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The Pain-Free Back: 6 Simple Steps to End Pain and Reclaim Your Active Life    by Harris H. McIlwain & Debra Fulghum Bruce order for
Pain-Free Back
by Harris H. McIlwain
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2004 (2004)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The introduction tells us that the book was written 'to help improve the health of your back', and that four out of five adults have some experience of back problems during their lives. A table of symptoms helps to determine action that should be taken for different types of back pain. The authors offer six steps for a pain-free back: an exercise program; an eating plan for weight loss; pain relief through complementary medicine; lifestyle changes to avoid pain; relaxation therapies; and healing touch therapies. The first part of the book elaborates on these six steps, followed by a section on 'Special Situations' and one on 'Recipes'. An appendix explains exercises with illustrations, followed by a list of resources.

Contrary to the natural tendency to rest, we are told to 'Move More ... Not Less!' but to avoid overtraining. The benefits of various types of exercise are discussed, including Yoga and Tai Chi. 'Heat Wrap Therapy' is recommended to alleviate lower back pain. Different types of diets are covered, with advice to eat frequently, reduce carbohydrates, boost antioxidants and follow the glycemic index. Foods that act as 'Pain Busters' are listed. An overview of natural substances that can help includes glucosamine, boswellia, ginger and tiger balm (already use that one). The lifestyle discussion addresses computer-related ergonomic problems that can result in back pain, power posture tips, good sitting posture and lifting techniques, and fall-proofing your home.

Discussion of relaxation therapies ranges from psychotherapy, biofeedback and meditation to more laughter. Healing touch therapies covered include massage therapies, Pilates, chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Part 2 discusses special situations, beginning with diagnosis and tests like an MRI or a myelogram, conditions like Osteoporosis and Fibromyalgia, and combination problems (back pain with more than one cause). Drugs used to treat pain are covered in detail, including risks and side effects, as are the circumstances in which surgery should be considered, and consideration of a comprehensive pain clinic for continuing chronic pain. Part 3 is full of recipes such as a Tropical Smoothie, Spinach Salad with Prosciutto, Pecan-Crusted Salmon Bites, and Nut Meringue Cookies.

The Pain-Free Back takes a comprehensive, open-minded and common-sense approach to the prevention and alleviation of back pain, offering a variety of fronts to work on, in order to improve quality of life. I plan to keep it handy as a reference.

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