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I learned about Gary Kaplan’s book, Total Recovery:Solving the Mystery of Chronic Pain and Depression, in a Women’s Health article, which summarized the contents and importance of the book. That same day I placed the book on hold at the library thinking maybe more than just the summary would be helpful? When covered in the thorough and educational manner the author presents it, Total Recovery can be useful to all people, because we have all experienced physical and emotional pain, which Kaplan poses, can be linked to future difficulties if left untreated. His approaches to treatment revolve around the implications of new scientific evidence that the brain becomes inflamed as a defense mechanism with each new emotional and physical trauma. He concludes with a list of treatment methods used at Kaplan Center, his integrative medicine facility. Kaplan provides case studies from his practice to help the reader understand his thesis, which allows the reader to make comparisons and gain more self-awareness about his or her own health.

In each chapter, Kaplan uses case studies, to help the reader better comprehend subject matter and also think about his or her own health in comparison. He begins with Billy, a teenager who was in a skiing accident and had ACL surgery. After the surgery Billy is incapacitated with pain. (p. 3-32) It takes seeing numerous specialists, years of pain, suffering, and testing, for him to turn to  Dr. Kaplan. Finally,  Dr. Kaplan concludes that Billy’s pain is not the result of one injury, but of several, which have inflamed the glial cells in his brain. He explains the idea behind this new science: glial cells are designed to protect, but often times become overstimulated after being subjected to years of  injuries, leading to headache, dizziness, and achiness all over. (p. 96). Once the reader understands how pain is sometimes amplified by the brain, he or she reads about ways in which physical and mental components of the body are interrelated to cause illness.

Kaplan writes about emerging science and his own struggle to make connections between physical pain and mental disorders. With each new case that is presented, the doctor and reader see a pattern of emotional and physical injury the body tries to cope with maladaptively in different people resulting in migraines, acute pain, brain fog, depression, fibromyalgia, anxiety disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, PTSD. (p.105) Kaplan shows that treatment plans must be integrative, or a whole body approach, as opposed to treating only Billy’s ACL injury. (p. 26-28) One problem compounds another. Also, the importance of treating the inflammation of glial cells; and, therefore the symptoms, is discussed in terms of neurodegeneration. (p. 52) This means that the longer an issue, such as past trauma or acute pain remains untreated, the worse it and it’s comorbid disorders will become.  The reader thinks about his or her own life, trauma, symptoms. Next, Kaplan provides individualized information about treating emotional and physical pain.

Finally,  Kaplan shows how he helped each patient in his case studies repair his or her health. What can a reader or any person who experiences an array of physical and emotional discomforts do to fight them? Kaplan provides the website of his integrative medicine practice and a link to a timeline, like the one he uses with his patients, to start an exploration into their past. Using the chart patients can plot the occurrences and dates of physical and emotional stressors, and eventually, determine which issues have been treated or resolved, and which ones might have lingering affects on the body. He also includes a list of recommendations to try, in order to reduce inflammation in the brain.

His recommendations are thorough and easy to understand. These things include taking non-inflammatory vitamins like magnesium, vitamin-D, and omega-3 suppplements. He recommends eating dark chocolate, drinking green tea, and maintaining a gluten free diet. He asks patients to avoid stimulants, such as sleep aids, NSAIDS, and caffeine.  He also suggests taking probiotics for gastrointestinal health. Finally, he sees patients feeling better who excercise regularly and mediate daily. (p. 191-203)

In this text, the author provides new insights and possible answers to mysterious health concerns for readers who are suffering from chronic pain or know someone who is. Even those not suffering from chronic pain may benefit, if not from all, then at least in part, from the practical and educational approach provided by Dr. Kaplan. His ideas about resolving past issues to maintain health make sense for long term health maintenance for every person. This deserves our attention.

Star Rating 4 out of 5 Stars

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