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Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection

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Offering a surprising, noninvasive solution to an epidemic of pain, Dr. John E. Sarno’s research on TMS (Tension Myoneural Syndrome) reveals that stress, anxiety and other psychological factors, structural abnormalities, are the root cause of chronic pain.
 
TMS develops as a result of repressed emotions which trigger tension in the body and deprive muscles and nerves of oxygen. The solution? Recognize the emotional roots of your TMS and sever the connection between mental and physical pain.
 
With Dr. Sarno’s expert guidance you will learn: Sharing case histories and the results of his extensive, groundbreaking research, Dr. Sarno’s life-changing insights show readers how to banish back pain and reclaim their lives for good. 

193 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1991

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 521 reviews
Profile Image for Lucy Dacus.
87 reviews11.6k followers
March 31, 2022
There's a reason so many people recommended this to me, I think it may help me avoid back surgery, fingers crossed. I really recommend to people who have chronic back/neck/limb/nerve pain and have found no helpful fixes so far.
Profile Image for Trent.
20 reviews2 followers
January 7, 2013
CHANGED MY LIFE! I have written this on so many sites now since reading this. In short, I am a long time sufferer of low back pain. Pain runs down the leg and all over the core area. Had surgery at age 19 in 2002. All my love of sports and competing was ruined. Angry most of the time and when I'm not, I am in pain and wishing something would change my life. I have done surgery, PT, Tensunit, Injections, Massages, Trainers, Creams, More pills than any person in life should ever take... I have done it all.

I was feeling better for about 6 months when I had major setback once again. I turned to this book after I decided the pain of riding to the doctor in my truck was not worth the meds I would get when I got there. Funny part was I bought this book 2 years ago and forgot. When I heard about it on Howard Stern's radio show, I bought it again and when I received it, I went to toss it on the same book shelf when I realized, I already owned it... It sat there for 3 weeks until this day and I decided I had nothing else to turn too.

I got to page 90 when I knew this was special. I Called my dad immediately and told him about this. I finished the 225 page book in 24 hours and I bought the next two within 2 days.

My pain was gone already. I could care less if this is weird to some people. All I know is TMS is for real in my eyes and Dr. Sarno is a genius.

I emailed him and found out he retired last year at 90 years old. The next day I received a call from Dr. Sarno. I was star shock like never before. What an amazing man.

Some day the world will be talking about how Dr. Sarno was WAY ahead of his time. And the fact that he took the time to call me and answer all my questions just because I wrote him an email shows how caring he is. All he asked from me was to pass this word on and I am doing it as much as I can.

Thank you Dr. Sarno.
Profile Image for Jaie.
624 reviews15 followers
January 6, 2017
The premise of this book is all right there in the title. There is a mind-body connection and recognizing it you can heal your back pain. At it's core I believe this premise. Unfortunately I did not like this book for a variety of reasons. As has been stated in other reviews, it is repetitive and doesn't actually explain the process of healing. The author is dismissive of others and arrogant. The research cited is old. I read the 2016 reprint of the 1991 version of this book. I think the only thing newer than 1991 in this version is the preface, the chapters themselves seem unchanged.

I am going to break down my impression of the book for you chapter by chapter.

1. The Manifestation of TMS
Sarno uses the term Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) to describe the compilation of painful symptoms that he believes are a result of emotional situations. This chapter describes those symptoms, which can be anything, and their onset, which can be acute or slow-onset. He also proposes that these symptoms are related to specific emotional situations and can occur during or after these situations. He explains that TMS is characterized by recurrent acute attacks, by limited activity due to fear, and by fear of never getting better.

2. The Psychology of TMS
Sarno believes that stressors cause tension which is really "repressed, unacceptable emotions" (p35) which then cause physical symptoms. Despite not being a psychologist, he throws around a lot of diagnostic terminology and Freud. But the take-home from this chapter is that your back pain is probably due to repressed anger, because the mind would rather deal with physical symptoms than unpleasant emotions.

