SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

September 29, 2013

Lets talk “back Pain”

Most of us are NOT aware how big “back pain” REALLY IS

My husband suffered endless back pain all the years I knew him, though he was quite stoic about it.  And he suffered endless migraine headaches.  Couldn’t lay his body down to rest as it hurt his head too much.  He would just hang on to  the high-boy in the bedroom, darkened, as the light was blinding to him, and hold a cold cloth to his eyes and forehead – very gently.  It’s hard to see those you love suffer like that. (This was the early 50’s)  

My own first episode requiring chiropractic care happened when I was about 16.  On awakening one morning, I couldn’t move my neck to the frontal position.  I seemed stuck, looking over one shoulder.  It hurt.  I was scared and helpless.  Mother took me immediately to her own chiropractor — a man she trusted, but I was terrified of.  The sounds coming from his treatment of her scared me and I didn’t want any part of it.  I pleaded with her, but there was no contest (my puny will up against this dynamo was almost a joke).  Off we went.  Skipping the details, suffice it to say, I became a believer.   His ‘adjustment’ of my bones didn’t hurt — just sounds terrible.  The relief was instant.  Of course he rubbed my neck and shoulders as well as checking the rest of my cerebral column.   My particular predisposition seemed to be circumscribed to neck and shoulders primarily.   Low back and hip problems developed along the way.  By middle age, hips began to play a more prominent role. 

I have been active my entire life.  Never an athlete as was my mother, but marvelously healthy, agile and extremely limber. In touch with my feelings and emotional nature,  I could and would cry for release. . but this was just conscious stuff, and these issues, so to speak, are not what drives us from the unconscious part of ourselves. .  . like the biggies hiding in cellars we don’t even know we have.    We are born to families and circumstances, and from this we grow to become who we are, having been almost totally conditioned by those forces and experiences we have known.   Along the way, so much, some of the heavier stuff, gets stored below the conscious level.  It’s out-of-sight  ergo, we aren’t aware of these parts of our lives – – – but they are there.

So why go off on this tangent? One might say — just a bit of good fortune,  it comes from a book I bought recently called “Healing Back Pain” by Dr John E. Sarno.  I’m loving this book. I have recently bought 4 of them for different others who are suffering and in trouble.  The techniques  that Dr Sarno has developed have helped untold numbers of people who have been unable to find relief from any healing arts whatsoever.. . I mean  everything as well as psychiatry.  Dr Sarno is not a shrink, but has had to use this branch of medicine availing certain of his magical techniques.  His method is incredible.  As I read this book, I am learning and understanding more and more about myself — it seems written for me, about me.  I’m so hopeful.  

Dr Sarno says in his book that the incidence of this back pain syndrome which he discusses has reached gigantic proportions, around 80 percent of the population suffers this way and the financial tab tallies over $56 billion annually, (1991 book, so probably more like $75 Billion now.)  Yet all still suffer and hardly anyone is helped.  This man is helping about 90% of those he  works with to freedom from pain.  There remain some who still will need further help from a psychiatrist  to reach the hidden areas they are unable to reach alone.  This man and his techniques stand head and shoulders over all that I have ever seen. 

I do not wish to tell you more, but only to deeply recommend that you get this book.  When I found out about, I posted on it  (early September, 2013) and showed the confirmation document they had sent me in which I bought my book along with a few others.   From their site, I downloaded a few customer reviews of this book and the later one which I have included here.  These are of course, all 5 star reviews, but why wouldn’t they be – – this stuff is amazing, and as is my custom,  I like to share.  Beside all that, I am a believer in non-toxic forms of healing and I really ‘hate pain’,  so why wouldn’t I wish to tell you and everyone about this wonderful, available solution.  Take care.   Jan

