This remarkable book has already generated major "buzz" in the "bad-back" community. Better yet, it is being used by some of us with truly terrible backs -- complex disk problems, severe scoliosis, major iatrogenic deformities resulting from previous scoliosis corrections. If you are in any of these categories, please check out this singular new approach to physical conditioning and emotional well-being. Unlike any of the previous "bad-back" books I have surveyed -- in the process of moderating a large online group for people with flatback syndrome and trying to find some kind of exercise I could do after eight fusions and revisions -- the program outlined here is safe and reasonable. For that reason, it has garnered endorsements from leading spinal surgeons who would never recommend most generic bad-back programs to their fragile-backed patients. (The "fragile backs" descriptor is inspired -- those of us with complex spinal problems know in the bone just how fragile we are, and just how cautious and patient we must be in initiating any exercise program.)
One reviewer criticized the book for spelling out special Pilates equipment which is necessary to do the core-strengthening exercises in the book. This is a legitimate concern for those of us on fixed disability incomes or in other limiting circumstances, but I doubt that it could stop any of the motivated people I know through my own 560-member website for people with flatback syndrome. I regard it as just another challenge, along with the many others we face every day -- to name just two, locating a qualified surgeon and getting our insurance carriers to pay for the surgery s/he prescribes to make our lives livable! Having had some personal email correspondence with author Andrea Stanton -- a personable and empathic human being, a psychiatric social worker by profession, and a woman whose own back-saga has some major similarities with my own -- I have learned that there are all kinds of ways to minimize the expense for someone who is motivated and determined.
Moreover, the book offers more than just the equipment-requiring program. Among other things, it includes one of the clearest "lay" explanations of spinal anatomy and back mechanics I have ever read -- anywhere.
Members of my own support group have been posting ever more frequently about this book, approximately one year after its publication. They report that they are sharing its thoughtfully adapated Pilates exercises--a program initially worked out by Andrea's Pilates instructor, whose own hair-raising spinal saga is detailed in the book, along with Andrea's -- with their own exercise instructors, taking the book along with them to their "workouts," and otherwise using it in practical ways which have brought them to new levels of personal mastery and pain relief.
A couple aspects of the book could use some work or expansion, through no fault of the authors. It is my understanding that someone at the publishing company decided at the last minute to require these "extras," such as a list of outside resources. Given the publication schedule, there was simply not adequate time to produce any kind of comprehensive or thoroughly annotated list. The book does not suffer at all from this problem, which is hardly central to its main content: logically laid out, well-written, impeccably edited text, supplemented by equally clear photographs. The book provides a wonderful explanation of where Pilates came from and what it is all about, then goes on to explain how people with the most extreme and debilitating back problems can actually use and adapt the most crucial Pilates exercises to their own situations.
In my estimation, no other exercise, yoga, or related book on the market comes close to accomplishing what this volume accomplishes, and most contain prominent disclaimers warning scoliosis-surgery patients, for instance, to see their doctors and try something else! -- either that, or they indicate clearly that they are aimed at people with mild, unoperated scoliosis, or perhaps an occasional reader who has undergone a laminectomy for some isolated disk problem, while failing to address the rest of us at all.
In short, *Pilates for Fragile Backs* is a uniquely encouraging and helpful resource for anyone with severe and complex spinal problems seeking some attainable level of physical conditioning and strengthening. There is simply nothing else like it on the market. Even if you are not prepared to embark on the prescribed program, you may well find it worthwhile to read the book simply for its excellent medical explanations and the authors' inspiring personal stories. If you are like me, it will give you -- at the very least -- something that is often in short supply for people with terrible spines and incredible chronic pain: a whopping dose of hope.