Book review –
Healing Back Pain
The Mind-Body Connection
John E. Sarno, M.D. 1991 ISBN 0-446-39230-8
The book is by a medical pioneer whose program has helped thousands of patients overcome their back conditions – without drugs or surgery.
The book goes through the Manifestations of Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) which the author believes is the major cause of the common syndromes of pain involving the neck, shoulders, back, buttocks and limbs.
In his quest for answers, this book gives you Dr. Sarno’s research into the Psychology, the Physiology and Treatment of TMS, as well as outlining the traditional (conventional) Diagnosis and Treatments.
The author notes whilst conventional diagnosis confirms structural and/or physical problems (such an example might be a herniated disc), some people with these same symptoms do not experience pain. Some published medical articles are included in the book that confirm his findings, where studies that had found no statistical differences in structural problems, also suggested that structural abnormalities of the spine do not generally cause back pain.
His findings attributes these pains to oxygen deprivation caused by the brain to cause physical pain to divert attention away from repressed emotion, (generally anger) which the brain doesn’t want to deal with.
Dr Sarno suggests that like the Ivan Pavlov effect, the brain when confronted with issues of repressed anger or frustration, chooses to divert this emotion into pain. Not only does the brain use pain to avoid dealing with the emotion, but it also chooses the same area to manifest further pain when the repressed emotion emerges again. So if it was the straw (emotion) that broke the camel’s back so to speak, the next time emotion builds up, the brain again chooses to manifest the pain in the back.
Dr Sarno adequately describes the physiology of symptoms and easily persuades the reader to readily accept the evidence given, that is contra to the conventional diagnosis usually given for our back problems.
The cure comes from knowledge, acceptance of that knowledge and integrating and accepting this at a subconscious level. The clients are taken through a reminder list of twelve key thoughts that they are asked to review daily in a relaxed quiet state. They are instructed to take their minds away from their pain and instead focus on their current emotions, and to instruct/demand their brain to stop its old tricks. (Sound like self-hypnosis?).
Whilst 95 percent of Dr Sarno’s patients released their pains in a matter of a few weeks through his unconventional therapy alone, some with more severe problems usually required psychotherapy in addition to the educational program. He makes a note of saying it is important to make it clear that people do not do these things to themselves intentionally, and reminds us that our emotional patterns were well established long before we reached the age of responsibility, and that they are now a result of a combination of generic and developmental-environmental factors over which we had no control.
The book also described some experiments, which had shown how the brain had become conditioned, to reproduce a condition from memory, without the initial criteria that had produced it. As the book correctly points out, other scientists have demonstrated equally dramatic connections between mind and body.
Back to Articles here…