book describes an accident in which the author suffered
three severe crush fractures to the metacarpal bones of her
right hand and which led to her developing complex regional
pain syndrome (CRPS). It goes on to detail the treatments
and management strategies she explored, including NHS
medical care with occupational therapy (hand therapy),
acupuncture, Alexander Technique, collateral meridian
therapy, osteopathy, massage, wax baths, mirror therapy,
pain meditation, nutritional advice, and herbal remedies.
The author was
encounter medical professionals who were
The condition is also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy
(CRPS type 1) and causalgia (CRPS type 2)
-names by which most doctors would know the condition,
despite the author's
irritating sweeping statement in the Introduction:
few of the medical profession had heard of CRPS."
It is a form of neuropathic pain, i.e. it is due to physical
damage to nerves. The pain is completely out of proportion
to the levels expected from the fractures sustained:
discoloured and mottled skin with rapid temperature changes,
an extreme sensitivity to stimuli (e.g.
a breeze over the affected area, even sound vibrations),
muscle spasm, oedema, overgrowth of thicker, darker hair in
the affected area, abnormalities in the nails, etc.
a reprint of a document from the Pain Relief Foundation
which describes the condition in great detail and is a very
useful resource, and an interesting description of phantom
limb pain. The reader is mining a rich seam of extremely
useful tips (far too many to list) for the day-to-day
management of this condition. Brief descriptions of all the
therapies and techniques and the way in which they were
conceived with the idea of healing the whole person are
included, as well as a contact section with details of
relevant organisations. The founders of the various
disciplines are profiled, including a four-page item about
Alexander and the Technique. There is a useful associated
website with links to all the associations including STAT. A
biography of the author herself would have been interesting.
writing style is informal, narrative and an easy read for a
lay person. The intended audience is patients and health
professionals who are not familiar with CRPS. I consider it
a ‘must read’ for Alexander teachers who have a pupil or
friend with the condition, and a valuable addition to the
literature on the subject.
is accompanied by clear and useful illustrations including
X-rays, drawings of the hand from Gray’s Anatomy,
photographs to demonstrate exercises and activities, and the
hand-drawn cartoons showing her various suggestions for
practical ways to alleviate pain (see above).
she was worried about the fact that her posture was
suffering as a result of the antalgic (pain-avoidant)
position she had to adopt during her waking and sleeping
hours, she decided to take some Alexander lessons which,
unfortunately, she refers to as a treatment. She had had
lessons 12 years previously and about once a year thereafter
if she had hurt her back, for example by sitting badly in
front of the computer or lifting something heavy.
conclusion of this book is that CRPS is most successfully
treated with a multi-disciplinary approach. The author is
complimentary about the Alexander Technique and about the
complementary roles the various therapeutic methods had in
securing her recovery from this horrible condition. If ever
I am unfortunate enough to suffer from CRPS, I will be
reaching (with the other hand) for this book.