CHARM book club: ”Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery”

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A patient with chronic back pain recently lent me her copy of “Crooked,” which I devoured in a matter of weeks. Written by New York Times bestselling author and investigative journalist Cathryn J. Ramin, “Crooked” details her personal journey with chronic back pain and uncovers the fascinating and sometimes dark corners of the $100 billion back pain industry. The book was researched over the course of 6 years. It provides an impressive amount of information regarding the effectiveness of popular treatment options derived from research studies, personal interviews with stakeholders from all corners of the industry, as well as her own anecdotal accounts of what worked for her after experimenting with nearly every sort of treatment available.

As a physical therapist, I appreciated that after all Ramin’s research and attempts to try out everything the industry has to offer, what she felt helped her the most on the road to recovery was hard work, sweat, and consistency with corrective exercises and postural awareness. I also appreciate that she experimented with different types of movement experts from physical therapist to personal trainers to Feldenkreis practitioners to Iyengar yoga gurus. As she states in her book, “back whisperers” can come in different forms and with different credentials; but it is of the utmost importance that those with back pain come to find one that they can trust to identify movement dysfunctions and teach them how to reach the right balance of strengthening the appropriate muscles without aggravating the existing pain.

One criticism I have regarding the book is the complete omission of regenerative techniques from her research. With the growing popularity and mounting evidence for the effectiveness of regenerative techniques, I expect Ramin will no longer be able to be silent about her opinion on regenerative techniques in the coming years.

Although what worked for Ramin certainly won’t work for everyone, I recommend this book to all those suffering with chronic back pain as an informative and practical resource for the breadth of options available to them and the kind of people that may be able to help them along their way to recovery. Also, Ramin does an excellent job explaining the latest research on the neurophysiology of pain and how pain education by itself can actually reduce pain by reshaping the way our brains interpret signals from our body.

If you are suffering from chronic back pain, grab this book for an interesting read, and come see what the “back whisperers” here at CHARM can do for you.



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