3. The Physiology of TMS
This chapter explains Sarno's hypothesis that TMS is due to poor oxygenation due to an autonomic nervous system response to a psychological need. This chapter is the first place he dismisses the role of inflammation in back pain. (Even though he used the suffix -"itis" which literally means inflammation when naming this syndrome.) But don't worry too much about this chapter, "focusing on the physiology and symptomatology of TMS is actually counterproductive, tending to perpetuate rather than alleviate the problem." (p82)

4. The Treatment of TMS
Finally, yes, what we are all waiting for. This is why we started reading this book in the first place. He explains that this pain exists to distract the brain from the repressed unpleasant emotions. The treatment is two-fold. First understand what is going on, acquire information, "the information provided is the "penicillin" for the disorder" (p84). Second, act on this information to change the brain's behavior. These actions include a. Thinking psychological. When your back hurts think about an emotion that you are repressing. b. Talk to your brain. Tell it to quit repressing that emotion. c. Resume physical activity. In the next chapter he explains that most of the abnormalities that might be seen on imaging, possibly aren't causing any symptoms. But a more striking argument I think is that a lot of people without symptoms might have the same physical abnormalities. (Of course, be cautious here. I believe there are plenty of physical reasons that folks should limit physical activity.) d. Discontinue all physical treatment. This must be done to fully convince your brain that the pain is emotional and not physical. Oh, and on page 101 he mentions about 5% of people might need psychotherapy to deal with all these repressed emotions.

Up until now, I was on board with the book. I have had back pain for a year and a half. I have done six months of physical therapy and three months of chiropractic posture adjustments. I have had lab work and imaging. I have changed my exercise routine and tried massage and acupuncture. The last two years have been the most stressful of my life and I am sure that I am repressing some emotions about that. Sure, I can even trace back some specific situations around the time the back pain began and intensified. I began to lose faith though after reading about the treatment. I wish there were more details. Does he really mean, ignore the pain and acknowledge the emotions. That's it!?

But the dismissive arrogance of the next two chapters is what really turned the tide for me.

5. The Traditional (Conventional) Diagnosis
This chapter was very frustrating to read. He went through common back pain diagnoses and dismissed them one at a time. "Most disc herniations are harmless" (p 120). Of pinched nerves, "to attribute symptoms to a physical abnormality is a sad diagnostic error" (p128). Of arthritis, "I have not found that this is pathological" (p129). Of spondylolysis, "rarely responsible for back pain in my experience" (p129). And on and on. Every (conventional) diagnosis is dismissed as not causing symptoms in his experience. He again dismisses inflammation as important in back pain. He cites only the definition of acute inflammation "an autonomic reaction to disease or injury" (p140) and denies that TMS is either of those things, completely disregarding all the possible causes of chronic inflammation that could relate to back pain.

6. The Traditional (Conventional) Treatment
This was another frustrating chapter to read. First he says "therapeutic eclectism is a sign of diagnostic incompetence" (p142) meaning that because there are many different treatment options for back pain (surgery, medication, manipulation, acupuncture, massage, etc), and because one size doesn't fit all, obviously these treatments must all be wrong. He doesn't acknowledge that different treatments work for different people for a multitude of reasons: different anatomy, different physiology, different medical and injury histories, different approaches to health care, different expectations, etc. He describes the placebo response as one that only works for a short time. And then he lists many different (conventional) treatment options and says they only work because of the placebo effect. "When someone reports feeling better... (of resting an injured part), I think placebo" (p145). "Surgery may sometimes produce a desirable result because of the placebo effect" (p148). Muscle strengthening: "placebo effect" (p149). Manipulation: "On occasion, dramatic relief of pain follows a manipulation, suggesting that the person is having a good placebo response" (p147). He completely misrepresents acupuncture, describing it as similar to a nerve block (p145) which might treat pain but not the cause. He also misrepresents meditation, relaxation and biofeedback, saying there is "considerable fuzziness about this subject", despite the entire premise of his syndrome is the presence of stressors. For the third time he dismisses inflammation as playing a role in chronic back pain.

