Routine Disclaimer: Yes, I received a review copy of this book. No, I get nothing if you decide to buy the book.
There is a history of arthritis in my family. My grandmother spent literally the last 10 years of her life bedridden from arthritis and often in constant pain. It didn't help that her stomach was extremely sensitive to many of the prescribed pain medications, and that she also ended up with high blood pressure from some of her medications too.
So when blogging colleague Yvonne DiVita asked if I would be interested in reviewing a book about Arthritis, I figured it was probably a good idea, and something I ought to start thinking about now.
Know Your Bones: Making Sense of Arthritis Medicine by Stephanie E. Siegrist, M.D. is an exceedingly simple, clear handbook focused on osteo-arthritis (as opposed to rheumatoid) and the various methods to control and treat the symptoms. There is no actual cure for arthritis, so the book is about managing pain at all its levels, from mild to debilitating.
A quick review of the Table of Contents illustrates exactly how well this book is aimed at people like me...laypeople doing our own research. Each chapter, dedicated to a different segment of arthritis medications or treatment, is laid out in exactly the same way, answering the same questions.
This structure makes the book well-suited as a reference guide, perfect for looking up the latest medication your doctor suggested and flipping right to its chapter. It's less fascinating as a one-time, sit-down, read-it-all-through afternoon read!
I learned a lot, though, reading this book...and in fact got some new insights into the various problems my grandmother had in her last decade.
More on Know Your Bones...
Know Your Bones is at its best when it's clearly explaining medications, how they work and how to use them. I learned a lot from these chapters..including the complete dismantling of some "conventional wisdom" that I somehow picked up that said that taking Tylenol and Advil simultaneously only result in them canceling one another out. In fact, the opposite is true. Depending on the source of your pain, taking them together may help alleviate more of your pain while avoiding the compounding of side effects that a double-dose of a single type of pain reliever would create.
I also learned a lot about the complexity of arthritis pain, and why medications have the side effects they do. Author Siegrist lays out all of the information, encouraging readers to take control of their care every step of the way. Cogent reminders abound, including:
- to watch out for added, and perhaps unnecessary ingredients,
- to compare active ingredient lists and strengths to make sure you're getting your money's worth
- to watch one's weight, engage in exercise and quit smoking
- what side effect symptoms to look for
But it's not all scare tactics and nagging, Siegrist also explains:
- the systems that arthritis medications don't impact
- the difference between tolerance, physical dependence and addicition
- that even treatments that might sound scary, like steroids or surgery, have their place
Again, the most significant downside to the book is its limitations as a read, not as a reference guide. Numerous paragraphs and several illustrations are repeated throughout, in each case where they are applicable. In only a few such spots does the author acknowledge that she's said something before, so it's a little disconcerting. The feeling of deja vu nags at you often while you read.
I would also have preferred the What's Normal and What's Not chapter to deal less with the answer to that question from a physiological point of view and more from the experiential point of view. In other words...is it a sign of arthritis when your shoulder makes clicking noises when you swing your arm around? Is it as sign of arthritis when your lower back is completely stiff after only 30 minutes of walking or standing? I mean, it is interesting and all to see what an arthritic knee looks like on the inside, but it won't help me self-diagnose! (Then again, I don't think doctors are usually keen on everyone trying to self-diagnose from books or the Internet, so it's not too surprising that Siegrist avoids too much ammunition for self-diagnosis.)
Bottom line: my investment of only a couple of hours of reading paid off in a much greater understanding of arthritis, its treatments, their side effects, and a much better idea of how to deal with pain generally.
Know Your Bones: Making Sense of Arthritis Medicine by Stephanie E. Siegrist, M.D