Tuesday, September 05, 2006

John E. Sarno: The Divided Mind

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had noticed that Dr John Sarno had a new book out, and that I had every intention of reading it. Well, now I have.

Sarno's latest is entitled The Divided Mind -- the Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders. And it's about health.

Let me say at once that this is not a book that everyone is going to appreciate. Some will find it, almost literally, a lifesaver. Others will regard it as offensive, insulting, and a complete waste of time. My own opinion is that it is a valuable book, and possibly an important one; but all I can do here is try to give you the flavour of it and allow you to make up your own mind as to whether it's worth buying/reading.

Dr Sarno was born in 1923. He trained in medicine at Columbia and seems to have had a successful early career as a practitioner of orthodox, non-controversial medicine. Even today he is still a Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical Center, and is still treating patients.

Somewhere along the line, Sarno became interested in patients with back pain. He noticed that many of these patients had pain which did not respond to standard medical treatments, and that their pain was in any case was not related to any demonstrable injury. He came to the conclusion that, in many instances, this pain had a psychological and emotional basis, and he found that, when such patients were educated in the true cause of their pain, a large proportion of them recovered their health.

Now immediately, if the above paragraph were read by, say, a hundred patients with severe back pain, a large number of those patients would become very annoyed. So, they would mutter to themselves, this **** Sarno is saying that back pain is all in the mind. Well my ***ing back pain isn't in my ****ing mind, it ****ing well hurts, and any ****ing **** who says otherwise is....

And so on.

Sarno is not saying that back pain -- anybody's back pain -- is 'all in the mind'. Far from it. It's real pain. What Sarno argues, in essence, is that in cases where there is no injury to account for the pain, then there must be some other cause. One possible cause is what he calls tension myositis syndrome (TMS). What happens in those cases is that various powerful emotions, largely unconscious, bring about a tension in the muscles of the back. This tension causes real (not imaginary) pain, because the muscles are deprived of oxygen. And Sarno's major contribution to medicine is that he has found a way to treat such patients with a high degree of success.

To oversimplify greatly, the treatment consists of explaining to the patient the physiological basis for TMS, and inviting the patient to consider, with or without professional assistance, the possible unconscious emotions which might be the underlying cause.

In previous books, such as Healing Back Pain (1991) Sarno dealt more or less exclusively with pain in the shoulders, neck, and lower back. In his 2006 book, however, he has included the results of his more recent research, which indicate that TMS may underlie a much wider range of disorders.

The Divided Mind falls into two parts. In the first part, Dr Sarno himself gives us a discussion of psychosomatic medicine in general. He defines the term, and then provides a history of the practice of such medicine; this is followed by a discussion of the psychology of psychosomatic disorders, and finally there is an account of his treatment for them.

The second half of the book is made up of six essays by other medical specialists, all of whom have largely accepted Dr Sarno's theories and have incorporated them into their treatment of patients. There are chapters, for instance, by specialists on hypertension and rheumatology.

I ought, perhaps, to make a number of points clear. First, Sarno himself tells us, as he has done in previous books, that his theories and the treatments that he has developed are not acceptable in the world of orthodox medicine. Medical science accepts as 'fact' only that which can be demonstrated through the gold standard of double-blind tests, such as those used to test new drugs. Sarno's work does not lend itself to validation of that kind.

The second thing that needs to be said is that patients themselves are quite amazingly resistant to any idea that there might be a link between their physical health problems and their past and present emotions. Patients, like most orthodox doctors, believe in the separation of mind and body.

For example, in one of the essays in the second part of the book, Douglas Hoffman describes giving a talk to 400 patients with fibromyalgia. You may not yet have heard of fibromyalgia, but you will soon, because it is being increasingly diagnosed. Jerome Groopman, a professor of medicine at Harvard, has estimated that there are six million Americans, mostly women, with this disorder.

In the 1980s the American College of Rheumatology decided that fibromyalgia could be diagnosed if patients exhibited pain in 11 of a potential 18 locations. Frequently, such patients have other symptoms, such as headache and irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. Rheumatologists have not been able to explain these disorders, but they can 'diagnose' them and label them as fibromyalgia.