7. Mind and Body
Well, this book continues to be frustrating to read. Two of the chapter subheadings use the word "current" despite, as I previously mentioned, that the information is 25 years old. But the laugh out loud moment is found here. After dismissing every (conventional) treatment as a placebo effect, on page 170 he has the audacity to say "The best evidence of the validity of this concept is the fact that patients are able to stop the process simply by learning about it.... Many people have reported resolution of their back pain syndromes after reading my first book, making it quite clear that they were "cured" by the acquired information. This could not be a placebo." First of all "best evidence" but not evidence-based, since all of the data in this books seems to come from follow-up surveys with his own patients. Secondly, I don't even know how to describe how ridiculous it is to believe that being cured of a syndrome through acquisition of information couldn't possibly be a placebo!?

In the next edition, I would like to see the research significantly updated. We've come a long way since 1984 (first ed) and 1991 (second ed) in our understanding of the mind-body connection and this outdated book should not be taking any credit for those advances. I would like the racism on page 68 removed. (He cites a doctor who said in 1988 that Africans don't get back pain because they don't "seem to generate anxiety as we do. Entirely logical.") I would also like the inherently misogynistic discussion of hysterical symptoms that starts on page 170 to be removed. In fact, I think the whole premise of the book that the pain is all in our head, is a dangerous concept that has historically been used to disadvantage people.


In conclusion: Since starting this book, the back pain that has been bothering me for the past year has much improved.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
53 reviews7 followers
April 20, 2013
I'm guessing people will have mixed feelings about this, but I felt this book helped me.

It does drag on (as many people have noted).

It does show it's age in some of its comments (Page 68 is TMS worldwide, and basically assuming the entire African continent does not experience this issue or stress comes to mind - yeah, 1980s early 90s clueless much? A better statement might have been about work environment culture rather than just lumping continents and ethnic groups).

This book isn't just about back pain, even though that's the main focus. It discussed other physical symptoms and ailments that can be alleviated when a person looks at the emotional and other stress factors hidden in their lives; and how we're not always even aware we're hiding such things from ourselves. When I looked at the full list of issues I thought to myself - I've experienced half of these in my life; and often, when one gets better, another picks up. Hrm...

Having put the mental blinders on to barrel through high school and college as my father fought cancer (which is just one thing I was keeping at bay that I've continued to have to heal from), I can see quite well now how people suppress things just to get by day to day. But at some point, you're burning yourself up - whether emotional exhaustion or things finding a physical outlet instead.

Many people will lash out and say "but I have a real medical problem!" Which can absolutely be true. The problem arises when you acknowledge one and deny the other - neither can be ignored or denied. If you have an issue, see a medical doctor - it may not be all in your mind. But don't rule out what's going on in your mind. They both must be attended to.
Profile Image for Laurel Marlantes.
7 reviews5 followers
December 16, 2013
No book has changed my life more. I'm amazed and so thankful I was told to read this book. Anyone who has suffered from ANY difficult to diagnosis condition should read this. After 3 years of struggle with numerous doctors and procedures and tests and who knows how much in medical bills, I literally have had zero back pain since reading this book and adopting Dr. Sarnos beliefs. I know I sound like I drank the Koolaid, but its true!! It's weird, and crazy, I know. But its also so awesome and there's no denying the effect it's had. I feel like the first time in years, I'm getting my life back - no pun intended ;)
Profile Image for Mike.
22 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2018
First I will say that if this book worked for you then, more power to you! I am a big believer in his premise that tension can result in physical pain manifesting itself in various forms. With that said, the other 180 pages of this book consisted of Dr. Sarno complaining that most people don't believe him and the medical profession discounts his discoveries. His proof consists of stories from his patients and how he cured them and leaves out anything based on facts. Instead, he uses phrases like "it is my belief" and "I think that".

