Winter is coming - Great reads to boost your brain

As we head towards hibernation and the shortest day of the year, I thought to share some of the great books I have been reading over the past couple of months and some of the takeaways that struck me as interesting. Will post this as a blog. Please add your own favourite texts and why. 

The Good Partner (Karen Nimmo 2022)

Communication is a key driver for our profession; the better our ability to listen/communicate/educate, the more successful I think we can be. And while this book is built around improving relationships, the content I believe is very relevant to our interactions with clients. Karen is a Kiwi clinical psychologist, with an interesting sense of humour, and she drills directly to the point. Very down to earth to which I relate strongly. The book is built around her 7 pillars of love (i.e., trust, communication, conflict skills, intimacy, load-sharing, play & kindness). With lots of case studies, tips, self-tests/exercises, and takeaway lists this is a very readable and applicable text for clinicians.

The section on 'Generosity Burnout' is directly relatable to health professionals and especially new & recent graduates wanting to help clients. As health professionals we are by nature 'givers' but when do we give too much, and when is giving more no longer positive? Karen details symptoms to be aware of like;

  • The exhaustion you can't shake, even after a weekend off
  • Feeling detached or cynical about the people you are 'helping'
  • Feeling ineffective and the 'giving' no longer brings pleasure

and it is a great example of the practical nature that is a theme throughout this book.

The Body Keeps the Score (Bessel van der Kolk 2014)

As mentioned by Diane Lee in our conversation on Physio+10, I am amazed that I hadn't come across this book before. With over 500 pages (small typeface) I confess that I haven't read it all, but have been staggered by the amount/breadth of interesting information covered. Just in the first 50 pages, I learned about the brain's development; reptilian, mammalian, and neocortex, and how this related to SNS, something that I have had a long interest in. How when the sh*t hits the fan, we don't even get to think, only react, because the reptile brain has primitive neural connections that are faster than thinking brain (neocortex) connections.

Bessel details the history, reasons and effects of psychopharmacology development to 'curb and control' psychological behaviours, and why they have largely been ineffectual. For example, even though antidepressant medication use continues to grow (1 in 10 Americans now take antidepressants), hospital admission for depression hasn't changed and the number being treated has tripled in the past two decades. How fMRI & neuroscience have been able to show us why people that have experienced trauma years/decades ago, react as if it was happening again in real-time, given an appropriate trigger event, and that thinking/rationalisation/medications don't help to control their reactions. Other approaches like play, dancing, singing, and drumming are required to enable patients to get back in touch with normalised sensory experiences.

While most of us don't think we are treating trauma (the focus of the book), when you examine the chronicity of some presentations that we see, the involvement of the SNS, poor sleep quality and sensitised emotions, I am sure a greater awareness through reading books like The Body Keeps the Score, will assist in our ability to help our clients live higher functioning and better quality lives. 

Heal Pelvic Pain (Amy Stein 2009)

This is an older book that was recommended to me by Dr Jo Milios, when we were preparing for her Nuts & Bolts of Men's Health online course. I am 'coming of age' so to speak in the area of Men's Health and living in a rural and remote area essentially means the blokes around here have very few options and it would also seem awareness. When diagnosed with prostate cancer it is like stepping on a medical landmine.

The book is a mixture of technical and lay and is divided into two tenants;

  1. The reduction of lumbo/pelvic pain
  2. Building up of capacity/prevention of symptoms

The first section details methods of relaxation, stretching, and massage, with an emphasis on learning to 'let go', something that has only recently moved into mainstream pain management. It was only 20 years ago that movement/breathing therapies like yoga, tai chi, and meditation were considered 'out there' and not scientific. How our appreciation changes.

Once the pain has been managed, the second section moves into strengthening programs. Other sections touch on diet, sex, posture, and pregnancy, providing a nicely rounded-out reference for those treating male and female clients with lumbopelvic pain.

If you are interested in the field of Men's Health, you can listen to these clinicians' journeys in the field and how they became leaders;

  • Dr Jo Milios
  • A/Prof. Craig Allingham
  • and a founder of Men's Health Peter Dornan, with be available on 26 July

Your best books for 2023

Love to hear what good reads you have found so far in 2023.