Media Critique: The Rider's Pain-Free Back

A book by a medical doctor who is also a rider.

“The Rider’s Pain-Free Back”


By James Warson, MD, with Ami Hendrickson. Hardcover. 184 pages. ?2007. Trafalgar Square Books ( $29.95. Available through Equine Network Store,, 800-952-5813.

Dr. James Warson’s straight scoop on back pain?from prevention to causes to treatment?will bring relief to many riders. While you can find information on back pain from virtually any doctor, it’s rare to find a physician who thoroughly understands the biomechanics of riding, your addiction to the sport, and your determination to keep riding no matter the cost.

Obviously, he tells you to get a physical exam and consult your own physician. But he also explains how muscles and bones age and how that effects riding.? He discusses what your physical exam should include and how the physician comes to a diagnosis. If your doctor suggests disk injections, vertebroplasty, or other treatments, this book explains what they mean. The information is so clearly written that you may be tempted to make your own diagnosis, but don’t.

What sets this book apart from the rest, though, is the section that discusses riding and the human back. Warson talks about types of horses and their gaits?and what that can mean to your body, helping you choose the right horse. He understands the laws of motion, tack and saddle fit, and what it all does to you. Your position in the saddle, even your saddle pad (and he recommends one for you), and your discipline all can make a difference in your physical comfort on the horse.

You get straight talk about alternative therapies?magnets (limited help), massage, chiropractors (you might be surprised), acupuncture and acupressure, yoga (he likes it), Pilates and more. He also suggests proper body movements to protect yourself from injury (remember Mom saying bend your knees, not your back?). The exercises included in the book are geared toward equestrians, with more choices than you’ll be able to do and advice on how to set up your own game plan.

The cross-referencing of material is excellent, but some of the art placement is poor, with overly long captions. An accompanying video would have helped.

Bottom Line: Warson’s incredible presentation and deep understanding of riding, together with excellent illustrations and photos, make this book a true how-to manual. You’ll thoroughly understand back pain when riding and find solutions that should work best for you.

Best suited for: Middle-aged riders who admit their bodies are aging or those who are actually feeling weird aches and pains while in the saddle or doing chores.

You’ll be disappointed if: You expect a simple cure for your back pain or the ability to avoid seeing a doctor.

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