As far as Dr Sarno and his colleagues are concerned, fibromyalgia is a severe form of TMS, and is best treated like any other form of TMS, i.e. by providing knowledge and understanding of the true source of the pain. The core of this treatment is a lecture presentation in which Dr. Sarno (or a colleague) leads the patients through a process of realisation of the relationship between emotions and physical symptoms and explains to them the importance of understanding what is going on as the basis for curing many common pain syndromes.

However -- if we go back to Dr Hoffman and his experience of trying to put this explanation to a group of 400 fibromyalgia patients, what he found was that not one of those present would accept the possibility that Dr Sarno's theories might be correct. (Mention of 10,000 or so happily cured patients carried no weight.) No no. Sarno couldn't possibly be right. All they needed was the right pill. And if the drug companies haven't found one yet, hey, maybe the government should fund the research. Quick.

For many people there is, apparently, something deeply insulting and offensive about the idea that unconscious emotions are the source of their physical pain. They feel as if they are accused of being feeble-minded. In fact, quite the reverse is true. As Sarno says (page 103), 'We do not think our patients are neurotic. The psychosomatic reactions they are experiencing are both normal and universal.' Normal and universal. Couldn't be much plainer, could it?

Dr Hoffman also points out that patients may come to the conclusion, consciously or unconsciously, that it is better to have the pain than to face up to the horrifying and frightening emotions which have brought it about. And we do not, by the way, have to go into theories of repressed memories of child abuse and extreme situations of that sort, to identify the source of powerful emotions. Just everyday life, work, family situations, reading the newspapers, all that stuff will generate more than enough powerful emotions in most of us to explain quite a lot of pain which cannot otherwise be explained.

Because of this massive patient resistance, trying to treat patients with TMS -- whether it is diagnosed as fibromyalgia or anything else -- is a mighty frustrating business for the physicians involved. Many years of experience have taught Sarno and his colleagues that only 10% to 15% of the population are likely to accept a pyschosomatic diagnosis. In Dr Sarno's case, he doesn't even try to treat those who are implacably resistant. Before accepting a patient on to his programme, he talks to them first, to see whether they are likely to be open to his ideas. This eliminates a number of people who have come to him, perhaps reluctantly, at the urging of someone else.

In a 1999 outcome study, of those who were treated by Dr Sarno and his colleagues, 44% reported, six months after completing treatment, that they now had little or no pain, and the rest showed varying degrees of improvement.

By the way, do I need to point out that writers seem to me to be particularly at risk here? Trying to cope with the pressures of writing books on top of everything else, plus the powerful emotions generated by the inevitable rejection and frustration, will generate more than enough conscious or unconscious rage to damage anyone. Furthermore, Sarno has found that the drive to be perfect and good is also a big help if you want to suffer lots of TMS. Hard-working, conscientious, responsible, driven, success-orientated people are just queueing up at Sarno's door.

Finally, I can only tell you that, when I first came across Dr Sarno's work, some fifteen years or so ago, it was an enormous help to me in coping with various forms of pain in my back and shoulders, plus frequent headaches. I am quite certain, in retrospect, that these were 99% caused by TMS. And, like many other potential patients, I found that simply reading Dr Sarno's books effected a great improvement.

If you value your own health and wellbeing, or those of the people around you, I can only suggest that you acquaint yourself with what Dr Sarno has to say. And if, at the end of the day, like Dr Hoffman's 400 fibromyalgia sufferers, you decide that it's all a load of nonsense, then so be it.

The Divided Mind is published by Regan Books . There is also an audio version.

Later note: If you are interested in learning more about TMS there is now a wiki-type site which contains a great deal of useful information. In particular, it contains many first-hand reports by former pain sufferers who explain how Dr Sarno's ideas, and his practical suggestions for treatment, have helped them to feel better. I warmly recommend it. The web address is tmswiki.org.


Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson said...

I'm a published writer, I have fibromyalgia, and I have read parts of Sarno's book.

