Reading Guide for Patients
How to find information about your pain problem, and other reading recommendations for patients
What hurts? The main pain topics on PainScience.com are muscle pain and injury, neck and low back pain, and overuse injuries of the knee, shin, and foot. Many other topics are covered as well … but those are the big ones.
No problem? If you don’t have any particular problem to solve, start with one of my more controversial articles, some of which or sorta-kinda infamous, like the one about stretching, or the one about Epsom salts.
What works? There are also several major treatment and therapy topics. Self-treatment is the biggest theme on the site. There’s a giant list of handy pain survival tips, plus dozens of detailed articles about things you can do yourself, like self-massage, exercise and posture, icing and heating, and reviews of many popular home remedies like Epsom salts or homeopathic arnica. The hands-on therapies — like massage therapy and chiropractic — are all covered in detail.
What’s not here? I don’t write in detail about arthritis, trauma, or disease-related pain.
The big list o’ painful problems (alphabetical),
and where to start reading about them
All common names for conditions are included, so look for any common name. Main topics are highlighted.
Tip! You can use your web browser’s “find” feature to look on this page for keywords that might not be listed alphabetically. That also works well with the main articles directory, which lists hundreds of articles with full subtitles.
Another tip! This list shows articles to start with. Use the website search at the top of every page on the site to find all articles on the site that refer to a problem.
- Achilles tendinitis — I’ve never written about it specifically. Read the RSI article for plenty of insight into any tendinitis, though.
- Back pain, upper — Start with Massage Therapy for Upper Back Pain.
- Back pain, lower — There’s a lot about low back pain here: please see the entry for “low back pain.”
- Bursitis, usually trochanteric (hip) — Bursitis is generally a much less common condition than people think, and yet wildly over-diagnosed, to the point of absurdity. I have no article about it specifically, but anyone with a diagnosis should read what I have to say about it in the introduction to the trigger points tutorial.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) — I haven’t written a CTS guide yet (much to the frustration of many readers), but the topic does get some important attention in perfect spots 4 and 5.
- Compartment syndrome — This is a type of shin splints — please see that item.
- DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) — See A Deep Dive into Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness
- Fibromyalgia — See A Rational Guide to Fibromyalgia: The science of the mysterious disease of pain, exhaustion, and mental fog.
- Jumper’s knee (patellar tendinitis) — Sorry, this tendinitis is not discussed on PainScience.com.
- Headache — See Massage Therapy for Tension Headaches.
- Herniated disc, low back pain — There’s a lot about low back pain here: please see the entry for low back pain.
- Hip pain — Start with Massage Therapy for Back Pain, Hip Pain, and Sciatica, but also see the introduction to the trigger points ebook, and probably the low back pain ebook if you have low back pain with your hip pain.
- Iliotibial band syndrome — See The Complete Guide to IT Band Syndrome
- Insomnia — That’s right, insomnia! Insomnia is a major factor in many common painful problems. See The Insomnia Guide for Chronic Pain Patients
- Jaw clenching — Start with Massage Therapy for Low Back Pain. See also the sections on jaw relaxation in Massage Therapy for Bruxism, Jaw Clenching, and TMJ Syndrome.
- Knee pain — I’ve written in great detail about two kinds of common, stubborn knee pain on PainScience.com, iliotibial band syndrome and patellofemoral pain syndrome. If you’re not sure which you have, start with this article: Diagnosing Runner’s Knee.
- Lateral epicondylitis — Tennis elbow. See: Tennis Elbow Guide
- Low back pain — There’s a great deal of low back pain content on PainScience.com. Two great places to start are the extensive free introduction to my low back pain book, or When to Worry About Low Back Pain. There are also four perfect spot articles about back pain: spots 2, 6, 12, and 13. There’s also a particularly useful article that cautions you to (Almost) Never Use Ice on Low Back Pain!
- Overuse injury — See repetitive strain injuries.
- Medial tibial stress syndrome — This is a type of shin splints — please see that item.
- Muscle knots — Correctly called “trigger points.” This is the most important topic on this website: start here with the large, free introduction to my book.
- Muscle strain — See The Complete Guide to Muscle Strains
- Myofascial pain syndrome — This refers to widespread muscle pain, or “having a lot of muscle knots.” Not the same as fibromyalgia! See the trigger points ebook.
- Neck pain, neck crick — See The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks
- Nerve pain — That’s a big /vague topic that I don’t cover in detail, but I do have one article with some really important perspective about it: Neuropathies Are Overdiagnosed.
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome — See Ingraham. The Complete Guide to Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: An extremely detailed guide to rehab from patellofemoral pain syndrome (aka runner’s knee), with thorough reviews of every treatment option. ❐ PainScience.com. 107587 words.
- Plantar fasciitis — See Complete Guide to Plantar Fasciitis. There’s also a perfect spot article for plantar fasciitis.
- Post-exercise muscle soreness — See A Deep Dive into Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness
- Pulled muscle — See The Complete Guide to Muscle Strains
- Quadriceps pain/stiffness — See Massage Therapy for Your Quads.
- Repetitive strain injuries — This is a class of problem, not a specific one. The most common are carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and the runner’s knee conditions. I have a full primer on repetitive strain injuries as a group.
