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  • Living A Healthy Life With Chronic Pain

    An interesting thing happened a few months ago. I was contacted by a book publisher who noticed my blog posts on pain and stress. They said  that they thought I’d be a great person to review a new edition of their book “Living a Healthy Life With Chronic Pain,” and wondered if I’d be interested. My initial reaction was “H*ll no! I only review things that I’ve found on my own and am super excited about.”

    I don’t know why, but I let the email sit in my inbox for a few days before responding. During that time, I went to their website and actually looked at the book description and realized that if I had come across this book on my own, I’d have bought it.  Then I searched online for reviews of the previous edition. The reviews by people with chronic pain were quite good, so I decided to let them send me a free copy of the book. In exchange, I’d review it. Honestly. Even if I hated it. They were OK with that.

    So here goes:

    Chronic pain book
    Image courtesy Bull Publishing

    The Review

    I have to say, I was pretty impressed with the book. It tends a bit toward the basics, which is a little redundant for those of us who’ve read numerous books on the subject, but is perfect for someone who’s newly diagnosed with a chronic pain condition, or someone who isn’t familiar with all the medical-speak that fills most books aimed at those who’ve had their diagnosis for a while.

    The book is laid out into 20 chapters:

    1. Overview of Self-Management and Pain
    2. Becoming an Active Self-Manager
    3. Finding Resources
    4. Understanding and Managing Common Symptoms and Problems
    5. Using Your Mind to Manage Pain Symptoms
    6. Pacing: Balancing Activity and Rest
    7. Exercise and Physical Activity for Every Body
    8. Exercising for Flexibility, Balance, and Strength
    9. Exercising for Endurance and Fitness: Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity
    10. Communicating With Family and Friends
    11. Communicating With Your Health Care Professionals
    12. Sex and Intimacy
    13. Healthy Eating
    14. Healthy Weight Management
    15. Managing Your Medicines
    16. Medicines and Treatments for Chronic Pain
    17. Making Treatment Decisions
    18. Managing Specific Chronic Pain Conditions
    19. Managing Angina Pain, Coronary Artery Disease, and Related Conditions
    20. Planning for the Future
    21. Appendix: Helpful Hints for Everyday Living

    As you can see, the book is pretty thorough. It covers topics that many books on chronic pain don’t, and goes further in depth than is usual in the other ones.

    They recommend reading the first 2 chapters and then proceeding however works best for your needs, whether that’s reading the whole book straight through or chapter hopping based on the info you need to know most. Unlike many books that tell you to go ahead and skip around, this book is truly conducive to doing just that. When referencing exercises or strategies from previous chapters, the authors always give chapter numbers in case you had skipped the referenced chapter. I found that extremely handy.

    What I liked best best:

    • It’s thorough.
    • It’s easily readable without being dumbed down.
    • It stresses the individualized nature of chronic pain and therefore the need for an individualized approach.
    • Exercise photos and drawings depict a diverse range of body sizes, shapes, and ethnicities.
    • It discourages a one size fits all approach to any aspect of chronic pain.
    • It is frank and upfront about what medications can do. (treat symptoms)
    • It’s frank and upfront about what medications can’t do. (cure your chronic pain condition)
    • It’s frank and upfront about medication side effects.
    • Lots of great suggestions for individualizing your care.
    • They utilize the expertise of others and give those experts credit in the appropriate chapter. For instance, the chapter on healthy eating credits 2 registered dietitians for their help assuring the accuracy of the the nutrition and dietary information presented.
    • Emphasis on the need for you to have a healthcare team.
    • Emphasis on your need to be your own advocate and healthcare manager.
    • Advocating use of complementary treatments, including massage and acupuncture.
    • Reminders for you to go at your own pace and that any recommended targets or limits are your eventual goal… not where anyone expects you to be starting from.

    What I thought could be improved:

    • The authors tone is generally that of a benevolent authority, which beats the condescending tone that many books of this nature have, but it gets dangerously close to briefly crossing the line into condescension  a couple times.
    • The conversation examples are unnatural; no one talks like that. But then, I’ve never found conversation examples in a book like this that sounded natural, so it’s on par with all the others in that way. I had just hoped for better. I always hope for better.
    • I didn’t get a true feeling of empathy from the authors; rather I got a feeling of compassionate detachment, which is way better than many of the alternatives.
    • I would have loved to have read some first person accounts of people who implemented the recommendations in the book, both successfully and unsuccessfully. That would have shown just how individual the nature of chronic pain treatment is.

    Overall, I’d say it’s definitely worth the read. It’s more thorough than most books and strongly emphasizes that, in the words of one of my massage teachers, “the answer to every question is ‘it depends.'”