So, great premise but poorly written gets you 2 stars.
Profile Image for Gregg Bell.
Author 22 books124 followers
January 22, 2014

This book pulled me back from the brink of life-threatening problems. And I'll be the first to admit that the book sounds boring. "Healing Back Pain." Yawn!! I don't remember where I got the book. All I know is I'm glad I did.



The book is nothing as it seems. The second half of the title ("Mind-Body Connection") is really what the book is all about. "Bad backs" are just perhaps the most prevalent form of "recurring and chronic" physical pain, and so Sarno (or perhaps somebody at the publisher) went with the title.



We've all had physical symptoms that we've attributed (correctly) to our minds. Someone cuts us off in traffic and we get a headache. The boss gives us a tongue lashing in front of our co-workers and we get heart palpitations. And on and on it goes. That the mind can cause physical symptoms is disputed by no one.



But where is the line drawn that says the body can cause certain physical symptoms and not others? Sarno would say it's not very clearly drawn, if at all.



'Oh, that's quackery! Certain pains and symptoms are physical!' we cry. Well, yeah, I would say even Sarno would agree with that. If you're in a car wreck, you're going to have pain. But what Sarno argues is that a very great amount of the pain we experience is caused by our emotions and not our bodies. And more specifically that that pain is caused by subconscious repressed emotion. Sarno's theory postulates that the repressed emotion we often have built up through the years is so threatening to our minds, that instead of experiencing the emotion consciously (which our minds consider too dangerous to do), we develop physical symptoms, most often physical pain.



So it's the same principle as getting the headache or heart palpitations but on a macro level. So what sort of things does Sarno say can be caused by this repressed emotion? You'd be very surprised.



Of course back pain is there, as are endless varieties of muscle spasms and aches. But there are things like gastrointestinal diseases (eg. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, recurrent urinary tract infections), myriad skin issues (eg. hives, eczema) and all the way to heart disease and cancer. And again, Sarno wouldn't say such physical problems are never organically caused, but that very often, perhaps most often, they are not.



The good news is that Sarno lays out very clearly the ways to recognize when the process of repressed emotion is causing physical symptoms. He gives great examples of how people subtly and progressively become overwhelmed by the repressed emotion within them and how that leads to physical pain and illness.



But while the repressed emotion is subconscious, it is not unconscious. There is a solution. The first step of which is recognizing (no matter how clearly it seems that the pain is physically caused!) that the pain or disease is caused by the repressed emotion. When experiencing back pain (or whatever) Sarno would say to himself, "What am I avoiding feeling?"



And this sort of thinking opens the tiny crack in the door of our subconscious just a little bit wider--and often the pain (or physical illness) dissipates. Sometimes unbelievably quickly, sometimes over a longer period of time. But the fact is if your pain is not organic, Sarno's method works! I can attest to it personally. A couple of years ago I was so overwhelmed with physical problems I thought I was on my way out. Then I discovered this book. Yes, this book saved me. And if you pick up a copy of this book and you're helped like I was, you'll also want to pick up Sarno's The Mindbody Prescription.

Profile Image for Jane.
677 reviews25 followers
June 22, 2018
All the stars!! If I could give this book more than 5 stars I would. If a book can make your pain go away, that is all that matters. I’m surprised that anyone is even mentioning anything about writing style, etc. People complain that he is repetive and that he sounds like he’s trying to convince you of something. First of all, if your pain goes away from this book, are you really concerned about the writing? Second, the reason he is repetitive is because in order to make the pain go away, you need to reach the deep part of your brain that is trying to distract you with this pain, so you may need to hear the message several times.

I’ll now tell you my story since I believe that reading other people’s success stories is one of the things that help make the pain go away.