Sarno is probably right about the mind-body connection. Western medicine has yet to fully acknowledge the power of the mind. And whether or not they want to admit it, there are fibromyalgia patients whose illnesses are the result of emotional trauma.

However, I'd also like to point out that there are also those for whom physiological triggers like car accidents, injuries, or weak immune systems have caused fibromyalgia.

I, for example, have had recurring bronchial infections and a weak immune system since childhood, and as a result, I developed a feisty chronic bacterial infection that triggered my illness. Bacterial and viral infections are the causes for many cases of fibromyalgia.

There is also the theory that many cases of fibromyalgia are actually lyme disease. The symptoms overlap so much that it can be nearly impossible to tell them apart. (And lyme disease, of course, comes from a tick, or exposure to someone who has lyme.)

That's not to say that there cannot be both physiological and psychological triggers for fibromyalgia, but to suggest that it's almost entirely one or the other is a bit narrow-minded.

I believe that within a decade or so, researchers will discover multiple types of fibromyalgia, just as there are multiple types of diabetes and arthritis. Some fibromyalgia patients will have emotional causes for their illnesses, others will have physiological triggers, but most likely the majority of these people will have several triggering causes that amount to just enough stress on the body to cause an immune system crash.

And, as a footnote, the reason why fibromyalgia patients are so sensitive about being told that it's a psychosomatic illness is that medical doctors have treated this illness like it's all in our heads. Ask any of us fibromyalgia patients what it was like to get diagnosed, and we will most likely tell you a horror story about doctors brushing us off as if our pain and debilitating fatigue were imagined. I, for example, went to twelve doctors before anyone of them believed that I was actually ill.

So, please understand where most of us are coming from. It's not necessarily that we cannot accept that it's a psychosomatic illness but that we're afraid this will only allow doctors and those around us to continue to misunderstand this term and treat us like we're making it all up.

Just my two cents. I enjoy reading your blog very much.

archer said...

By the way, do I need to point out that writers seem to me to be particularly at risk here?

Well, we sit for hours, which stresses the lumbar spine and paraspinal muscles and puts all the weight on the aging L5-S1 intravertebral disc, and meanwhile the inactivity screws up our carbueration system so we eat too much and get overweight so when we get up from writing one day the L5-S1 disc pops like a grape and extrudes its innards through the neural foramen and squishes into the thecal sac that surrounds the spinal cord causing our legs to feel like a sort of xylocaine fireworks show before the spasm sets in and makes us collapse on the floor cursing. This would aggravate anyone.

Anonymous said...

On the one hand, I'm sure there's validity to what Sarno says but, in truth, it's not really new. For years, doctors have been dismissing various elusive ailments as "anxiety" and suggesting therapists to look into it. I haven't heard the "TMS" suggestion yet, but it seems to follow in the same vein with a bit more finesse. In spite of great leaps, doctors still use guesswork as their greatest tool. While Sarno makes good points, and no doubt it HAS genuinely helped many, I don't see it going much further than the polite "anxiety" diagnosis--which is often true but overused.

Not a negative on Sarno--it's a negative on medicine in general.

Susan Hill said...

Fibromyalgia + M.E. = 'Candida.'
Iffy stuff.

Susan Hill said...

Sorry, that should have read
Fibromyalgia = ME = Candida. Iffy stuff.

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating stuff! On more than one occassion, when my doctor assured me that my "ailment" would heal on its own and was not a symptom of something dire, my "pain" went away almost immediately.

I'm a believer in his theory.

Jon said...

As a former statistician, let me point out that a 44% cure rate for any treatment means nothing until compared with the cure rate for no treatment. Perhaps 45% of people with back pain get better in six months with no treatment at all. Perhaps not; but we need to know.


Little Cricket said...

I cured myself of RSI, myofascial pain, back and neck pain which lasted for a year. Things were bad enough at some point that I couldn't put on my own shirt over my head and had to be helped. I have been pain free since about June 2006. My asthma doesn't bother me as much anymore either.

