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Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection [NOOK Book]


Dr. John E. Sarno is a medical pioneer whose program has helped thousands of thousands of people overcome their back conditions--without or drugs or dangerous surgery. Now, using his grounbreaking research into TMS (Tension Mytostis Syndrome), Dr. Sarno goes one step further: after identifyig stress and ...
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Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection

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Dr. John E. Sarno is a medical pioneer whose program has helped thousands of thousands of people overcome their back conditions--without or drugs or dangerous surgery. Now, using his grounbreaking research into TMS (Tension Mytostis Syndrome), Dr. Sarno goes one step further: after identifyig stress and other psychological factors in back pain, he demonstrates how many of his patiens have gone on to heal themselves without exercise or other physical therapy. Find out:

  • Why self-motivated and successful people are prone to TMS
  • How anxiety and repressed anger trigger muscle spasms
  • How people "train themselves' to experience back pain
  • How you may get relief from back pain within two to six weeks by recognizing TMS and its causes
With case histories and the results of in-depth mind-body research, Dr. Sarno describes how patients recognize the emotional roots of their TMS and sever the connections between mental and physical pain... and how, just by reading this book, you may start recovering from back pain today.

The renowned author of the classic Mind Over Back Pain has written a new guide examining revolutionary treatments to relieve pain without exercise, medication, or physical therapy.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This best seller was first published in 1991, but no one ever bid for the audio rights. Now, Sarno will narrate his own work. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"My life before Dr. Sarno was filled with excruciating back and shoulder pain. For twenty years I also suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and thought my back pain was due to my height or some sort of spine problem and that my OCD was a chemical imbalance and only treatable with medication. But all my thoughts were wrong. Imagine the miracle in my life when in a matter of weeks my back pain disappeared. Imagine my shock when I applied Dr. Sarno's principles and never suffered a single symptom again. Quite simply - I owe Dr. Sarno a lot." - Howard Stern

"For fifteen years, my life revolved around my back. I took time off from work, conducted meetings lying on the floor and slept with ice bags. Could this be psychogenic? I had considered Dr. Sarno's ideas preposterous, but ten years ago I was talked into seeing him. I haven't had back problems since. If Dr. Sarno is right a about other psychogenic pain, America is wasting billions of dollars. What a tragedy." - John Stossel, correspondent, 20/20

"John Sanro has changed my life and the lives of all the people to whom I have recommended him. He was healing patients with the mind-body connection long before anyone else I know. He is a true miracle worker." - Ann Bancroft

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780759520844
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/15/2001
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 21,628
  • File size: 318 KB

Meet the Author

Dr. John E. Sarno is a professor of Clinical Rehabilitation at New York University School of Medicine and attending physician at the Howard A. Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical Center.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I have never seen a patient with pain in the neck, shoulders, back or buttocks who didn't believe that the pain was due to an injury, a "hurt" brought on by some physical activity. "I hurt myself while running (playing basketball, tennis, bowling)." "The pain started after I lifted my little girl" or "when I tried to open a stuck window." "Ten years ago I was involved in a hit-from-behind auto accident and I have had recurrent back pain ever since."

The idea that pain means injury or damage is deeply ingrained in the American consciousness. Of course, if the pain starts while one is engaged in a physical activity it's difficult not to attribute the pain to the activity. (As we shall see later, that is often deceiving.) But this pervasive concept of the vulnerability of the back, of ease of injury, is nothing less than a medical catastrophe for the American public, which now has an army of semidisabled men and women whose lives are significantly restricted by the fear of doing further damage or bringing on the dreaded pain again. One often hears, "I'm afraid of hurting myself again so I'm going to be very careful of what I do."

In good faith, this idea has been fostered by the medical profession and other healers for years. It has been assumed that neck, shoulder, back and buttock pain is due to injury or disease of the spine and associated structures or incompetence of muscles and ligaments surrounding these structures — without scientific validation of these diagnostic concepts.

On the one hand, I have had gratifying success in the treatment of these disorders for seventeen years based on a very differentdiagnosis. It has been my observation that the majority of these pain syndromes are the result of a condition in the muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments brought on by tension. And the point has been proven by the very high rate of success achieved with a treatment program that is simple, rapid, and thorough.

