BOOK REVIEW: 'The End of Back Pain': Great Thinkers Can Help Heal Your Body

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'The End of Back Pain': Great Thinkers Can Help Heal Your Body

What does Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche have to do with your aching back? Read "The End of Back Pain: Access Your Hidden Core to Heal Your Body" by Patrick A. Roth, M.D. (HarperOne, 256 pages, $17.99, on-sale Apr. 8, available for pre-order from to find out what the German philosopher and other thinkers tell us that can heal your back pain. 

Roth provides us with thoughts from Nietzsche, Descartes, Sartre, Kierkegaard and other thinkers throughout his book, arguing that "these thinkers have a lot to teach us about the psychological, physiological and emotional driving forces of back pain."

In a sidebar on Page 13 Roth describes the Nietzsche Principle, based on the Nietzsche's famous utterance:  "That which does not kill you makes you stronger." The Nietzsche Principle, he writes, forms the basis of Roth's "Hidden Core Workout," designed to strengthen your back -- "even while in pain -- in order to ultimately control your pain."

I must be doing something right because I've rarely suffered from back pain, something many people experience.

On Page 12 Roth writes that "before your back can be changed, your mind must be changed." That ties into the thoughts of Nietzsche and others, he says, because what you'll learn from philosophers is as important as what you'll learn from doctors. It sounds quirky, but the more I read in the book, the more this made sense.

Another philosopher, Rene´ Descartes, provides a way to grasp the concept of pain, Roth tells us: "This theory suggests that with pain there are always two separate entities: the painful stimulus and the perception or representation of that stimulus in the brain….To Descartes' mind there was the 'real' world and there was the distinct representation of that world in the brain."

Roth  believes that most of what you have been told about back pain is wrong. In "The End of Back Pain", he  shares his groundbreaking and highly effective approach to pain management and spinal care, including how: 

  • Back pain often has little to do with the back
  • Pain medications actually cause pain
  • You should ignore what you see in the mirror
  • You know more than your doctor does

Roth prescribes an active exercise regimen, using only a kettlebell and an exercise ball, that strengthens the "hidden core," the deep muscles of the back. This is the first time I've heard about kettlebells, which look like a small cast iron cannonball with a handle. (For more about them, read the sidebar on Page 86.)  

Developing this core has an added benefit in the changing appearance of a person's body, which will become more toned than by exercising the muscles that can't be seen, such as the abdominals or obliques. In addition, the reader will learn how to harness the synergy between the brain and body, and to benefit from the body's remarkable ability to adapt to stress.

Roth writes that back pain manifests itself in many different forms, attacks without warning, and damages its victims’ physical and emotional health. 

Everyone suggests a different cure for the effects of a weak core: surgeons want to cut, chiropractors want to adjust, physical therapists want to perform physical therapy.

 I found it revealing that Roth himself has had chiropractors work on his back! He even discusses acupuncture, although he's doubtful about any scientific basis for this ancient form of Chinese medicine. (A personal note: I've had two experiences with acupuncture and both times they cured the pain and lack of motion that I experienced. This may be due to the placebo effect that Roth mentions, but in my opinion, anything that works is fine by me. My fellow Libra, Nietzsche, would probably agree with me!)

Roth writes that --  more often than not -- back pain is caused by a set of underdeveloped core muscles that control the stability and alignment of the spine that are not being used. His exercise program was constructed to strengthen and develop those muscles to relieve, control, and even prevent chronic pain.

After years of treating back pain, Roth says that a back that is not used to its full capacity is a back that is unhealthy. When we don’t use our backs, we are not utilizing the core set of muscles designed to help us stay strong, increase stamina, and look our very best.

About the author

Dr. Patrick Roth  is a board-certified neurosurgeon in New Jersey and the chairman of neurosurgery at Hackensack University Medical Center. He is the director of the neurosurgical residency program and is dedicated to the teaching and training of future neurosurgeons. He is a founding member of the North Jersey Brain & Spine Center.

For more information please visit http://www.patrickrot

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