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, March 12, 2012

Book Review: The Pain-Free Program

by Anthony B. Carey
Published 2005
254 pages

The Pain-Free Program is subtitled "A proven method to relieve back, neck, shoulder, and joint pain." The book is aimed at restoring functional, correct posture in people who have lost it.

The book is a posture-first approach, rather than point-of-pain-first as in Pain Free. The latter asks "What hurts?" and then works on fixing your posture to address that issue; this book asks "How is your posture dysfunctional?" and then works on your posture. They both reach the same point - doing specific mobility drills and stretches and exercises to take you out of dysfunction. They just start at opposite ends of the spectrum of diagnosis. It's probably a bit unfair to compare the books, but having read Pain Free first, it's an unavoidable comparison. You can't help but read one book in light of the other.

The book inevitably opens with a (rather long) introduction, aimed at explaining why you might be dysfunctional, why correcting it will help you, and why this approach will in fact correct it. Basically the first 67 pages of the book are selling you on the idea of postural corrective exercises. The seventh chapter is what opens up the meat of the book - posture diagnosis and correction.

Chapter 7 outlines six posture forms. These range from rotated posture, hunched back/rounded shoulders, head-forward, etc. and everything in between. The posture types are pretty broad but further details explain how you might across multiple posture types. Further information is provided on how to address multiple forms at once, or in which order to address them if you can't tackle them simultaneously.

This is followed by three different exercise programs per form - one for physical workers (labor and other gross motor work), one for dexterity workers (fine motor skills, mostly), and mixed mode (people who do some of both, or some of everything in the case of full-time parents). Each of these is pretty well put together, but with one issue - every exercise is illustrated . . . the first time. Subsequent times explain the exercise but lack the picture and provide a page reference. The illustrations are generally single-picture illustrations, so you just see someone somewhere in the process of doing the exercise, not a beginning/middle/end approach. A fair number do show start and end positions, but not all of them do. The result of this is a lot of page flipping to do a program.

Another downpoint is that you do really need outside help to assess your posture. This means you need to read and understand Chapter 7 and then have someone else do the same and assess you, or have someone help you take pictures. Assessing yourself in fine points is difficult. While finding pain points is not (your knee hurts or it doesn't), knowing that your right hip is subtly raised and your right shoulder is dipping when you move is quite difficult to assess accurately. Then, you have to slot your job into one of three categories and exercise off of that. This leaves a lot of potential failure points - discern your posture, pick the correct combination of forms, select the correct weighting of exercises based on your idea of how your job impacts you, and then page-flip through the exercises. Tough. Get it wrong, and you might be reinforcing bad posture at worst and just not accomplishing anything at best.

The approach does seem very solidly grounded. Many of the exercises exactly (or nearly exactly) duplicate corrective exercises from other sources, just under different names. This is a positive (you know people use this stuff broadly) and a negative (they call it something else). Like Pain Free, it has a continuing exercise program for long-term use, but it doesn't really address athletics or actual strengthening. If I'm going to bench press, or golf, or do MMA, what do I need to do to keep from bringing more problems back down on me? It's not clearly addressed, either in forms or in the text.

Content: 4 out of 5. The book is complete as far as it goes, but it lacks the detail you need to keep going forward.
Presentation: 3 out of 5. The book is well written, and the pictures are good, but need more before/middle/after shots. Too much page flipping during actual use.

Overall: A good book if you're looking for a posture-first approach to fixing joint pain and a body pains in general. It's a bit more analysis-intensive than Pain Free, but its approach and progressions are more clearly spelled out. Recommended.

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