These days I spend some time surfing weblogs. It is so sad that every 5th or 6th random blog I come across is by a person suffering from some chronic illness or the other, and there writings are so full of frustration and resignation at their predicament. I often try to leave pointers to Sarno's work, but am always met with the rections 'sounds interesting....i'll read it when I have time', or 'i'm skeptical', or just being ignored.

@andrew o'hara: Sarno goes much further than an 'anxiety' diagnosis. He gives a detailed theory of why our repressed anger is the cause of physical symptoms, as well as how to follow a program of gaining information, and introspection into one's emotional state, which leads to the elimination of physical symptoms.

casey said...

I had suffered from chronic back pain for over 15 years - four different 4+ month episodes of painkillers, muscle relaxers, nsaids, PT, stretching, exercising, etc that have left me flat on my back out of work. MRI's over the 15 years all showed degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, ruptured discs, and spinal stenosis. I'm only in my 30's right now - never obese, always physically active, no other chronic medical issues.

I say all this because I had real pain, real injuries that caused a few of the episodes, and I had real western-medicine-evidence of the cause of the pain. But yet, the pain in my lower back and down my legs through the sciatic nerve was ALWAYS there - in varying degrees of impact to my daily life.

In 1999, I was in really bad shape - and saw John Stossel's (sp?) interview with Dr. Sarno on TV...then bought the books and read them - and thoughts THIS IS ME! But, since meds, PT, Drs, MRIs, etc hadn't cured me over 15 years, I didn't have faith in my being able to diagnose and heal myself. I found a Dr nearby that had worked with Sarno (has since written his own book) and he diagnosed me with TMS - over 5 months, I got back to 'Normal' life with a few plateaus in those months that I didn't think I could get beyond.

So why should you care? Because I count myself as part of the 44% - that DIDN'T get better on their own if left with no treatment or typical western med treatment over 15 years. I DO believe in this connection between the mind and body (DUH!). Do I practice any other non-traditional treatments or medicines? Nope.

I have spoken with my sister a few times over the past 7 years about her chronic back pain - possibly being TMS. Her response - "No, it's not - MY pain is real."

Some people are too connected to their pain and condition as part of their identity - it scares them to realize that they could release the pain and it's conditions - then what would they be?

The pain is real, there is nothing physically causing my pain.

I can only be happy for two things - (1) that my life is much better without the pain - and (2) that others that CHOOSE to take a chance and believe - that their life is better without the pain. I cannot be worried about or defend myself to those that are too attached to other 'typical' western medicine treatments and diagnoses.

Thanks for a great article about Dr. Sarno's new book - I'm gonna go get it now!

1Potato said...

"In a 1999 outcome study, of those who were treated by Dr Sarno and his colleagues, 44% reported, six months after completing treatment, that they now had little or no pain, and the rest showed varying degrees of improvement."

Where did you get this. His results are much higher than that, 80-85%. He states so in his bestselling books.
Moreover, there is no "Dr. Sarno and his colleagues", he works alone. His proteges, like Dr. Schecter (sp.) work in different states and are not part of a team with him in any way.

I googled every combination and could not get any verification of the study you site.

Why is everything with Sarno so complicated? Why can't people get this guy's work straight?

BeckyK said...

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia eight years ago and not a single treatment I've tried has worked for very long. This disease that is not supposed to be progressive has been extremely progressive in me to the point where I'm almost housebound now.

I know people who pay $1000s to fibromyalgia clinics that are popping up everywhere that give them IV vitamins and supplements. None of it seems to really help, but people who are desperate will try a lot of things. But I bet if I brought these ideas to my support group, they'd cut off my head.

With what we fibro patients deal with and with all the things we're willing to give a try, why not this?

And yet, as I am reading Dr. Sarno's book, I find myself tensing up and resisting. I don't really know why because I do understand that he's NOT saying the pain isn't real. He believes the pain is very real.

I intend to finish the book and give his advice a try. There's no question I fit the pattern: overachiever, perfectionist, etc. I have long believed that the fibro may have been my body breaking in response to all the stress I put it under. It's not much of a leap from that idea to Dr. Sarno's.

