The Therapist’s Bookshelf: Stretching Anatomy by Nelson, Kokkonen and Alexander

On occasion I’m asked what type of reference works does a professional massage therapist need? One of the most useful has been:

Stretching Anatomy by Arnold G. Nelson and Jouko Kokkonen (authors) and Jason M. Alexander (illustrator). Champaing, IL: Human Kinetics, 2007.

Stretching Anatomy book cover

I find this book to be not just an important resource in my work library, but also an invaluable component for communicating to my clients. Why? I often give my clients “homework” – stretches that they can do on their own to help alleviate or even to prevent some of their pains.

Stretching Anatomy shows the various muscles and muscle groups that are being used in these stretches and exercises. The illustrations are accurate and appropriately simplified. The information is accurate, but written in concise and simple enough language so that the average person (as opposed to a trained therapist or M.D.) can immediately understand. It helps me explain – and more importantly – show my clients the exercise they need to do.

I’ve tried using other books to communicate, but I found that they quickly become too technical, so most people forgo even trying the stretching “homework” I’ve given them. These are intelligent people who are trying to learn something physically new, which is why the plain language paired with clear visual representations works best. It allows them to tackle muscle memory, without relying too heavily on anatomical jargon. And simplicity is a good thing – people come to our office to reduce their stress, not add to it.

And Stretching Anatomy has done just that for me: it has helped me simplify communication with my clients, and myself! It’s helped me choose my own stretches as well. This book is a must-have for the massage therapist’s reference library.

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