I have had head pain for a couple of years. I already knew about John Sarno and actually read one of his other books so I was already strongly suspicious that this pain was psychosomatic. I just didn’t know what to do about it. In the past couple of months I started to DO more things to make the pain go away, such as getting massages, doing asanas, going to a reiki healer and using hot compresses. Unsurprisingly (now that I read the book) all of these things would temporarily make the pain better but ultimately led to more intense pain. My brain was trying to get me to be hyper focused on my pain and every time I did something that involved attention to the pain it knew it was working so it gave me more pain. It put me in a loop that I couldn’t break. It is very similar to OCD in this way. Reading the book helped me to break the loop. Just really understanding what was happening made this brain trick less powerful. I also knew that I must have some repressed emotions (who doesn’t?) but I wasn’t sure what they were or how to access them. I then came across a YouTube video of a John Sarno meditation. When I did this particular meditation, deep emotions came up (and pouring out) and the pain disappeared. I’ve continued doing the meditation and leaning into emotions that come up in my daily life. I am much more aware now of how often I was sweeping my emotions under the rug. I thought I was being strong until this time but I was really just repressing. I would say that may pain is about 70% improved at this time and it has only been a few weeks. It is much less intense and also less frequent. I am confident that it will completely go away but I was eager to write about my results so far.

Also, I want to mention that I avoided this particular book for a long time because the title was about “back pain” and I don’t have back pain. The title is a misnomer. If you have any chronic pain or any condition that the doctors can’t really help with, please read this book! You have very little to lose and everything to gain!

Here is the link to the YouTube meditation in case you want to try it after reading the book:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HCe6PAp...
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books885 followers
Read
December 4, 2022
Written in 1991, so a lot of it is dated, but I really wanted to read it because I'd heard about so many "cures" via Sarno's mind-body connection. I much enjoyed The Way Out: A Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven Approach to Healing Chronic Pain, read last year, but now I see there's nothing "Revolutionary" about that book's approach at all. It's all pretty much lifted from this one, then given a more modern spin and applied to the entire body vs. the back alone.
Profile Image for Gaijinmama.
183 reviews74 followers
October 10, 2009
The idea that deeply repressed anger can cause physical tension, resulting in not only back pain but digestive and sinus problems and headaches....yes, I can get behind that.
However, I agree with the other reviewers here who have said the book is too vague and repetitive. OK...Doc, so yes, I am tense, stressed out, and anxious and my back hurts like H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks, but what specifically am I supposed to do about it?
That said, it is nice to see a medical professional actually doing
research into the mind-body connection. This is an area that needs to be explored and de-stigmatized.

However again...my back still freakin' hurts! I guess I'll just have to reach for the ibuprofen again and keep doing my stretches.

Profile Image for Deryk English.
7 reviews1 follower
November 25, 2018
I'm going to tell you a secret. It's one of those unbelievable stories that people sometimes tell you and you walk away having barely paid attention until you're sitting alone in near tears because of some pain and it makes no sense. That's when I want you to remember me.

This was my miracle. I had been a long time sufferer of back pain and repeatedly diagnosed with Scoliosis. When I say long time suffer, I am saying from the time I was 20 until I was over 30 I had daily non stop back pain. Most of the time it was just there, like walking around with a knife stuck in me in a few spots. If I didn't move too fast than it wouldn't be so bad, but if I bent to pick up a piece of paper the wrong way, I would not be able to stand up straight for days on end. A rare golf outing may or may not end me for a week. It was a crap shoot.
I was told surgery was likely the only answer that would help alleviate the pain however it would never fully go away. I had heard about this book like many other through Howard Stern. In 2004 I finally bought it and like many others, it just sat on my shelf.

Then that day came when I just wanted to sit and cry. The pain was bad but the frustration I felt was far worse. I could not do the things I wanted to do. I could not succeed in work or play because of constant pain. So I opened the book.

Here is the miracle part. The part no one believes. I was half way through the book when the constant pain I felt for most of my adult life just disappeared. That's it. It was just gone. I got up out of bed for the first time in days and could stand up straight. No soreness, no stiffness. It was just gone.

