor of the multidisciplinary text Rehabilitation of the Spine: A Practitioner’s Manual published by Lippincott/Williams and Wilkins in 1996 and the videotape series Rehabilitation of the Spine – clinician and patient versions published in 1998. His books have been translated into Spanish, Japanese, and Korean.

He currently is in private practice in Los Angeles, at L.A. Sports and Spine, where he works collaboratively with neurosurgeons, physiatrists and other specialists in the musculoskeletal field. His practice specializes in acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain including sports medicine and post-operative rehabilitation.

Visit for upcoming seminars, exercises, and self-help.

Visit Dr. Liebenson’s blog


About doctoranthony
As a spinal rehabilitation specialist with over 7 years clinical experience in the areas of - Spinal Manipulative Therapy, Active & Passive Spinal Rehabilitation, Functional Movement and Orthopedic Assessment, Strength and Conditioning Coaching, Fitness Programming, Business Development, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing and Consultancy - you can feel safe knowing that I understand the worry and concern surrounding spinal pain. This is why self-efficacy lies at the heart of my practice. For more info:

4 Responses to Insights Interview: Dr. Craig Liebenson

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    • Sorry for the late reply, I was taking most of the year off.
      Back to writing shortly. Thank you for your kind comments, I really appreciate your support.



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