Top 10 books for musculoskeletal physiotherapists

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Reading and continued development is a key element of any professional's practice. The day we stop learning, that is the day we stop growing. And what happens if we don't grow? We stagnate. So today I am sharing with you a list of books which form the essential reading list for musculosksletal physiotherapists. 

One of the challenges in selecting this list was that there were a lot of books in musculoskeletal physiotherapy which adhered to a single school of thought e.g. Maitland's, Mulligan or McKenzie approaches. But as with anything none of the approaches is all encompassing and therefore, I have selected books which utilise a systems approach and provide a more comprehensive information for a musculoskeletal physiotherapist. 

1. Musculoskeletal Examination and Assessment, Vol 1 5e and Principles of Musculoskeletal Treatment and Management Vol 2 3e (2-Volume Set): A Handbook for Therapists, 1e (Physiotherapy Essentials) - This two volume set provides a logical, systematic working guide to the examination and assessment of the neuromusculoskeletal system, combining a wide range of approaches used clinically around the world. focuses on the development of technical and clinical reasoning skills involved in differential diagnosis of joint, nerve and muscle tissues. It is designed for physiotherapy/manual therapy students and their teachers but is also ideal for those in the first years of their practice as an educational support for patient care. It was one of the books I referred regularly in my own undergraduate years. 

2. The Physiotherapist's Pocketbook: Essential Facts at Your Fingertips, 3e (Physiotherapy Pocketbooks)  - The review provided by the authors on Amazon probably provides the best description for this wonderful yet tiny resource for beginner physiotherapists. "This pocket sized book is an absolute gem for the new student physiotherapist. It is packed full of the basic (and some more advanced) facts that you learn and put in to practice during early lectures and placements. In fact I'm sure it's a handy reminder even for experienced physiotherapists every now and then. The plastic cover and size make the book both convenient and hard wearing and therefore ideal to keep in your pocket and use day to day. The layout into Respiratory, Neurological, Pharmacology and Musculoskeletal sections make for easy referencing and finding facts quickly and efficiently. This is aided further by the appendices and clear diagrams and illustrations. Colour coded text hightlighting titles from facts makes for easy browsing and information finding. Anatomy, specific tests, brain regions, dermatomes and myotomes, muscles and bones and common conditions are all covered in this goldmine of information. I can't fault this book in anyway when it comes to covering the basics of the knowledge and skills the physiotherapist needs and utilises day to day."
Nicholas Downing, Physiotherapy student, University of Birmingham


Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine, the world-leading title in sport and exercise medicine, is an authoritative and practical guide to physiotherapy and musculoskeletal medicine for clinicians and students.

To accommodate the rapid advances in the professions, this fifth edition has been expanded into two volumes. This first volume, Clinical Sports Medicine: Injuries, is the essential guide to all aspects of preventing, diagnosing and treating sports-related injuries. It serves physiotherapists, team clinicians, athletic trainers, sports therapists, sports rehabilitators and trainers, as well as students in the health professions and in Human Movement Studies.

The only criticism I can think of is that it is slightly on the expensive side, but if you are looking at value for money, then this book is worth its weight in gold. If you can't afford it, put it on your wishlist for birthday or Christmas, but any musculoskeletal worth their salt should definitely read this book. 

4. Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Rehabilitation, 3e This comprehensive, research-based core text presents kinesiology as it relates to physical rehabilitation in a clinically relevant and accessible manner. It provides students and clinicians with the language of human movement - and acts as a bridge between basic science and clinical management. What I liked the most about this book was the critical thinking questions which challenged my understanding of the concepts as well as the enhanced multimedia content which comes along with the book. Must read for musculoskeletal physiotherapists, it clarifies a lot of basic concepts in a unique way. 


5. Neuromuscular Rehabilitation in Manual and Physical Therapies: Principles to Practice This book explores the vast and complex discipline of neuromuscular rehabilitation and simplifies it for clinical use. It is a practical source book for practitioners of manual and physical therapy who work with movement rehabilitation after musculoskeletal injury and pain conditions, sports rehabilitation, surgery and central nervous system damage. The book is a synthesis of over half a century of research and can be described as 'neuromuscular rehabilitation made easy'. It explores movement control and how it is affected by injury, pain and central damage. It provides practical solutions and comprehensive demonstrations (DVD) of movement rehabilitation for the upper and lower limbs and the trunk/spine.

6. Acupuncture in Manual Therapy This is a comprehensive overview of manual therapy interventions combined with acupuncture management of musculoskeletal disorders covering all major joints of the body. The book is intended to offer physiotherapists and students of acupuncture a clinical reasoning model, whilst supporting suggested interventions with the relevant evidence base in order to alleviate pain, restore function and facilitate rehabilitation within musculoskeletal management. It places an emphasis on the neurophysiological processes of pain management stressing the importance of using the correct intervention for the relevant presenting pain mechanism. 

I got my acupuncture training with Jennie Longbottom (the author of this book) and must say she was amazing in explaining the concepts then and has done similarly well with this book also. 

7. Red Flags: A Guide to Identifying Serious Pathology of the Spine This is the essential guide to correctly identifying and acting on warning signs when a therapist becomes suspicious of serious pathology in a patient presenting with back pain. This handy pocketbook offers practical strategies for developing clinical reasoning so that therapists are able to distinguish between Red Flags and Red Herrings along the patient journey, and have greater confidence in their diagnosis. 

8.  Clinical Reasoning in Musculoskeletal Practice - This book is a follow up second edition of the most popular book titled Clinical Reasoning for Manual Therapists by Mark Jones. The book increase the readers' awareness of clinical reasoning, including factors that influence reasoning and how to promote skilled reasoning. This book will provide the reader with opportunities to improve their reasoning through facilitated analysis of case studies and access to the reasoning of experts from around the world for comparison to their own.

9. Explain Pain 2nd Edition - This is one of the must read books for anyone working with pain patients. This book is an excellent resource for understanding how pain works in our brains and nervous systems. The text is delivered in a non technical way for ease of understanding and is very informative. This book is frequently recommended by the physiotherapists to their patients suffering from chronic pain and an excellent recommendation, I must say. If you are a physiotherapist and have not read Explain Pain, do it today. 

10. Clinical Application of Neuromuscular Techniques (Volume 1 and Volume 2Written by a recognised authority in the field, Leon Chaitow, this book discusses theories and physiology relevant to the manual treatment of chronic pain, especially as it regards the soft tissues of the upper body. Step-by-step protocols that address each muscle of a region and a regional approach to treatment are features that make this book unique. A structural review of each region, including ligaments and functional anatomy, adds value for new students and practitioners alike.

While I have given the top 10 books in musculoskeletal physiotherapy which are the must read books for any musculoskeletal physiotherapist, these represent only a drop in the ocean and there are tons of other books. But if you read these essential books, you will develop strong assessment, evaluation and management skills, develop excellent understanding of the pain mechanisms, be able to identify red flags as well as perform manual treatment techniques. One aspect that seems to be missing from these is the functional rehabilitation and exercise prescription and I will try and cover those elsewhere. 

Is there any book that you feel must be included? Feel free to leave a link in the comments. 

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