I have been many many years without constant pain. I am human so there are times when I have what I would call a "normal" back ache. After moving, or 36 holes of golf, or painting my kids room. Nothing like I used to have. When pain does come up, I just re-read this book and I am free again. I continue to get diagnosed with Scoliosis and the doctors often ask if I feel any pain. Some of them I tell about the book. None of them ever believe me.

I have bought more than 30 copies of this book. Any person I know personally that tells me of their back pain, I will buy it for them. I tell them my miracle story and as you can imagine, most do not believe it. For some it has worked, for most it does not. I do not know why.

My advice is, open your mind before you read. Give it a chance. I have no idea why it worked other than Dr. Sarno's explanation.

Good Luck.
Profile Image for Brian.
9 reviews2 followers
November 8, 2013
it really is like a miracle.

I've been dealing with lower back pain for many years now and after a car accident in 2009 it got severe enough to put me on medical leave of absence for about 2 years. I quit my real estate investing career partly bcos of this injury.

last week I came across an article in psychology today.

it basically says for some people with chronic pain the problem is no longer physical. but rather the brain getting stuck
re
creating the memory of physical pain.. maybe to distract you from emotional pain.

I looked up on Amazon, the book referenced in the article and was amazed at the reviews. people with 5, 10 or more years of chronic pain claiming their pain disappeared just by reading the book or at worse having a conversation with dr. John sarno, the author.

I'm happy to report that the last 4 days have been unbelievable for me. I have just started the book but my pain level and duration is about 90% less.

I notice it starting and I remind myself of the theory and then create the courage to test the theory instead of seeking the nearest bed or couch or firing up my yoga videos.

I'm carrying my giant 7 month old baby more, am more pleasant to be around, and with new found freedom probably travel more... but first let me go finish the book.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

After daring to allow my son to drive me in a bumper car ride at an amusement park and feeling no pain I must declare that I've healed my back pain 100%.

The fear of a sudden attack of back pain, more than the pain itself, severely limited my life... afraid to do a lot of things that might trigger it and limiting most activities to about 6 hours/day... it practically disables you.. and to not have that fear nor the pain is life transforming.

I must thank Dr. John E Sarno for sticking by his findings of Tension myositis syndrome and standing by and publishing his research and against conventional wisdom and the disapproval of his medical peers to help so many people conquer decades of chronic debilitating back pain.
Profile Image for Brad Cramer.
92 reviews4 followers
February 10, 2012
Interesting book recommended by my chiropractor. At first I thought it was kind of hokey, but the more I read the more I started to buy into the concept that most back pain is caused by suppressed anger and fear. The back pain is the mind's way of giving you something to deal with besides confronting the emotions. I've been having back pain for years and paid my chiropractor way more money that I would like. But since reading the book and using the techniques, when I have had flare ups they are quickly resolved through examining my emotions and dealing with them. I'd recommend it to for anyone with consistent back pain.
Profile Image for Vix Southgate.
10 reviews1 follower
November 3, 2013
This book seems to be fleshed out with repetition and case studies. It reads like a sales pitch. I agree that pain and emotion are linked and therefore this book has some benefit, as long as you don't read it as a definitive cure. Mechanical problems are real pain that can cause emotions that can heighten the pain (catch 22). But perhaps being aware of how our emotional state impacts the areas that are already weak, is something worth considering. However this book DOES NOT HEAL BACK PAIN!
Profile Image for Jamie Van Nuys.
155 reviews4 followers
November 19, 2020
I don't quite know how to write this.

Last week I bought this book out of sheer desperation. I barely could make the drive to the book store without crying out in pain.

I have had two back surgeries, and was seriously contemplating a 3rd (and hopefully final). I had been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, DDD, a bulging disc, and nerve damage. I am only 30. I have tried everything! I lost 45 pounds, I eat well, I exercise 6 days a week, I don't lift my children or other heavy things, I did everything as I was supposed to after my surgeries and was still left with crippling pain.

18 months ago I read "This Naked Mind" by Annie Grace as I was first attempting sobriety. I had already had back surgery at that point, but I remembered that her entire premise for HER book was based on the work of Dr. Sarno. That book is the book that got and has kept me sober for 18 months now, so last week when I was in desperate search for pain relief, I suddenly remembered his name and tried to find a local copy.