Anonymous said...

Well, many people have resistance to the idea that their chronic, debilitating pain is 'psychological' because in many cases, calling it 'psychological' means dismissal by doctors, not being taken seriously, not getting the pain-medication they need, and an end to any treatment they may have been recieving.

In some cases it might mean not getting disability payments, which would mean losing any income while being unfit to work.

If it is a beginning of guaranteed treatment, and a person can be sure of being taken seriously, still getting the help they need - and have often had to fight to receive - then people might be more open to the idea.

But as long as the mind-body dichotomy is such that the 'physical' is percieved as real , taken seriously, and deserving of care and medical proffessional attention; and the 'psychological' is dismissed out of hand, 'it's all in your mind' and 'snap out of it' 'get over it' are frequent responses - there will be trouble, for the medical proffessionals who try to change it, and for the patients.

Anonymous said...

I am reading "Healing Back Pain" at the moment, and I do also believe the mind and body theory. I have gone through a lot of ups and downs also as most people have, but its how everyone copes with these I believe that is the key. I have seen in my experience that some people thrive on problems and others just crumble under the weight of them. Even reading the newspapers or watching the news can cause anxiety, so yes I do believe lots of problems can be caused by pent up unconscious emotions. It seems like a simple alswer to a big problem, its finding out how to release these emotions, that seems more complicated.

CoolandDeadly1 said...

Does anyone know where to attend a lecture given by Dr. Sarno or one of his colleagues? Please be specific (I'm in New York City.) Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Sarno works at NYU medical Center

Google Sarno and NYU and Rusk and you will get his office info

Anonymous said...

I have come across Dr. Sarno by accident and would like to explore this further. Just been diagnosed with sciatica and believe, without any doubt, that this is down to TMS.

Does anyone know of a physician in the UK (Greater London) who could assist me in getting better by working with me through TMS?

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know of a physician in the UK (Greater London) who could assist me in getting better by working with me through TMS?

You could try contacting the TMS clinic in this link:


Anonymous said...

Back Pain is certainly not all in the mind and, if like me, you can't stand the pain of chiropractic treatment but you are looking for an effective, long term remedy for your back problems then may i suggest a new mattress (or to be more specific – an orthopaedic, temperpedic, or memory foam mattress)
A whole range of specialist mattresses have been designed in order to try and correct posture and alleviate back and neck pains. The benefits are long-term and you don't need to regularly visit [and pay!] some heavy handed therapist to relieve the pain! I recently purchased an orthopaedic memory foam mattress online, and I can report, that after a fortnight sleeping on it, i wake up feeling much better than I did when I slept on my old mattress and i foresee a lack of future visits to my heavy handed chiropractor!!

Although one may jump to the conclusion that such specialist mattress prices are high, if you look hard enough you can find cheap mattresses out there, especially online. If you are dispirited by the expense, just think of the long term benefits for your health... a decent mattress can last up to 10 years!

Anonymous said...

In the summer of 2004, I sneezed 5 times, fell to the floor, had excruciating lower back pain and sciatica, that I could not get off the floor. The lower back pain was so bad, I could not get out of bed, climb a stair, or get in a car. I was diagnosed with a prolapsed disc, tried all sorts of treatments including major pain relief, chiropractors, physio therapy for about 18 months with only marginal improvement. I picked up the Sarno book - Heal your own back, and didn't get past the first chapter as I thought it was quackery. But still not improved and after having an MRI and was nearly under the knife, I thought I would read it and give it a go. Although the pain is real, the source is the mind. Sarno even suggests giving up all of your exercises, back cushions, special chairs etc (if you do not have back pain caused by genuine physiological causes). I thought I had nothing to lose, did the mental exercises and improved considerably. However, about six months later, the pain returned very severely, so much so I could not even walk quickly after my own toddler down the street. I then read a book by Fred Amir - Rapid Recovery to Back Pain and Neck Pain. He takes Sarno's theory but provides a framework that one can use, including the mental exercises and physical goals. Unbelievably, I was able to go running within 7 days. Although Sarno believes TMS is about repressed anger, for me it was the fear of failure and the fear of a lack of money. I have found that having a real vision and accumulating hope to be a perfect antidote. BTW - I can play tennis(badly as ever), swim, run and do all the physical sports I did prior to my severe lower back pain. Thanks Dr. Sarno, your books have truly changed my life.
David (London)

Jim said...

