Book recommendation: Listen to Your Pain

This blog post isn’t about anything especially far out. It’s actually pretty ordinary. It’s about injuries and pain and a book I came across in my studies that I like a lot. It’s very left-brained — and very practical.

Listen to Your Pain: The Active Person’s Guide to Understanding, Identifying, and Treating Pain and Injury is one of my textbooks in massage school. It’s not written for massage therapists, but I know I will find it useful.

I recommend this book for anyone who leads an active or adventurous life, who might occasionally experience falls, twists, or other accidents, who wants to know more about what’s going on.

I wish I had had this book in my library years ago. You might need to have a certain kind of information-freak mindset like me to appreciate this, but it could increase your understanding of your own body, save your medical dollars, and give you realistic information about what kind of time and attention it takes to heal from an injury.

Most of the injuries I’ve had have come from things like falls, bike wrecks, dance, yoga, running, pulling the lawnmower cord, a car wreck, and so on. Some like plantar fasciitis have crept up on me. It would have been helpful to me to be able to learn more about what was happening under my skin. One thing I’ve discovered in massage school is that most of us know very little about what’s going on inside our own bodies. 

Before massage school, I used books like The Anatomy of Movement and The Key Muscles of Yoga to help me understand my body better. In fact, referring to books like that probably helped draw me toward massage school and more study of anatomy. I love the drawings and the insight I get, and the language is a wonderful skill to acquire.

Here’s how Listen to Your Pain can be useful. Say you begin to experience knee pain. This could be obviously from something that happened, or it could be knee pain that gradually appears and worsens for no discernable reason, or maybe it comes and goes.

You can use this book to identify which structure in your knee is injured, how this injury usually occurs, ways to verify that you have this injury and not another, how long it could take to heal, what you can do yourself (ice, rest), what a massage therapist or doctor can do (deep frictioning, injections, surgery), and rehabilitative exercises.

The chapter on the knee is 54 pages long. It describes the anatomy of the knee joint and includes a drawing with arrows pointing to sites on the knee where injuries are felt to help you identify your injury. Fourteen specific knee injuries are described along with descriptions of several other knee injuries and conditions that are more difficult to pinpoint.

Each of the injuries includes a description of what it is, how and why this injury can occur, a drawing of the anatomy involved, ways to test whether you have this injury with drawings, and treatment choices.

The treatment choices section describes the self-treatments you can do — waiting it out, limiting activity, icing, and so on. The author gives some rough guidelines for healing time — for example, for Pain on the Outside of the Knee (Lateral Collateral Ligament Tear), which can happen to yogis who spend a lot of time in the lotus position, it may take three weeks to three months to heal, depending on how severely the ligament is torn. He also lists possible medical treatments and exercises to strengthen the injured tissues.

Note that the book does not include ultrasound or acupuncture as possible medical treatments because the author was not familiar enough with them to include them. The book is purely Western medicine in orientation. From my experience, those modalities can be very helpful for injuries, so don’t rule them out. Maybe the 3rd edition will include them!

The author of Listen to Your Pain is Ben E. Benjamin, a Ph.D. in sports medicine and education. He studied with Dr. James Cyriax, the father of orthopedic medicine. This book has been around for 25 years and is in its second edition.

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