Posted by Niki Collins Queen on 06/06/2003

Dr. John Sarno’s book “The Mind Body Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain” is invaluable.
I first bought Sarno’s book titled “Healing Back Pain” (1991) for my mother in South Africa and learned that stress, tension and psychological factors can cause back pain and migraines. Since I have chronic migraines I bought his later book “The MindBody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain.”  (1999) His thinking is of course outside mainstream medicine. Sarno found that strong emotions generated in the unconscious mind, particularly rage, cause the mind to create a more socially acceptable physical distraction. The brain does this by reducing the blood flow and thus the proper amount of oxygen to the tissues involved. He says the change in the muscles, nerves and tendons account for 90% of the pain. He calls it TMS-Tension Myositis Syndrome as it is a physical disorder caused by tension in muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments. The pain from the TMS takes our attention away from the emotional trauma and instead of dealing with our repressed feelings we focus on our body.
Treatment involves looking at what was going on in our life when the pain started and identifying repressed feelings from the past.
An experience I had makes me think what Sarno says is true. When my half sister and her husband, from South Africa, lived with me for five months they bought a car that had engine problems that only got seven miles to the gallon to tour America. I was concerned about their car purchase but did not say anything. I developed severe neck and back pain and could not turn my head for a week. I shared my concern about their car at a Co-Dependency group meeting and to my surprise I became very tearful.  As I spoke the ache in my neck evaporated like vapor. I later joked with them and said, “You’re a pain in the neck!”
I fit perfectly with the personality characteristics common in people with TMS — conscientious, responsible, perfectionistic with a strong need to please and to be helpful and good. And as Sarno says these tendencies have lead to tension and anxiety and physical problems.
When I looked for repressed anger when the migraines started I discovered that I felt extremely rejected, betrayed and used by my sister and brother-in-law at that time. Once I identified the repressed anger and sadness I started to grieve. It was like going through a divorce. Now I see we had different expectations for our relationship back then.  I thought of us as a family. They wanted to immigrate to America and saw me as their ticket to get established.
When my stepfather heard I was angry he said, “Why don’t you float your negative feelings in a paper boat down your creek? I thought I had! Now I see that Sarno’s views are more helpful. Sarno says, “We are frail beings with brains strongly influenced by childish, illogical, reactions and dependency needs. Most of us carry feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, humiliation, shame and anger at ourselves for not living up to our own expectations and rage at others for perceived hurt and betrayals.
The brain-mind is a conglomeration of thoughts and feelings that are often at odds with each other. It is not the neat, well organized, logical organ we would like it to be.” Thanks to Sarno I’ve decided it’s all right to be illogical and childish. It’s part of being human and it is universal and if it means getting rid of my migraines and rage and becoming a better person in the end, then so much the better.
To help people recognize that their mind, rather than a physical abnormality is the source of their pain Sarno’s treatment program involves lectures, group meeting and psychotherapy, if necessary. Patients are encouraged to discontinue all physical therapy, resume all physical activity, and review the 10 daily reminders: I have no structural abnormality only mild oxygen deprivation; — I have a harmless condition caused by repressed emotion (mostly anger); — TMS exists to distract me from emotions; — I have nothing to fear; — my physical aching is not dangerous; — I will not be concerned or intimidated by pain; — I will shift my attention from pain to emotional issues; — I intend to be in control — not my subconscious mind; — I must think psychological, not physical.
Sarno has treated more than 11,000 patients with chronic pain-many of whom have suffered for years. He estimates he’s cured more than 90% of them and has helped thousands of patients overcome pain without drugs or surgery.
I’ve been studying the principles in Sarno’s book for two months now and, unfortunately, still have the migraines. If the migraines are caused by TMS I may be among the 5% Sarno talks about who will need to actually experience my grief and rage with a therapist to get relief. However, Sarno’s book has been invaluable as I feel happier and more at peace. He has helped me realize that I need to spend more time with people that leave me feeling loved, empowered, and inspired….


Posted by Josh Brewster, HAPPILY CURED OF AGONIZING BACK PAIN on 06/06/2000

This man may very well be a genius. Or a great discoverer, like Christopher Columbus.  While I may have a humorous introduction, take me seriously,  I am a skeptic to the nth degree.  A cynic, and suspicious of all new theories in the world of science and medicine. But! The truth is, John Sarno is a legend, and an incredibly important hero.

I was in the hospital four times in four years for my chronic back pain. Doctor after doctor spoke to me about potentially slipped discs, nerve damage, sciatica, blah blah blah.  THEN, in 1995 the American Medical Association published a study regarding back pain, which a Doctor at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles mentioned to me. The doctor told me, “Josh, I need to tell you that the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study earlier this year, and I think they’re right. Your back pain is severe, but you need to ask yourself why your back pain comes back, treatment after treatment. If us doctors really knew how to treat back pain, we’d have cured you. There is nothing physically wrong with you.”

I was shocked.

Then, on the recommendation found in Howard Stern’s books, “Private Parts” and “Miss America” (yeah, I know, laugh all you want), I picked up John Sarno’s MIND OVER BACK PAIN.   (1984)  I could not believe any of this.

But it’s true. I have had NO BACK PAIN IN FIVE YEARS. I’m free. Folks, prior to this, I WAS IN TOTAL CRIPPLING AGONY. Nowadays, when I feel a tinge in my back, I remind myself that it’s my body reacting to tension or anger or a similar emotion or other imbalance in my state of mind. And now, the back pain is gone in SECONDS.