I am a practitioner of EFT which is short for Emotional Freedom Technique. It is a tapping on the accupressure points in a special way that will release your pent up emotions, and in many cases has stopped physical pain. If you would like to know more check http://www.emofree.com or check youtube for 117 videos by Robert Smith, (I really like his work better than Gary Craig's emofree) his youtube user name is healingmagic and look under channels. This will explain a lot. You will hear testimonials from people with 28 years of migrains cured in one session. Also back pain relieved, plus lots of other physical problems such as chronic astma (spell?). This is powerful!!!

Shay said...

Our Daughter couldn't take the pain any longer. In March of 2000 she took her own life. She had suffered with every kind of pain starting with migraine to neck and spinal pain, IBS, stomach pain and ulcers, even dental and mouth problems

We had every test done. She had only one drug or addiction problem, Vicodin because it relieved her pain. Once I became a bit more centered after her death, I wondered if there would be a syndrome or disease not diagnosed soon enough to save her that would someday be discovered.

I am unnerved and stunned to hear of Dr. Sarno. My God, what if we had found him sooner? What if...Is this what she suffered from? Is this why she couldn't be well?

I miss her so much; I don't want any other mother or father to go through our loss.

Lynn Lard said...

I'm also one of Dr John Sarno's success storys. Never met the man, but owe him perhaps my life, simply by discovering his book "Healing Back Pain". Dispite my initial skepticism, and because of desperation, I made it work for me.

I'd suffered thru 3 years of unrelenting, severe sciatica, so bad I had thoughts of ending it all. (Life doesn't look too appealing when you feel like a vise is clamped to your buttock or down your leg 24/7... literally!)

Then one day my wife saw Dr. Sarno being discussed on the Rosie O'donnell tv show. She mentioned it to me and I had her find it for me at a bookstore. That was the best $13.95 I'll ever spend!!

As stated, I was skeptical, but desperate. But after studying the book and pondering his ideas for a few days I started to see the merit in his theory. At about the 5th or 6th day, while dredging up old memories and early experiences (had my parents abused me perhaps? ... nahh, I sure didn't remember anything like that...) I didn't come up with any traumatic event(s), but during that process, involving total mental focus, I noticed that my pain had subsided considerably. At that precise instant I realized Sarno was right on the money! And with that realization... folks it was like turning a light dimmer switch down. My pain was extinguished!!!

Now I'd like to be able to say I never hurt again in my life. But that's not the case. Sometimes the pain would gradually start to appear, but by shifting my mental activity to emotional thoughts (pleasant, loving, tender, etc. thoughts) I could turn that dimmer switch down again. But over the next year or two, the recurrences decreased in frequency and intensity.

There were other side benefits too. Tendonitis in elbows and hands, and/or carpal tunnel symptons all cleared up, and I stopped snoring and started waking each morning as refreshed as in childhood (I was in my mid 50's at the time)

It is so sad to think of all the pain and suffering by people who don't know about, or reject out of hand, this virtually cost free solution, yet fork over billions each year for "traditional" medical services that don't work.

Anonymous said...

I am 81 yrs. of age. I have been an active "jock" my entire life until I gave up tennis and golf two years ago. My history includes carpel tunnel syndrome, back pain, painful shoulders, ruptured achilles tendon, etc, etc. I have read Dr. Sarno's book, The Divided Mind, and so far, I have definitely made significant progress. I have now resumed playing tennis and still experience some pain and discomfort, although considerably less so. I can't help questioning if my age slows down the "process" although I totally believe in it

Mrs M said...