Medicine's preoccupation with the spine draws on fundamental medical philosophy and training. Modern medicine has been primarily mechanical and structural in orientation. The body is viewed as an exceedingly complex machine and illness as a malfunction in the machine brought about by infection, trauma, inherited defects, degeneration and, of course, cancer. At the same time medical science has had a love affair with the laboratory, believing that nothing is valid unless it can be demonstrated in that arena. No one would dispute the essential role the laboratory has played in medical progress (witness penicillin and insulin for example).

Unfortunately, some things are difficult to study in the laboratory. One of these is the mind and its organ, the brain.

The emotions do not lend themselves to test tube experiments and measurement and so modern medical science has chosen to ignore them, buttressed by the conviction that emotions have little to do with health and illness anyway. Hence, the majority of practicing physicians do not consider that emotions play a significant role in causing physical disorders, though many would acknowledge that they might aggravate a "physically" caused illness. In general, physicians feel uncomfortable in dealing with a problem that is related to the emotions. They tend to make a sharp distinction between "the things of the mind" and "the things of the body," and only feel comfortable with latter.

Peptic ulcer of the duodenum is a good example. Although some physicians would dispute the idea, there is a fairly wide acceptance among practicing doctors that ulcers are caused primarily by "tension." Contrary to logic, however, the major focus in treatment is "medical," not "psychological," and drugs are prescribed to neutralize or prevent the secretion of acid.

But failure to treat the primary cause of the disorder is poor medicine; it is symptomatic treatment, something we were warned about in medical school. But since most physicians see their role only as treating the body, the psychological part of the problem is neglected, even though it's the basic cause.

In fairness, some physicians make an attempt to say something about tension, but it's often of a superficial nature like, "You ought to take it easy; you're working too hard."

Pain syndromes look so "physical" it is particularly difficult for doctors to consider the possibility that they might be caused by psychological factors, and so they cling to the structural explanation. In doing so, however, they are chiefly responsible for the pain epidemic that now exists in this country.

If structural abnormalities don't cause pain in the shoulder, back and buttocks, what does? Studies and clinical experience of many years suggest that these common pain syndromes are the result of a physiologic alteration in certain muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments which is called the Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS). It is a harmless but potentially very painful disorder that is the result of specific, common emotional situations. It is the purpose of this book to describe TMS in detail.

The ensuing sections of this chapter will discuss who gets it, in what parts of the body it occurs, the various patterns of pain and the overall impact of TMS on people's health and daily lives. Following chapters will talk about the psychology of TMS (which is where it all begins), its physiology and how it is treated. Conventional diagnosis and treatment will be reviewed and I will conclude with a chapter on the important interaction between mind and body in matters of health and illness.

Who Gets TMS?

One might almost say that TMS is a cradle-to-grave disorder since it does occur in children, though probably not until the age of five or six. Its manifestation in children is, of course, different from what occurs in adults. I am convinced that what are referred to as "growing pains" in children are manifestations of TMS.

The cause of "growing pains" has never been identified but physicians have always been comfortable in reassuring mothers that the condition is harmless. It occurred to me one day while listening to a young mother describe her daughter's severe leg pain in the middle of the night that what the child had experienced was very much like an adult attack of sciatica, and since this was clearly one of the most common manifestations of TMS, "growing pains" might very well represent TMS in children.

Little wonder that no one has been able to explain the nature of "growing pains" since TMS is a condition that usually leaves no physical evidence of its presence. There is a temporary constriction of blood vessels, bringing on the symptoms, and then all returns to normal.

The emotional stimulus for the attack in children is no different from that in adults — anxiety. One might say that the attack in a child is a paranightmare. It is a substitute for a nightmare, a command decisions by the mind to produce a painful reaction rather than have the individual experience a painful emotion, which is what happens in adults as well.

At the other end of this spectrum, I have seen the syndrome in men and women in their eighties. There appears to be no age limit, and why would there be? As long as one can generate emotions one is susceptible to the disorder.