- Rotator cuff tendinitis— This is a wrong diagnosis about half the time. When it is actually a tendinitis, it’s usually specifically supraspinatus tendinitis. Anyone with this diagnosis should start by reading the Repetitive Strain Injuries Tutorial.
- Runner’s knee — There are two kinds, iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) and patellofemoral syndrome (PFPS). Start with this article that explains the difference: Diagnosing Runner’s Knee.
- Sciatica — Start with How to Treat Sciatic Nerve Pain, but that is actually quite a small guide, and most people who think they have How to Treat Sciatic Nerve Pain really need to read my guide to low back pain.
- Shin splints — There are (at least) three versions of shin splints: medial tibial stress syndrome, stress fracture, and compartment syndrome. All are discussed in detail in an advanced shin splints guide. Muscle is also a key factor in shin splints: so see also the perfect spot for shin splints, about a big tibialis anterior muscle trigger point that often causes shin splinty trouble.
- Slipped disk, low back pain — There’s a lot about low back pain here: please see the entry for low back pain.
- Stress fracture, tibial — This is a type of shin splints — please see that item.
- Tendinitis — There are several common ones. See elsewhere in this list for the specific ones (i.e. Achilles tendinitis, rotator cuff tendinitis), or read the RSI article for lots of information about tendinitis in general, particularly the clinically amazing fact that tendinitis does not actually involve any inflammation.
- Tennis elbow — AKA lateral epicondylitis, and extensor carpi radialis tendinitis. I have a basic tennis elbow guide. There’s also a perfect spot article for tennis elbow, and tennis elbow patients should definitely also see the general repetitive strain injury article.
- TMJ syndrome — (Not just “TMJ.” That’s just the joint.) Start with Massage Therapy for Low Back Pain. See also the sections on jaw relaxation in Massage Therapy for Bruxism, Jaw Clenching, and TMJ Syndrome.
- Trigger points — AKA “muscle knots.” This is the most important topic on this website: start here.
- Upper back pain — Start with Massage Therapy for Upper Back Pain.
Site highlights for patients
- Extremely clear, simplified explanations.
- A sense of humour. Seriously!
- The advanced information is there if you need it, but it’s mostly hidden away in convenient footnotes.
- Save time and money! I do my best to persuade you that some popular treatments are not worthwhile, or the wrong tool for the job.
My own top five picks for patients
Here are five that I really poured my heart, soul and brain into, a few of the articles I’ve written over the years that — I hope — might really make a difference for people.
- Quite a Stretch — Stretching science has shown that this extremely popular form of exercise has almost no measurable benefits Stretching is one of the most popular self-treatments in existence. That’s an awful lot of people who aren’t getting the benefits they’re hoping for.
- Your Back Is Not Out of Alignment — Debunking the obsession with alignment, posture, and other biomechanical bogeymen as major causes of pain. Somewhat heavier reading, but worthwhile: so much time and money is wasted trying to solve pain problems by thinking about them this way. It’s a particularly useful thing to understand about the world of therapy for pain.
- Why Does Pain Hurt? — How an evolutionary wrong turn led to a biological glitch that condemned the animal kingdom — you included — to much louder, longer pain. Quite a new article that goes a long way to explaining stubborn pain problems, this one is destined to be one of the best pieces on pain that I have written or ever will.
- Muscle Pain as an Injury Complication — The story of how I finally “miraculously” recovered from the pain of a serious shoulder injury, long after the injury itself had healed. My own experience provided an engaging way of explaining one of the most common and basic issues in rehab.
- Pain Relief from Personal Growth — Treating tough pain problems with the pursuit of emotional intelligence, life balance, and peacefulness. It’s a bit quirky, but I’ve always really loved this one. So many painful problems are basically mysterious and lack anything like a “cure” — and what do you do then? You try to change your life … and hope it helps your body.
The five most popular articles on PainScience.com by traffic
It’s hard to know why some articles turn into blockbusters. These are not necessarily the best articles — but they are definitely the most visited.
- Does Epsom Salt Work? — The science and mythology of Epsom salt bathing for recovery from muscle pain, soreness, or injury. This is the most popular article on PainScience.com, attracting thousands of readers per month. This seems odd to me. I really have no idea why so many people are searching for information on Epsom salts, but they do, and they land here.
- Does Arnica Gel Work for Pain? — A detailed review of popular homeopathic (diluted) herbal creams and gels like Traumeel, used for muscle pain, joint pain, sports injuries, bruising, and post-surgical inflammation.
- Massage Therapy for Neck Pain, Chest Pain, Arm Pain, and Upper Back Pain — Perfect Spot No. 4, an area of common trigger points in the odd scalene muscle group in the neck. All of the “perfect spot” articles are very popular, but this one consistently tops the charts — an article about an obscure muscle group most people have never heard of.
- When To Worry About Shortness of Breath … and When Not To — Three minor causes of a scary symptom that might be treatable Apparently a lot of people worry about shortness of breath, because this article gets a lot of traffic.
- Tennis Ball Massage for Myofascial Trigger Points — Some creative tips on using a tennis ball (and other tools) to self-massage myofascial trigger points. A simple, practical introduction to one of the handiest things you can possibly learn.