I have been suffering fromsciatic leg pain for almost 5 weeks, for the first time in my life. Have had x-rays, mri, and the dignosis classic disc problems. Had acupuncture, non-force chiro, 10 day prednison, and vicodin. Not much improvement, but read about Sarno on Andrew Weil's website, and in one of his books. I have finished "Healing Back Pain", and am finishing Mind over back Pain. I am looking inside to find what is causing the anxiety, and I am getting close. I believe this is going to work. I will post my progress, and hope others will be encouraged.

Clare said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clare said...

John Sarno's book is such a breakthrough for those in chronic pain.

I suffered from Lower Back Pain and sciatica for nearly 25 years, together with a conglomeration of other 'itis's'.

I began Primal Therapy www.primals.org and all, yes, all symptoms disappeared. Ten years on no change.

I agree with Sarno on the mind body connection especially when processing our earliest traumas, i.e. birth etc., Read also, Arthur Janov - Why we get sick and How we get well.

I feel so sorry for people who have had so much pain for so long, that they had to take their life for relief. It shouldn't have to be. It shouldn't.

Bill A said...

I am here to say Dr. Sarno is a living Saint!!! After reading one of his books I called his office...and HE called me back personally. He recommended that I read another one of his books, I did, and scheduled an appointment to meet with him in NYC. I was 37 years old and could barely walk when I met with him. I was hardly able to work, could not drive, and was told everything I loved to do was done. My Fiance' (God bless her) was giving me sponge baths because I was unable to bathe. I was on various pain killers,using a walker when i wasn't crawling in pain, and recived epidurals (some releif). My life, and the life of all those near to me, had become about my SEVERE back pain. I tried all the 'in vogue' therapies,some told me I would need surgery, 10 'experts'would tell me 10 diffrent things. It pains me to think about how bad things got, and how quickly it got worse. My life as i knew it was over, until I met with a GREAT man, DR. John Sarno!!! I followed his treatment protocol, which was to STOP EVERYTHING. the problem wasn't in my back, it was in MY LIFE, I have met with one of the psychologists and I am feeling great!!! Dr. Sarno continues to encourage me to call him, imagine that, he WANTS to know how I am progressing and has NEVER rushed me through a conversation. His passion for his work and his compassion for his patients is uplifting!! Dr. Sarno is an inspiration. My only regret is that others in the medical field do not follow his lead. He has saved my life!! God Bless your heart John Sarno, your are a GREAT man !!!

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Anonymous said...

I'm tired of hearing that some treatment is untestable. Any treatment is testable, though there may not be funding.If it's truly inherently untestable it's probably just hot air, but I suspect Dr. Sarno's treatments and his general thesis are testable with a suitably sophisticated approach (and a good budget.)

Jim said...

You know, I look at it this way. It's like the little boy who was on the beach and hundreds of starfish had been stranded by the tide. The boy was picking the starfish up and tossing them back into the ocean. A guy came along and said son do you think it matters that you are throwing those starfish back in the ocean. There are hundreds here you don't make a difference. The little boy picks up a starfish and tosses it back into the ocean, and said, "It mattered to that one!"

Well, who cares if a treatment is testable, you are responsible for your own health, most drugs don't work (even though the drug companies test shows they do), but Dr. Sarno's ideas work for many people, but if it only worked for you, wouldn't it be worth a try? Of course Dr. Sarno's ideas are testable, and if you search you will find scientific tests that validate what he is saying. I have a book called "The Type C Connection" where a lady psychiatrist did a study on people who had skin cancer and found that most held their emotions inside, even when they were told they had serious cancer, there was very little emotions shown. There are other books that back up his ideas. Yes, there is not much funding for this type of research, as it does not help the drug companies much (unless they can come up with a drug to help release emotions). If they do you will see tons of research and tests showing how that most (if not all) physical disease and pain are caused by trapped emotions. Believe me, they are!

James Einert, ND, CH

Anonymous said...