What are the ages when it is most common, and can we learn anything from those statistics? In a follow-up survey carried out in 1982, 177 patients were interviewed as to their then current status following treatment for TMS. (See page 87 for results of the survey.) We learned that 77 percent of the patients fell between the ages of thirty and sixty, 9 percent were in their twenties, and there were only four teenagers (2 percent). At the other end of the spectrum, only 7 percent were in their sixties and 4 percent in their seventies.

These statistics suggest very strongly that the cause of most back pain is emotional, for the years between thirty and sixty are the ages that fall into what I would call the years of responsibility. This is the period in one's life when one is under the most strain to succeed, to provide and excel, and it is logical that this is when one would experience the highest incidence of TMS. Further, if degenerative changes in the spine (osteoarthritis, disc degeneration and herniation, facet arthrosis and spinal stenosis, for instance) were a primary cause of back pain, these statistics wouldn't fit at all. In that case, a gradual increase in incidence from the twenties on would occur, with the highest incidence in the oldest people.

To be sure, this is only circumstantial evidence, but it is highly suggestive.

So the answer to the question "Who gets TMS?" is "Anybody." But it is certainly most common in the middle years of life, the years of responsibility. Let's now take a look at how TMS manifests itself.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 57 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 23, 2010

    changed my life

    What can I say that everyone here already has? Protruding L5, couldn't sit at work, sit in the car without pain. Then the lists of couldn'ts just kept growing. This book was recommended by my doctor, read it in a couple hours and decided to change my way of thinking. It works! I sit all day at work, I drive, I ski, I go to spinning, I can do anything! If it starts to creep back in, I become aware of my stress levels, talk to myself, breathe, mediatate, and it's gone. Please have an open mind and get this book!

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Worth a look.

    I think this book will be most helpful for people who have been suffering with back pain for a long period of time (months to years). Most back pain lasts only a short time, and if it persists, you probably either have a really serious medical problem (that is usually obvious) or there are psychological factors involved. <BR/><BR/>If you've been through the conventional medical system with your back pain for a long time with no satisfaction, have had many physical treatments (such as heat, massage, manipulation, etc.) with no relief, AND have had serious back pain issues ruled out, then I say it would be well worth your while to at least check out this book. While there are true physical causes of back pain that are not psychological, this book will make you think about any stress related issues that could be a part of your pain. Other self-help books I liked include Treat Your Own Rotator Cuff. Good luck!

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2007

    This book changed my life...

    I had chronic lower back pain for about five years. During that time, I sought treatment from chiropractors and MD's. Additionally, my mother and brother are both disabled because of back pain. After reading this book, the pain started to subside and now I can say I'm pain free! I highly recommend this book to anyone that suffers chronic back pain.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2007

    More for long-term, chronic back pain.

    Don't buy this book if you have had back pain less than a couple of months or so. Studies clearly show that the majority of people with back pain get better in a month or two- regardless of what kind of treatment they get- its just the nature of back pain. On the other hand, if you're a long-term, chronic back pain sufferer, and have tried many different kinds of back pain treatments without relief, then this book will definitely be worth your while to read. There are definitely links between back pain and psychological issues according to the literature and this is an area that could be well worth your time exploring.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    This book offers very well presented information into the "real" reasons for back pain as expressed by John Sarno.
    It provides solid information into the instinctive responses our body goes through during physical and/or emotional stimulus (either positive or negative)and the process into pain.
    Highly recommended.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2012

    I think that anybody with chronic back pain should consider read

    I think that anybody with chronic back pain should consider reading this book.

    The author's approach is somewhat unique, and I was a bit skeptical at first, but as I read it and considered his ideas, believe it or not, my back pain began to lessen.

    He talks about the mind/body link involving back pain. He attributes ongoing pain to emotional factors, rather than the initial injury. He says that these emotional factors, along with focusing on the pain all the time, keeps your back tense, which keeps it from healing. He advises against back exercises for that same reason: they make you focus too much on your back. He describes personality types that are prone to back pain, which rang a bell with me.

