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Publisher's Summary

The acclaimed author of Carved in Sand - a veteran investigative journalist who endured persistent back pain for decades - delivers the definitive book on the subject: an essential examination of all facets of the back pain industry, exploring what works, what doesn't, what may cause harm, and how to get on the road to recovery.

In her effort to manage her chronic back pain, investigative reporter Cathryn Jakobson Ramin spent years and a small fortune on a panoply of treatments. But her discomfort only intensified, leaving her feeling frustrated and perplexed. As she searched for better solutions, she exposed a much bigger problem. Costing roughly $100 billion a year, spine medicine - often ineffective and sometimes harmful - exemplified the worst aspects of the US health-care system.

The result of six years of intensive investigation, Crooked offers a startling look at the poorly identified risks of spine medicine and provides practical advice and solutions. Ramin interviewed scores of spine surgeons, pain management doctors, physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and specialized bodywork practitioners. She met with many patients whose pain and desperation led them to make life-altering decisions and with others who triumphed over their limitations.

The result is a brilliant and comprehensive book that is not only important but essential to millions of back pain sufferers and all types of health-care professionals. Ramin shatters assumptions about surgery, chiropractic methods, physical therapy, spinal injections, and painkillers and addresses evidence-based rehabilitation options - showing, in detail, how to avoid therapeutic dead ends while saving money, time, and considerable anguish. With Crooked, she reveals what it takes to outwit the back pain industry and get on the road to recovery.

©2017 Cathryn Jakobson Ramin (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

great story and great info

the best part of this book is the decision making Tools in her woven. This means the book answers questions like how can you tell that your yoga teacher or physical therapist or even physician is qualified to give you advice.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Plenty of detail, no solution

After an exhausting amount of information, no real solutions. When I started the book I was so hopeful that she would offer a conclusion to help me with my back pain. She made it seem that if I would just listen through all of the overly detailed stories of the greed driven medical industry (which is not new information) , then she would offer methods of helping or healing. Instead, she basically claims all surgeries, injections, chiropractic and pain medications are bogus and potentially deadly, and then references dozens of alternative methods to that essentially conflic each other. So Cathryn, is it all mental? Emotional? Physical? Spiritual? A complex combination? Is it go harder in the gym? Finding a trainer with big hands? Perfected alignment? Is it muscles too tight and big or loose and small? Is it the deep rooted unexpressed anger? Well, what is it?

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

where is the nutrition?

like the industry itself the absenace of nutritional consideration is disturbing. also your experience with one chiropractor does not give you the right to slander the whole progression.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Overall message is excellent, but not for everyone

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

The overall messages that 1. doctors have no quick fixes, 2. back surgery is dicey and recommendations are influenced by $, and 3. getting better can be a part time job for the patient are all valid and important. But I think the author fails to recognize that not every patient is exactly like herself.

Any additional comments?

Early on in the book she says she thought fixing her back would be like fixing a broken wrist--easy! The wrist has a gazillion little bones in it. Not easy to fix. That's when I knew I had to listen with critical ears. She also says Loyola Hospital is located in Mayfield instead of Maywood, IL--which is weird since she says up front that she had 3 fact checkers look through her text before publishing. Not a difficult fact to check.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

If you're like me, skip this book.

I don't doubt this book is helpful to many.

However, I've been doing boxing, body-building -esque exercises, and powerlifting for years. I heard of Dr. Stuart McGill from Stan Efferding, and in reading reviews of Stu's "The Back Mechanic", I came across this title.

In my opinion, this book should have been cut in thirds. For me, there was way too much repetitive information and narratives about what *didn't* work. I don't need to be told 50 times that halting exercise regresses progress. I want a concise yet complete understanding of how to avoid and repair damage.

If you're interested in the journalistic aspect, get this. Having an audiobook was a great way to whet my appetite on my commutes while my books were being shipped from Amazon. I would recommend listening on at least 1.5x speed. For me, the narration was quite slow and seemed to arbitrarily emphasize certain words or characters' testimonies. It also seemed to greatly detail studies contrary to typical medicine, but only rely on anecdotal evidence for procedures from "back gurus". Anecdotal information is great, but the imbalance seemed very biased.

If you want solutions, skip this and go straight to Dr. Stuart McGill's "The Back Mechanic" and/or "The Gift of Injury".

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Journalistic approach to back pain

Loved all the information about the back pain Industry. So many stories and examples of treatment. I'm definitely more motivated to take care of my back now. Thank you!

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Cheri
  • Michigan
  • 10-31-17

SNOOZEFEST!!

First of all, the narrator's voice was so monotone it put me to sleep. Secondly, I only got up to when the author started bashing the Chiropractic industry. I had scoliosis as a child and an amazing Chiropractor straightened my spine. I saw a little boy come in that could barely walk and after a few visit's, he walked out on his own with just a small assist from his mom. Finally, I would definitely not recommend this book to a friend!

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Lisa
  • Beech Mountain, NC
  • 10-16-17

Should be titled Outwitting the Back Pain Industry if you have unlimited resources

As a physical therapist who has been practicing for over 30 seeing chronic pain patients I was left disappointed after listening to this book. I agree that surgical interventions are widely over utilized in the treatment of back pain and Cathryn does a good job of discussing relevant research in this area. However I feel she does a poor job discussing the scientific research relating to physical treatment of back pain such as exercise and forms of manual therapy. I feel the evidence in this area points out that simply moving your body in many ways is helpful whether it be yoga, swimming, or a gym based workouts. The author seems to feel we all need to be hooked up with some type of "back whisper" for "proper" exercise.

I also feel the author's back pain has central sensitization written all over it yet she fails to see the connection. She did mention Dr. John Sarno several times in the book but appears to have gained little insight from her discussions with him. Perfectionistic personality, high achiever, and running across the country to take care of her elderly parents sounds like the perfect mix for developing chronic back pain due to central sensitization or as Dr. Sarno calls it TMS.

Take my advice and listen to Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno instead of this book you will likely find the cure you have been searching for.



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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • RP
  • U.S.
  • 08-05-17

Thorough and Helpful

I don't think a professional narrator could have read this with the same authority as the author. Throughout, I could feel her frustration at solutions that didn't work, as well as contentment with those that gave relief. Having been through many of the frustrations myself, I'm glad for the untried suggestions she has offered and am already on that path. I appreciate her tenacity and thoroughness in researching this and sharing her findings.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Mostly Reliable

Overall, it is great advice for back pain sufferers. I have had back pain for 11 years and I've been an RN for 12 years, I love evaluating medical research and often yell at the TV when the news anchors are misconstruing the latest published research paper.

Most of the information is current and evidence based, I dropped one star for some reliance on anecdotes as evidence and brief reaching on correlating causes of back pain without evidence. She does fully disclose at the times she is reaching.

Part One starts to get very hopeless, which, she warns you in advance to skip to Part Two if you can't take it. I thought I could handle it, but 3/4 of the way through I almost had to skip ahead. I began to think it was approaching fear mongering, but people need a lot of discouragement from the idea that surgery is a quick fix, so I decided I didn't mind.
I especially love that she admits in the end that she still has some bad days. It gets so frustrating to feel like you're doing everything right and still have episodes of pain. Anyone offering a "cure" is a liar, she offers excellent help, but no claims to have found the miracle cure. Thank you for being honest! I will be following her website for the updates she's promised.

Good luck everyone out there with back pain! :) We're all in this together, and there is hope. <3