All I can say is Dr. Sarno's first book saved my life. I had to become my own Captain of my healing journey.
I knew all the Doctors were wrong and they didn't know what was wrong with me anyways. I then read his 2nd book and saw Dr. Hoffman. The only reason Dr. Sarno's methods are not "testable" is because the drug company's run everything medically and want everyone to be on medication. Where is there any proof medically what fibromyalgia is? And there's no money in healthy people. Starting with his first book and finally seeing results, I kept searching and reading anything that might help me.

Anonymous said...

I have had FMS for nearly 40 years. It has waxed and waned, but never left me entirely, sometimes being extremely problematic. I have all the associated issues: irritable bowel, etc., etc. In my case, the triggering event was a serious viral infection - so long ago I don't recall if it was GI or respiratory. But I "never got over it." I have done much emotional and psychological work on myself in the intervening years and today I am convinced that the good doctor is absolutely right. My symptoms are a physical manifestation of old emotional traumas - I had lots of them in my younger growing up: alcoholic father, dysfunctional family, etc. I believe there are elements of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from this traumatic childhood. So the good doctor would have found ME to be on-board to his ideas presented in the lecture. But I will have to say that for most people they will have to have had a LOT of teaching, some serious thought about themselves and their past, etc., to be able to accept the doctor's theories. Those 400 people just weren't ready, and I wasn't "ready" until I had done a lot of work. I am going to look into his books. I wish I could actually go to a practitioner to be guided along. Thanks for the book review and all the comments posted. Carol, USA

Jim said...


Email me privately at jimeinert@gmail.com and I may be able to find someone to help you.

Anonymous said...

I would also be more than happy to tutor, or mentor you or anyone else in your efforts to employ Dr. Sarno's methods.
Of course I cannot guarantee my methods would work in the same manner for anyone else. But I firmly believe they would, for anyone willing, and receptive to the idea. They certainly worked for me. Quickly and thoroughly.
my email: la rd l @ bell south .n et
(extraneous spaces added to (hopefully) subvert internet ghouls); just omit them)

Lynn said...

Ooops. I just noticed the enjoinder to give a true name. (see anonymous above)

My name is Lynn (male). Age 67. Huntsville, AL

Michael Allen said...

Posted by GOB at request of Raymond Lambert:

This is a wonderful way to introduce Alice Miller, without ever - not even once - having to mention her name, or saying the word "Parents".

But for one familiar with Alice Miller, this post is an actual 'carbon copy' of everything Alice Miller exposed 35 years ago and wrote until her dying days, recently. Carbon copy or "Tracing Paper", reflect mirror and reproduce exactly the same Causes and Effects.

I hope you guys and ladies are doing alright.

I will let you check it up for yourselves at alice-miller.com but would also welcome any questions or feed-back.

On your side. Raymond


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Harry Segal said...

I have had significant success from Sarno's teachings. First when I was younger after years of severe neck pain- x-rays, narcotic medications, anti-inflammatorys, many doctors, chiropractors, ergonomics and on and on. The pain went away quickly after I read Sarno's Mind over Back Pain' and stopped being so afraid of the pain, realized I was structurally ok and started lifting weights again. Pain never came back. This was a significant experience for me. Similar experience for a friend with similar problems that I told to read Sarno. His next step was surgery for hip pain from playing squash. Weeks after I spoke to him he told me recommending Sarno's book was the greatest favor a friend ever did for him. He had thought I was crazy but he gave it a try. Totally pain free since. It is now about ten years later and I was having serious GI issues. Severe and constant acid reflux with no clarity or relief from doctors and the max on strong medications. Then I started having severe stomach pain and was diagnosed with "likely chrohn's disease" but there was no evidence in any of the tests. I started thinking that this all reminded me of the frustrating path I had taken with doctors around my neck. So I checked into Sarno again and saw that he had expanded his TMS diagnosis to other areas including GI. It is now 2 years later. Stomach pain almost totally gone. Acid reflux almost totally gone. I am on no medication but occasional tums. Sarno's findings are so helpful. A desire to say he is saying that 'pain is all in our head and not real', and to say his teachings are insulting is totally inaccurate and I believe comes from the fear and avoidance that is generating the pain in the first place.