    If you have chronic back pain it's hard not to focus on it, but it becomes a vicious cycle: anticipating the pain, fearing it, dreading it. I think the basic idea is that your body will heal if you're mind would let it. It's empowering to think that you may have some control, rather than being a helpless victim.

    That said, old habits are hard to break, and it takes time to &quot;retrain&quot; your brain. I had my back pain return, and rereading parts of his book inspired me and helped to turn it around again. I think it's an ongoing process. When you consider how long it took you to get to this point, it's not going to happen overnight. But from the success I've had so far, I think there's something to be said for this approach.

    I will say at this point, this book had helped me more than the other books I've read for back pain.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2002

    Find me a conrolled trial that proves it works.

    This book is about back pain having psychological causes. The treatment? Just recognizing this and telling your body to stop it. I think that this is a good theory but we really need some proof to back this up, I mean you wouldn't want to undergo a cancer treatment or take a medication unitl its been proven to work, would you? So why should you settle for anything less with back pain treatments- unless you just want to make this author even richer! If you ask any doctor how treatments are proven to be effective, they will say it is through controlled trials. In this case, it would be a study where one group used Dr. Sarnos's treatment and another group used no treatment. If the treatment group has less back pain than the control group that got no treatment, then the treamtent is said to work and have benefits. I challenge any reader to find me a controlled study, anywhere, that this treatment works. Having searched huge medical databases such as Medline, let me save you some time- there aren't any. Therefore, there isn't a shred of medical proof that this treatment really works although it was a smooth move to get him on 20/20. You expect no less proof for the drugs or surgery you might have, so use this same logic with your back pain treatments. Of course you will see testimonials that this book cured people's back pain. Any treatment will always have its share of believers whether it be sleeping under pyramids or wearing magnetic shoe inserts. Just check out any other back pain book and you will find its positive reviews every time, no matter how strange the treatment- a true testament to the power of belief. I recommend you save your time and hard earned money and check out books with treatments that have been proven in controlled trials such as "The Multifidus Back Pain Solution" or "The Relaxation Response."

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2011

    Did nothing for me

    A good friend of mine who had suffered back probkems, as I do, advised me to read this book. I read it, thought the premise was interesting. but it did absolutely nothing to alleviate my back pain - which confirmed my suspicion that the root cause of many back problems IS joint or disc-related, not muscular like Dr. Sarno suugests.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    Life changing book-Read this before considering any spinal surgery!

    It ia an amazing, life-changing read. Once you can open up your mind and realize that physical pain can manifest itself from unresolved psychological issues, it is quite liberating. It's not as though you need to realize some great psychological scar from can be as simple as realizing that an issue or conflict with a co-worker or family member can be triggering physical pain becuase you subconsciously let it. You also don't need to resolve all your problems--but rather simply be open and aware that many common physical ailments can be the result of this subconscious act. It's something you may need to practice and re-read the book if pain should come back but it is quite amaazing to realize that you can control many of the pain issues you experience. Be open to the thought and you'll be very happy with the results!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2009

    This Book Really Helped Me!

    Dr. Sarno uses example after example to convince the reader to overcome skepticism and consider the connection between back pain and the suppression of anger and anxiety. Dr. Sarno's experiences over many years with his numerous patients provide very compelling evidence and made a believer out of me. Two years of chronic back pain ended abruptly when I was about half-way through this book. What more can one say as an endorsement?!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2000

    What's next?

    Sarno's book helped me understand the cause of my back pain, but I was left with no clear steps to take to get rid of the pain. Rapid Recovery from Back and Neck Pain gave me the information and steps I needed to get rid of the pain for good. It would be nice if somehow the two books could be integrated to make it easier for the readers to get all the informatin they need in one book!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2014

    Oldie but goodie can change your life 9and your back pain)

    This wondrous book, originally written in the 1980's, shows how all back pain is psychosomatic - in other words, back pain is what our bodies do to distract us from other, more painful things, such as stress, worry, conflict, and so forth. In simple language, the good doctor tells us how to reconnect the mind and the body, and understand that our backs (and knees, and feet, and stomach) are fine - we are just reacting to mental overload.

