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A deceptively unhelpful book
on 30 June 2012
Really? A five-minute solution to plantar fasciitis? -- Wow! Let's go for it!
-- Well, except, have you encountered that saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is"? -- In my considered view, that applies here.
In a variety of ways this book is seriously misleading, starting with its absurd title, which sums up the author's journalist-type instant categorical 'sound bite' sort of approach to the plantar fasciitis issue. The '5 minute' in the title was arrived at by adding the nominal accumulated time of the plantar fascia stretches applied in one of the sessions described by the author - but even that is misleading, because, complete with a little pause between each stretch, one such session would actually take somewhat more than five minutes even if you timed each stretch to exactly ten seconds, and you would need to have at least three such sessions per day, for at least eight weeks and quite possibly indefinitely. Five minutes, my haemorrhoidal back end!
Initially, although having some misgivings, I got somewhat carried along by this book, as I was concerned to get working as quickly and effectively as possible on my own plantar fasciitis, which was affecting my left foot and preventing me from getting out on my regular hikes. The author presented evidence that seemingly convincingly underlined his assertion that most people needed to take little or no action against their plantar fasciitis problem other than the one regular stretching exercise for the plantar fascia that he gives in the book.
So, I immediately started using that exercise as directed - particularly immediately before getting out of bed and immediately before walking around after any long period of sitting. Result? My pain was increasing, not levelling off or decreasing!
I realized that I might have been too enthusiastic and could have carried out the stretching too strongly and thus caused some degree of re-injury - something about which the book had little really useful to say (i.e. in terms of practical details). Also, more generally, even if / when using this particular stretching exercise appears to be working, this book had nothing to say about an overall strategy to avoid re-injury and thus both speed healing of the extant injury and prevent recurrence. Rather, the reader is being encouraged to turn away from any sort of overall strategy and just focus on one exercise.
That made a sort of sense to me when I took a step back and looked at what the author was actually doing in that book. He had taken a good bit of the book's content space to review the evidence for the effectiveness of a variety of supposed anti=plantar fasciitis measures in assisting people with that condition. His conclusion was that nearly all of them more or less individually helped at least to some extent, but the plantar fascia stretching exercise (i.e. as he presents it in the book) was the clear winner. That in itself was good information as far as it went, but the trouble was that he then went on to misuse that data in order to pick out the one method and effectively say "Just use that, and you can ignore the rest unless you're one of the minority for whom the stretching method doesn't work". The implication was that in that case you could go off and use some other (single) method, which might work for you.
Plantar fasciitis, even more than many other sports injuries, is a complex issue in its interaction with attempts to get clear of it, and a proper understanding of that condition and how one has brought it upon oneself and how one is continuing to reinforce that injury is a basic requirement, leading on to a comprehensive and balanced multi-prong strategy to prevent or at least minimize re-injury and thus speed healing and prevent recurrence. You do not get help for such a strategy from this book, and indeed I regard the book as actually harmful because it would lead many people into something of a side-track in which they believe that they have found the answer but are actually not doing a whole range of vital things that are necessary at least to prevent recurrence.
The Good News is that you can safely forget this book, because there is a book that not only includes the plantar fascia stretching exercise (presented more helpfully) but also fulfils the above-mentioned requirements too. That book is 'Injury Afoot', by Patrick Hafner. Fortunately I bought both books at the same time, and it is the latter book that I'm keeping - the '5 minute solution' book, which is the subject of this review, being due for the recycling heap because I would not want to pass that on to anyone and give them simplistic and indeed wrong notions about how to clear a plantar fasciitis problem (or indeed any physical problem).
It's probably worth adding here that I am not a newcomer to self help methods of resolving physical problems - and indeed some would look upon me as having a certain expertise in this area. In particular, from 1993 I resolved a very serious problem of back and neck dysfunction and pain (through taking up the Alexander Technique), and, more recently, on different occasions, have healed a major attack of osteoarthritis in my right knee and a grade 3 tear ('rupture') of my right quadriceps, all without medical intervention or assistance (in each case, soon getting back into full length hiking again). So I do find it relatively easy to recognise effective and indeed deficient strategies for addressing particular physical problems.