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Book review: 'Save my spine' by Lisa Roberts PhD FCSP

Book review: 'Save my spine' by Lisa Roberts PhD FCSP

Book review: ‘Save my spine’ by Lisa Roberts PhD FCSP


• Author:  James G Skinner

• Paperback: 125 pages

• Publisher: (July 11, 2012)

• Language: English

• ISBN-13: 978-8182533271

‘Save my spine’ is a very personal and moving account of author James Skinner and his wife Maite’s quest to find relief for her back pain.  The misery started in March 2003 when Maite, a ‘perfectly health Spanish sixty-plus’ was pouring hot water from the kettle to make morning tea.  She experienced an agonising pain in her leg, which was later diagnosed as spinal stenosis due to osteoarthritis.   In the epilogue, Maite recalls that when lightning struck that morning, their lives changed completely.  What follows is an account of this couple’s long and painful path in search of relief and answers, taken from James’ diary, kept over four years.

The book is written in a simple and readable style, charting the highs and lows as Maite journeys through endless appointments, two bouts of surgery, pain clinic, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, spa baths, a chiropractic bed, physiotherapy, Nordic walking, self-management, buckets of medication and finally, osteopathy.

The story is interspersed with snippets from James’ role as Honorary British Consul in Galicia, Spain and he shares his inner thoughts in a frank and often humorous way.  Their hopes and expectations are evident each time an appointment comes around, as are the disappointments that often follow.  Whilst the frustration and anxiety are clear, this account is one of courage and determination.  A particularly vivid chapter is devoted to trying to find a comfortable seat, which even resulted in the couple installing a Ford fiesta front passenger seat from the local junk yard in their apartment, propped up on wood as it still had the bolts that held it to the frame attached.  Then followed a dentist’s chair, a plethora of office chairs and the best solution they found, which involved chopping 2 cm off the legs of a kitchen chair.  To enable them to get on with life, they took the modified chair everywhere, including the local coffee shop.

Health care professionals would do well to read this compelling account to remind them of the impact that attending appointments and treatments has, not only on the patient, but also on their family, as they go from specialist to specialist, trying to make headway in the back pain jungle.  In reading this book, the huge physical, emotional and financial costs of back pain hit home.  As the couple researched vertebrae, muscles and ‘that damn sciatica wire’, they tried everything to help themselves and in the end, their persistence has paid off.  This book shows that although a cure for back pain still eludes the human race, a positive attitude, determination and unstinting support from friends and family are powerful allies in beating back pain.

Lisa Roberts PhD FCSP

President, Society for Back Pain Research