Treat Your Own Back by Robin McKenzie is a book that my doctor recommended to me years ago, during my first big back failure. I have a genetically “bad disc” in my lumbar region, and right after I had my second child, I found myself face-down in the mud of my driveway, unable to move for pain (which was worse even than migraines or even unanesthetized labor). After several days on my friend’s couch and a couple times at the physical therapist’s, I got the book my doc told me to get. I used it, I went back to yoga, I bought the things recommended in the book, and then I loaned out the book. The book stayed on my second friend’s bookshelf until the pandemic. As the year progressed, I found my back getting more and more stiff, sore, and vulnerable to debilitation. So I asked about the book, and it found its way back to me. (I included this book in a blog I wrote about the top ten self help books I had read, HERE.)
I have a couple things to say. This book, as a book, is only okay. It’s a really quick read with some explanation, some diagrams, a couple quizzes, and a lot of direction. Unfortunately, it seems to be always trying to sell you something, which is funny because it’s also trying to get you out of dependence on costly medications, doctors, and alternative therapies. Ultimately, I think McKenzie is really looking out for your comfort, functionality, and even pocketbook, but he can come across as a real salesman. Toots his own horn a lot. Says his way is the only way. Has some products he can exclusively sell you for just $29.99 plus tax. Yeah, that. On the other hand, as far as I can tell, he’s in the field of science and he’s right. There were old ways of dealing with back pain that didn’t work. (The book is also a little dated, and is on something like the 10th edition.) Science was done, time passed, and McKenzie’s hunches were proven right for most cases of back pain. There are simple things that can be done (religiously, for best results) that can “heal” you of pain and incapacitation that otherwise could ruin your life or at least really inconvenience you now and again throughout your life.
I will admit to using McKenzie’s lumbar rolls, including the fancy, little innertube for night-wear. (Yeah, it’s not attractive.) Combined with the emergency exercises and then a lifetime of good posture and daily (quick) exercises (or the right yoga), this book really can change the life of a back pain sufferer like me. My problem is very most likely mechanical in nature, and yet Treat Your Own Back certainly works for me.
Why do I say the book itself is only okay? Besides the sales-pitchiness of it? It could be laid out better and also presented a little more clearly. Mostly, I just wish there was a section at the back that you could quickly reference for either an acute pain day or a normal day or whatever kind of back pain day you were having, and—with tiny illustrations or perhaps just more clever names than “Exercise Three”—an infographic would walk you through the steps. He sort of does this in the book, it’s just not as accessible as it could be.
Overall, I would recommend this book because it could be exactly what you need. I find it to be integral for me to live a normal life. My doctor was correct in telling me to purchase it and I have been right to follow its advice. Here’s to your health and wellness, and the possibility that this may be what you need, as well.
“The focus is now on exercise and activity, both of which have the potential to allow patients to manage their own problem and become independent of therapy and clinicians” (p6).
“As long as the ligaments are intact, you can prevent significant displacement by standing upright and bending backward” (p16).
“If you stand fully erect and bend fully backward once a day, you need never become bent, stopped and impaired in so many ways” (p25).