Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Book Review: Muscle Medicine

By DeStefano, Rob (D.C), with Bryan Kelly, M.D. and Joseph Hooper
Published 2009
260 pages

Muscle Medicine, in its obligatory subtitle, bills itself as "The revolutionary approach to maintain, strengthening, and repairing your muscles and joints."

The book was written by members of the New York Giants football team medical staff. The team as an integrated staff of chiropractors/ART therapists, physical trainers, and medical doctors. Instead of each injured player going to one doctor, they see a team that works together to heal any injuries.

One problem with the current medical system - as anyone who's gotten a nagging injury can tell you - is that you often have to choose a specialist who works in isolation. Go to the chiro and you get adjusted and ART to loosen up tight muscles. Go to the orthopedic surgeon and you get surgery or painkillers. But what if it's more than one problem? What if you don't know where to go to start with?

The authors worked as a team. This approach makes sense - if physical manipulation is sufficient to solve the problem, the chiro is the best choice. If surgery is needed, the orthopedic surgeon gets the job. Weak muscles post-injury are deal with by the physical therapist. But what happens when it is multiple problems? A torn muscle may need surgery, but if other muscles around it have tightened up as a result, surgery alone won't fully repair the problem. The tight muscles need to be loosened up to allow the repaired muscle to heal properly. Thus, this book.

The book is divided up into sections by body part. Neck, lower back, hands/wrist, etc. are dealt with in turn. Each gets a more-or-less descriptive section concerning possible injuries, a few case studies showing previous clients and how the integrated approach was used with each, and then a series of stretches, strengthening exercises, and self-myofascial release techniques.

The strengthening exercises are pretty basic but make a lot of sense. External and internal rotations for rotator cuff injuries, wrist exercises for wrist injuries, ankle band work for ankle problems, and so on. They aren't Earth-shatteringly new or exciting, but they're all well explained and are aimed at addressing the root of the problem and not just the immediate symptoms.

Perhaps the best section discusses either contracting out or subcontracting out your rehabilitation and treatment. The contracting plan is that you find a single medical professional to rely on, and allow that professional to send you along to any specialists you need. The subcontracting approach is to find each specialist you need yourself. The book gives you enough information to help you make an informed decision about either approach. Neither is given short shrift; they're both treated as useful approaches that make more or less sense depending on the nature of your injury and your knowledge. The small section on managing your health care provider is also useful and direct, without being cynical. It's your body, and you need to heal it.

If this book has one potential problem, it's going to be in the eyes of the readers. Some people have no positive regard whatsoever for chiropractic doctors, osteopaths, ART or self-myofascial release therapy. They're (witchdoctors/frauds/charletans/theives/whatever) and that is that. This book doesn't take that approach. Not a surprise, it's written by a DC (a chiropractor). But importantly, it treats all kinds of health care professionals as having pieces of the solution and shows you how to integrate them. A chiropractic isn't going to help if your tendon is snapped or a ligament is torn, but surgery from an orthopedist and painkillers isn't going to help if you've got a chronically weak muscle offloading its work onto over-active surrounding muscles, either. If you've got both, you need both doctors to fix it. This book takes a holistic, pragmatic approach, and if you don't have time for some of the health professionals they recommend you won't get a lot out of it.

Content: 4 out of 5. Quite thorough and useful information on treatment.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Well laid-out and easy to follow, with accurate illustrations.

Overall: If you have nagging injuries and you'd like to get a handle on them, this book is a good place to start. You get more than enough information on self-treatment to get started, and great advice on pursing professional medical help. The integrated approach to treatment is excellent. If you're hurt, it's worth reading this book. Especially at the price, recommend.

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