If your doctor rejects Sarno in any way, get a second opinion. Any doctor who rejects the mind-body connection Sarno puts forth is AN IDIOT.

One day, probably long after he’s gone, John Sarno will be lionized by the medical community.

He should be given the Congressional Medal of Honor for his work in saving folks’ sanity and the United States of America from more payouts via workman’s comp or lost time at work.


  A Whole New Way to Think About Health and Medicine  Posted by Matthew White on 04/22/2005

This is a fantastic book and Dr. Sarno has done invaluable, scientifically sound work. Now, how do we make his knowledge work for us; how do we start applying it right away?
First, a few of the basics.
1. There is no way to utilize Dr. Sarno’s research without dealing with the psychology of our unconscious minds. Most people are unfamiliar with this, so it takes some getting used to. If you have any skepticism regarding “the unconscious brain,” maybe even doubting its existence, then this will be a barrier for you in benefiting from Dr. Sarno’s research. Try to be open-minded and unafraid to own up to your own repressed emotions.   A common mistake made by many health professionals is to cite conscious emotions as the cause, or part of the cause, of various health problems. For example, when I handed my doctor a copy of Sarno’s book, he said, “I am already well aware that `stress on the job’ is the #1 cause of back pain.” But simply saying “stress” or “tension” is the culprit misses the point!  We have to accept that it is our job to root out the sources of our repressed, uncomfortable feelings that are currently hidden from us.
2. That said, we don’t have to change those feelings or make them vanish. Rather, we have to try to bring them to light and, if possible, sit with them. Once our attention is on the emotions, day in and day out, then the purpose of the pain or other distraction fades away.
3. Dr. Sarno’s treatment program is not aspirin. You don’t pick up his book on the days you hurt and then throw it down when you feel better. Dr. Sarno’s books are a long-term means for us to re-think how we understand pain and bodily disorders (turns out that most of them are not pathological). Without diligently following through on this re-thinking process, future relapse is a matter of course.
4. No matter how bad your bodily problems are (and there are hundreds that could be at work), they are not the real problems. Let me say that again, the pain is not your biggest worry! It is so easy to wistfully think, “If only I were well, then my life would be perfect.” I’m sorry, but that’s not true. Rather, once you are well, you are then more able to focus on the anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, and past events that deserved your attention from the very beginning. In so far as you avoid these subjects, you encourage any available distraction that your brain might utilize to boost your complacency. Be strong and don’t give up! To be specific, you’ve got to sit down for 15-30 minutes every morning and evening and go over the things in your life and your history that gall the heck out of your childish, selfish unconscious brain. This is the basis of the therapy. It is like homework. But really, it is medicine. The 15-30 minute sessions allow you to gradually absorb what Dr. Sarno has said, apply it to your own unique life, and talk to your brain. You have to banish the fear of physical disorders with facts and those facts need time to sink in.   Plus, you have to develop new habits of mental reflection. It takes a lot of patience and maybe sounds bizarre, but we ought to consider how little we know about this field of mind-body medicine. No one is expected to be good at it right away.
Strategies to use for self-therapy during your morning/evening sessions: take notes on ways that you put pressure on yourself, write down things that come to mind so you can review them many times. Talk to your brain. If you can lecture to your brain cogently, then you probably have Dr. Sarno’s findings well summarized. Re-read sections of his books. Watch the videos available (Mumbleypeg Productions). Balance your reflection sessions. Don’t just review the concepts of mind-body medicine. Be careful also to do sincere emotional exploration. It’s easy to avoid (heck, the whole program is easy to avoid). And, it’s easy to focus on just one aspect (say, your relationship with a specific family member).
But there are many possible aspects. Most of them quite unspectacular when compared to trauma and abuse, for example. Trauma and abuse might be the case for you, but there’s no need to have a troubled past to suffer severely. Just being a mature adult provides more than enough for a full “mental closet.”  Don’t let the turkeys get you down. Few people will understand what you are doing during your morning and evening sessions. And, you might have to continue for many months. No need to worry. You get to learn more about yourself and your emotional reactions. Believe it or not, but it’s truly a great opportunity. As Freud said, “Being totally honest with ourselves is a very beneficial exercise.” Are *you* willing to be honest about, say, inner anger toward loved ones? It’s no easy pill to swallow, but you aren’t the first.
Human psychology has its shocking revelations, but we all share them.  Consider that a real revision of our understanding of health is in order. Starting with stress, it is important to note that stress is basically universal. To be a normal mature adult is to endure stress. However, accusing someone of being “stressed out” often evokes hostile reactions. We are taught that experiencing stress equals a failure to properly cope and deal with one’s life. But don’t be lied to! Alas, misinformation abounds and we are lied to regularly (yes, doctors will provide lab results about, say your poor adrenal glands. But don’t take that malarkey. This is about your brain, not your body). The name of the game is not to magically live a stress-free life. That ain’t possible! Rather, it’s to admit the stress, point it out, bring it to light, and take the drama out of it. Sure, none of your friends might be doing this, but they probably don’t know the wisdom that Dr. Sarno has collected for us, either.
If you are active, congratulations on your exercise program. But, don’t think it is a cure for back pain. Let’s just let the cat out of the bag right now. Yoga is great. Swimming, jogging, cycling, etc. are blessed and holy, but no one ever got back pain from a lack of yoga so it doesn’t follow that yoga cures the root cause. And likewise no one ever got back pain from a lack of physical therapy. So why do yoga and physical therapy sometimes work? Well, that’s a long story, but they usually only work temporarily at best. But, by all means, if they work for you, don’t stop! Read Dr. Sarno, though, and you’ll see that the pain or chronic fatigue or depression is not a bodily or biochemical issue what so ever!    It is all initiated by the brain, so the route to curing it is also through the brain. If you avoid this fact, you will avoid getting over TMS and it’s host of equivalents. Throw away the pills and prescriptions. Get down to work. 15-30 minutes twice a day. Do it as long at you have to. And never look back. You’re in good hands. The data has not been fudged. This therapy works. I owe my active life to Dr. Sarno’s program.

