The Arthritis Handbook is a book that I wish had been available 40 years ago and that I would have been smart enough to follow. Other than folk medicine books, I don't recall much in the way of medical advice for the general public back then. I assumed I would have to follow that path of my elders, that arthritis was a part of aging, and there would be a cane in my future.
Dr. Grant Cooper has written a very accessible book about osteoarthritis, one that has relevance for all age groups. For the young, it provides a plan to minimize one of the probable effects of aging. For seniors, it is a guide to ameliorating the effects of arthritis. One of Cooper's goals is to help the reader make lifestyle changes and the book is written and organized to give the reader the information to make those changes.
In Part I, Dr. Cooper describes how joints work and how arthritis begins. Some readers might be tempted to skip this part and go directly to the chapters that give action plans for the reader to follow. That would be a mistake. That would be a mistake. Knowing how the joints work and how arthritis sets in provides a foundation for the subsequent chapters particularly those describing exercise.
Nutrition is covered in Part II. The advice is not faddish and clearly presented. It might be the most difficult aspect of ones life to modify but the author makes a compelling case and relates the effects of diet to the information on joints and arthritis provided in Part I. Dr. Cooper describes why and how he modified his own eating habits which contributes to the effectiveness of the message that proper nutrition plays a major part in preventing the onset of arthritis and easing the effects of an existing condition.
I had already begun an exercise program as described in Part III before reading this book. Dr. Cooper recommends working with a trainer and I endorse that recommendation. I was going to the gym on my own before I engaged a trainer and was astonished at the ineffectiveness of my approach. It is difficult to effectively exercise based on text and photographs in a book. A trainer will make sure that you are performing the exercises and stretches properly to avoid injury and also make sure that you are exercising and stretching the right areas of the body.
Part IV covers supplements. As with nutrition, Dr. Cooper takes a practical, conservative, and balanced, approach that doesn't stray into exotic, supplement remedies popular in infomercials. He is careful to indicate where the benefits of certain supplements have not been conclusively proven but where there is sufficient reason to believe that they will have some effect. I found his discussions on fish oil and glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate particularly interesting as I was taking those supplements before reading the book. For example, while my fish oil supplement is advertised as containing 1,200 mg of fish oil, it is well short of the recommended amount of EPA/DHA.
The subtitle of the book is The Essential Guide to a Pain-Free, Drug Free Life but he necessarily concludes with a section on medication and surgery. He emphasizes that these options need to be done in conjunction with diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements. An analgesic will mask the pain but do nothing to correct the underlying disease causing the pain.
Dr. Cooper's book is a excellent, readable resource for to establish both a preventative as well as a management program for dealing with arthritis.