Arthur Klein and Dava Sobel have tackled the issue of backache from a rather novel angle. They conducted an extensive survey of about 500 back pain sufferers. 93 of the total respondents who replied by telephone were interviewed for an average of 55 minutes; 40% of the people surveyed were readers of Family Weekly, a widely distributed American magazine. The participants came from every stratum of society, ranging from a publisher of The New York Times, a goalie for the New York Rangers (an US hockey team), healthcare practitioners, teachers, musicians, truck drivers, ranging in age from 10 to 90 years of age.
The participants answered questions about the types of practitioners seen, types of treatment and advice provided,evaluations of the practitioners and treatment, exercise advice, emotional stress and its role in back pain, advice for back pain sufferers and optional personal data.
The results of this survey provide the reader with some eye-opening facts regarding the sorts of practitioners and treatments which are helpful (or harmful) to back pain sufferers.The first book covers a huge array of topics, including: types of practitioners (conventional and non-conventional); treatments for back pain (conventional and non-conventional); diagnosis and lack thereof; and the best treatments for a wide array of back problems: low, acute back pain, low back chronic pain, ruptured disc, neck pain, osteoarthritis-based back pain, sciatica, scoliosis and spondylolisthesis (slipped disc). There is a highly useful chapter about the most effective ways to free yourself from back pain, including tips about sitting, standing, posture, exercise, swimming, lifting, mattresses and bed boards, and a final chapter about how to perform common daily tasks, such as making your bed, lifting, making love, using the toilet, doing the laundry,gardening, washing dishes, etc., etc.
This is an American book, and there are distinct differences in the sorts of practitioners between the US and the UK (for example there is no real equivalent to the American physiatrist (a physician specialising in rehabilitation). However, there is a wealth of information which could save back pain sufferers a lot of grief. Reading the case histories of some of the participants is horrifying. Many were fit and healthy people in the prime of their life when acute back pain struck, and for many, it took years of suffering wrong and harmful treatment until the people could get to grips with controlling back pain.
The findings of these highly knowledgeable people are revealing and ring true. The results showed that many medical practitioners, including GPs, neurosurgeons and orthopaedic doctors were unsympathetic and unwilling to provide emotional support for the poor suffering person, and were not interested in something as non-high-tech as chronic low-back pain. Unsurprisingly, it was found that certain surgical procedures had significant risks factors attached and that chiropractic spinal manipulation could exacerbate conditions such as herniated disc. The book considers a wide range of non-medical practitioners, including physical therapy (physiotherapy), yoga, massage, shiatsu, dance, rolfing, kinesiology, Feldenkrais and Tai Chi, and an equally wide range of treatments.
The bottom line of this book is that the single most effective and perhaps the only effective treatment for ridding oneself of back pain is exercise. The second book presents a wide range of exercises for every part of the back and neck, and also discusses mind/body approaches including meditation, imagery and lifestyle changes.
There is far too much information contained in this book to convey in this short review. For the majority of sufferers of low back pain, there is much of value.
As someone who suffers from more muscular aches in my mid back, I found much of the information not so immediately pertinent to myself. However, the message strong and clear is that following an acute episode of back pain, following perhaps a short 1-2 days' bedrest, the best advice is to then start gentle exercises.