  Cured after 10+ years of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) 03/16/1999

After more than 10 years of excruciating pain from fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), I’ve been cured…something doctors claim is impossible.

I tried everything before I found this book. Conventional medicine in all forms, alternative medicine & even Chinese medicine. Nothing helped…in fact doctors hindered me from finding the truth. Though I complained often about my pain & how determined I was to find a cure, my chiropractor never mentioned Dr. Sarno’s book (which he had just read) because he didn’t want to lose me as a patient. So much for conventional health”care”.

I found Dr. Sarno’s book by chance on a bookstore shelf on the way to see a movie one Saturday night.  After reading two paragraphs I sat down and immediately began to cry because I knew I’d found the answers I’d been looking for all these years. I knew Dr. Sarno was absolutely correct because, 1) I knew my pain was related to traumatic incidents in my life, 2) I realized that immediately after anything that increased oxygen to my muscles (exercise, acupuncture) the pain decreased, and 3) whenever I talked to anyone about my problems, which was rare, I felt immediately better. (All these topics are covered in the book.)

Dr. Sarno lead me down the trail of facing my true feelings & not living in denial. It’s been hard work these past two months & I have to constantly remind myself that any pain can be stopped if I face my unconscious rage, but IT’S WORTH IT! I’m nearly painfree already.  My personality has completely changed & I can now interact normally with the people I love without living life through a fog of pain. I can also play the violin again which I had to quit due to the intense pain.

Don’t miss this book if you have any sort of emotional pain…It will give you your life back!

  Sarno is a pioneer

Posted by Marshall Glickman, author of the Mindful Money Guide (Ballantine Books) on 01/20/2000

Last winter I was stricken with near-crippling lower-back and hip pain, which I initially attributed to a combination of basketball and hours of shoveling heavy snow. For more than a month, getting out of bed each morning was a painful, arduous affair that could take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. As the day wore on I would improve somewhat but was still unable to sit in a chair, let alone exercise, do yoga, or contemplate cross-country skiing or playing hoops.
I sought help from doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, and an acupuncturist. While acupuncture was very helpful, my long-term cure came from Dr. John Sarno’s book Mind Over Back Pain. In it, Sarno clearly explains how the vast majority of back, neck, and shoulder pain is caused by stress. The pain I felt wasn’t imaginary or psychosomatic in the sense that there weren’t actually physical symptoms, but the cause of those symptoms (the result of restricted blood flow to my lower-back region) came from not processing my emotions as emotions.
My back took the brunt of what my mind wasn’t fully able/ready to accept.   In The MindBody Prescription Dr. Sarno moves beyond just the back to explain how and why the mind causes pain in any number of places in the body; he applies those insights to help heal other maladies such as allergies, carpal tunnel syndrome, skin problems, and chronic fatigue syndrome. The reason most of these ailments don’t respond to drugs and physical manipulations is that these approaches don’t address the root cause of the problem: unrecognized emotional turmoil. If you’re suffering from an ailment that is difficult to diagnose or not responding to conventional, or even alternative cures, read Sarno’s book.

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