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  • Posted June 21, 2013

    very highly recommended

    A fantastic book! One must have a very strong, positive mind for this concept to be effective. I purchased this title, Sarno 20 years ago & it helped immensely. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who suffers from back pain, as well as the other symptoms that are sited in it.

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  • Posted March 20, 2013

    before i was halfway finished with this book i was feeling much

    before i was halfway finished with this book i was feeling much better....what the author has to say makes a lot of sense.....this book was recommended by an acquaintance and, while interested, i didn't pay much attention....a few weeks later this same person mentioned that someone else he knew had also tried it with excellent results, so i decided to give it a try since nothing else! it certainly worked for me!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2012

    Amazing book, brings you to a new level of living! LOVED IT

    Amazing book, brings you to a new level of living! LOVED IT

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2012

    My story

    I realized that this book indirectly or maybe directly caused me to lose my job 9 yrs I had to read it in an effort to understand how it is how...

    I started having pain in the tailbone region...while my job was a sit down 8 hr a day deal...i tried to get help because not only did i need my job...but i liked it and was proud to have it....

    After 9 mos of treatment, PT and pain management...i was mentally and physically tired of fighting so hard to deal with it and wondered if time off and chiro treatments would help...

    I took the remaining 9 wks of FMLA and worked on chiro and some PT...and just tried to keep the buttock pain to a minimum...

    Just before I took fmla, my boss had me in his office...i was asking if i could move to a different area of the office with a less stringent emphasis on sitting and computer use...there were at least 3 others who wanted my position...i was willing to give it to someone else before i lost it altogether....

    At this meeting was when my boss wrote the name and author of this book on a post it and said "this book cured my back pain"...not telling me any details on content...he seemed convinced my issues could also be cured...if i just got the book.

    I had thought about it, but had nothing more than his comments to go on....they did not want to do a job switch, which had been done before in that office...i felt no animosity from anyone...i was always praised for good work...had no reason to feel it was personal...

    After the fmla ran out...this same boss told me if i could not come back to work the next day...i could not come back...when i broke down on the phone...i requested a talk with HR...the pain was not resolved...while i thought he was sitting up the meeting...they were typing the letter that would fire me...i was told 9 wks earlier i had to get permission to speak with HR..chain of command they said....i had been there 4 yrs...never had an issue...

    I cried everyday for at least 2 yrs over losing my job...but 9 mos later...i called the radiologist who read my first mri on my lumbar spine...initially i was told it was a cyst on nerve root....but could not cause pain...when i asked him to look at the scan again, he said he was wrong the first time...not a cyst...but a tumor...benign in nature...

    While i appreciate the message of this book and know we have a mind body connection...this book in the wrong readers head can dictate the thinking that took away my option to resign from a job instead of being fired...i have not worked since...tumor removed but pain is still there...

    Many things went wrong for me...but it was definitely my bosses idea that everyone who read this book would be pain free..

    I read it and still believe it's a piece of s#*t

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2012

    Not that interesting

    It reminds me of Psychology 101 about mind over matter or body in this case. The introduction is lengthy and there is no treatment plan per se of any substance in the body of the book. While I tend to agree with the author's thesis that we ignore emotional issues which cause physical issues, it is not groundbreaking.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2012

    Gave me my life back!

    Dr. Sarno's life saving book taught me what was going on in my unconscious mind. I was laid up for 2 years before reading this book and within 2 weeks after reading it, I was finally getting better. With in a few months, I was back to doing everything without pain. Thank you Dr. Sarno.

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  • Posted January 19, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    My doctor told me about the book. It has been very effective in relieving my neck/back pain.

    I have purchased extra books for my friends and family!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2006

    Out of pain in 2 weeks - permanent cure

    Doubled over in pain I went hobbling into the local Barnes & Noble and found this book. A quick read and I knew this was my story. I jumped out of bed and got back into my gardening activities immediately and back to a fully active life. Within 2 weeks the pain was gone. It returned intermittently for a while but I have now been pain-free for more than 10 years. I have helped many others through this book. Dr Sarno saved my life.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews

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