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If you wish to be a martial artist, there are other stretching books that teach maximum flexibility: e.g. Stretching Scientifically by Thomas Kurz. or yoga books such as YOga: The Iyengar Way by Mira Silva & Schyam Mehta. But if you've hurt your back or other body parts (e.g. legs, shoulders, etc.), then this single volume is a gold mine. I've written several cover stories in Inside Kung Fu and Kung Fu Wushu magazines, and have practiced martial arts since a very early age. I have had perfect splits in life, but became less flexible via neglect. Trying to get back in shape, I hurt my back three years ago and sometimes had trouble bending down (on very bad days) or would rehurt my back when trying to resume running and shaolin kung fu. Fortunately, I taught at a college that had a Ph.D. program in physical therapy so I got free physical therapy for a year. All of the therapy exercises I learned for free are included in Brad Walker's Anatomy of Stretching. In addition, Walker's book contains dozens of wonderful exercises to provide therapy for hurt body parts, and to obtain general flexibility. I visited bookstores to compare the texts, and Walker's book provides wonderful schematic drawings on how the muscles are involved at the very moment of each specific stretch. Unlike other stretching anatomy books, Walker's provides a specific itemization of how to do the exercise, what body part is affected, what injury it treats, what sport it's good for, and when to avoid the stretch if you have a particular injury. It's the best diagrammed text around. I would recommend buying this book with a couple of other texts that are equal to Walker's in many respects (and sometimes better, sometimes worse):
Two books by Kit Laughlin:
1. Stretching & Flexibility, and
2. Overcome Neck & Back Pain.
You can order DVDs from Australia from Laughlin's website. Kit even emailed me to answer my stretching queries.
3. Back Care Basics by Mary Pullig Schatz, M.D. Dr. Schatz combines knowledge in injury science with expertise in Iyengar yoga. It's a wonderful text for injured practitioners.
4. The Stark Reality of Stretching, by Dr. Steven D. Stark. Dr. Stark presents a wonderful theory of stretching that argues convincingly that the best way to stretch is to avoid any stretches that load the specific muscle groups you are trying to stretch. He also demonstrates how we injure ourselves unwittingly: e.g. by running with a stride that is either too short, or too long. His research is a bit dated, but logical and convincing.
5. Yoga: The Iyengar Way (authors mentioned above).
Remember NEVER TO BOUNCE HARD WHEN STRETCHING, ESPECIALLY IF YOUR BACK IS INJURED. As long as you stretch everyday, you should gently heal your back.
Stretching one's back using a "half therapy roll" available at medical supply stores is useful if you have lower lumbar injury, but get diagnosed by a top notch physical therapist. Unlike general medical practitioners, they know the body much better and know the excercises to heal the back. The function of a regular medical doctor is simply to authorize x-rays to ensure you don't have unusual injuries: e.g. spinal/skeletal, herniated disks, torn muscles, dislocated ligaments and torn tendons, etc. Once you've excluded extreme abnormalities, a good stretching book can do wonders for your back and other body parts.
Back pain is due to muscle imbalance and slight injuries. Scarred muscle tissue gets tight and one needs to stretch those tissues to prevent spasms. These books, written often by medical doctors, are a great adjunct to qualified medical care.
For general back care, buy:
6. the Second edition of Mike Hage's THE BACK PAIN BOOK, REVISED 2ND EDITION.
Hage covers everything from how to bend properly when picking up objects to sitting correctly on a toliet to prevent reinjuring or weakining one's back. We cause injury to ourselves gradually until that single extra straw one day breaks our camel's back.
Without question, Walker's ANATOMY OF STRETCHING, is one of the best in the market. There is no single perfect book, but the relatively short list I've constructed is all you need. They might save you thousands of dollars on professional physical therapy and provide you with healthy restful flexibility and relief from unnecessary pain.