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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Review: Cure Back Pain

This is a non-pizza-related post, but I couldn't pass this up.
I have back pain, my wife has back pain, most of us, eventually, have back pain. So I readily accepted a review copy of Cure Back Pain by Jean Fran├žois Harvey. It's a guide to "80 personalized easy exercises for spinal training to improve posture, eliminate tension & reduce stress."
I'm a skeptic, in general, so I'm not apt to believe in every health claim that comes along. By the same token, I think we're an overmedicated society. I don't think I should have to take a pill every time my back hurts.
It also seems reasonable to me to believe that the right kind of exercise can alleviate a lot of common back pain. There's nothing unconventional about the idea of physical therapy. And that's basically what this book is about - creating a simple, safe program of physical therapy that almost anyone can carry out at home, to improve or maintain back health.
The author, an osteopath and kinesiologist, has been studying back-related issues for over 25 years, and it shows. The first hundred pages of the book comprise an explanation of what causes back pain, and what can be done to address it. I found that alone very useful, to help me understand my back better.
I was pleased to see that the book doesn't make outrageous or questionable claims. The author doesn't claim that back exercises can cure diseases, nor does he get into truly unconventional medicine; there are no crystals involved here, no chakras, none of that. Harvey also acknowledges the importance of seeing a physician for diagnostic purposes, and informs the reader what symptoms require immediate medical attention.
The second part of the book, running to 150 or so pages, is devoted to the exercises themselves. A page or two is devoted to each, with accompanying photographs.
In general, the exercises are pretty simple, and doable by virtually anyone who's ambulatory. They range from the "central axis" exercise, which involves little more than standing (but with good posture, as prescribed by the instructions) to the "deep gluteal stretch," which calls for lying down, crossing your legs in the air, and pulling with your hands on one leg.
That's about as tough as it gets. In fact, the author specifically advises against certain exercises, like headstands, and even weightlifting. He concedes that some people may not agree with that advice, but says that over the years, he's seen many back problems caused by these exercises.
I found that the most questionable part of the book. I don't doubt that a lot of people have done themselves more harm than good by lifting weights, but I imagine that's usually because they've gone about it badly, using too much weight and poor techniques. The usual, and probably best advice is to speak to your doctor or other health professional first.
But the author makes clear that what exercises are right for you depends on your particular circumstances. He does a good job of guiding the reader to an appropriate set of exercises, and lays out very clearly how to carry out an effective program. A concluding chapter sets out several suggested routines to address various types of back problems.
Lately, my back's been pretty good, and I only got the book recently, so I can't sit here and say that this book has changed my life. I simply haven't had the opportunity to put it into practice sufficiently.
But I will say this. Sometimes, when I get "review" books, I end up giving them away or discarding them. This is a keeper. Again, I've been through physical therapy, more times than I wish, and I know from experience that even simple exercises, if appropriate and if carried out regularly, can achieve significant positive results. This book offers a means to do so, in a way that's tailored to the reader's specific needs, and that's easy to understand and quite doable by the average person.


  1. Thank you for sharing this as I suffer from tremendous back pain as well. I will be buying the book immediately and implementing these exercises into my daily routine. i have been to countless therapists but my down fall is that I did not commit to exercising my back for long enough as it is all about consistency, thank you.

    Jacqueline Hodges @ Dr Koziol

  2. "I agree with you about the benefits of weightlifting. I think that it can be a remarkably beneficial exercise, but you have to do it properly. You can’t just keep pushing yourself, and you must use proper form.

    Rather than just talking to my doctor, though, I also ask the trainers at the gym for help. They really know their stuff!"

    Agnes Lawson @ Pain Relief Experts