This guide is one in a series put out by Harvard Medical School. It’s the second one that I’ve read, and I found them both to be beneficial reads. The first was on the health benefits of tai chi chuan (a Chinese martial art / system of health exercise [qi gong.])
Harvard Medical School’s willingness to report findings about unconventional approaches and self-care was part of the appeal of this book. When I first developed lower back problems, I went to the doctor, was diagnosed with arthritis via x-ray, and all I got was an offer for pain killers. To me this was much like going to the mechanic because the check engine light came on, only to be told that all they could do for me is unplug the pesky indicator light. At any rate, that’s why this kind of book can be useful, because one can’t always expect a given doctor within the modern medical establishment to be on top of treatments not involving drugs or surgery. This isn’t to denigrate those options, often times they are the best or only option, and they are covered in this guide as well. However, back pain is one of those rare areas in which sometimes the best option is outside medical norms. Much as many doctors hate having information thrust in front of them by patients, at least Harvard Medical School may garner more respect than a WikiMD post. There’s even a box talking about the mind-body connection, and options in that domain.
Low back pain is both extremely common and often still poorly understood. That’s because there are so many problems that can cause similar symptoms. [I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise because our pelvis had to rotate through evolutionary changes to take us from quadrupedal to bipedal. It makes sense that our nerves and blood vessels might be routed in such a manner as to cause troubles.]
While this guide is short, it does take on a range of issues, including: who’s most at risk, how the spine works [and doesn’t], what the basic categories of back injury are, how one’s specific ailment may be diagnosed, how to evaluate treatment options, what one can do on one’s own to help heal a problem back while preventing future injury, what medicines may be prescribed, what surgical options may be offered, and advice on facilitating a recovery.
As far as ancillary features are concerned, there are a number of line drawings. This artwork is generally either anatomical drawings used to show how the spine works or is injured, or show exercises that one can use to strengthen the back. There are a few pages each of resources and glossary. The resources are not so much printed resources (there’s only one of book, and that one is authored by the editor of this guide,) but rather organizations and even websites.
I found this guide to be informative and helpful. I would recommend it for anyone who has low back problems, or who might benefit from learning more about them (e.g. yoga teachers.)