I devoured the book in a matter of hours. I then devoured The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain. After finishing both, I suddenly realized that my burning nerve pain in my leg could be "turned off" with just concentration. I tested it over the next few hours, and 24 hours later I was still able to "turn off" the pain as soon as it started. I was hopeful, though it did require quite a bit of concentration. Almost like meditating.

But now three whole days after reading both books, I am entirely pain free. I am also entirely flabbergasted.
I cancelled my epidural spinal injection that I had scheduled.
I put away my ice packs, my heat packs, my muscle relaxers, my ibuprofen, and my biofreeze spray.
I have no nerve pain in either leg, I do not have burning lower back pain, the cramping in my legs has stopped, and I have regained all feeling that I had lost.

4 days ago I had a very bleak hope that I might be pain free one day, and now my life is completely changed. I know it sounds crazy, I can hardly believe it myself. But take it from me, I've HAD the back surgeries, I've had multiple injections, I've done PT, chiropractic, massage, you name it. Nothing has touched my pain like reading this book and genuinely believing in TMS. I have a classic presentation of it, just as Dr. Sarno describes. I believe that this book could work the same wonder on others who have similar pain.

No matter how crazy of a premise it sounds, I will share this book with whoever I can!
Profile Image for TessaCollinsMilligan.
22 reviews2 followers
March 12, 2022
The work of Dr. Sarno has had a profound impact on my life. It has been sorcery, some real divine intervention shit. As many other people have experienced, learning about his work alone cured my chronic back and leg pain. This actually happened BEFORE I read this book, as I learned about this work through an amazing app called Curable, where people are continuing Dr.Sarnos legacy of curing chronic pain through mind body principles.
Sure this book was dry in the middle, the cover looks like a dated soft porn novel you would find in the airport bookstore, and I often read it purposefully so I could fall asleep faster. But the work speaks for itself. (Although I probably recommend the app more, with a good thorough skim of this book.). Read on if you want to hear another cliché cure story.

I quite literally suffered for years with chronic back pain, which changed my life from joyful, active, strong, outgoing, athletic, ambitious, to a very depressed ball of sad pain. I couldn’t walk a flat quarter mile without fear, couldn’t sit at all, was told to not do yoga, swim using my legs (???), hike, bend over, etc (the list goes on from there) and pretty much thought my life was over at the ripe age of 22. I did every possible treatment under the sun (acupuncture, electric shock therapy, physical therapy for ages, ultrasound heat therapy, icing, heating, anti inflammatory medications, creams, balms, all the supplements, walking, massage, cupping, and more). Nothing helped and even when there was improvement, it was unstable and I always had FEAR.

I found Curable while at a very low point, crying in bed thinking i was doomed forever, googling what if any yoga poses I could do. The app showed up and i started immediately. It was like a freaking light switched. As soon as I started the app program I was 100% better. Wtf. It has been about 4 months now and I have had almost no pain at all. The best part is I have had no FEAR (and i have fought hard to beat back the learned fear I’ve acquired). I have sat on 11 hour flights (thought impossible), washed my face leaning over sinks (! Big moves), I have hiked, swam, biked, gotten back into yoga, lifted heavy shit, washed dishes, gone skiing, and sat a lot! (Sitting is a lovely thing to be physically able to do again). I haven’t even been diligent about doing the apps mental exercises (which are great), it is just the initial knowledge of what is going on that has stopped my pain (like with many others). Get the app, read the book, have an open mind, help yourself
Profile Image for Jerry Kaczmarowski.
Author 2 books6 followers
March 11, 2015
I have to admit I was skeptical when I read the premise of this book. In essence, Sarno advises that the vast majority of back pain is psychosomatic. We choose to experience back pain rather than addressing the deeper psychological issues that plague us. These psychological issues can range from the important (e.g. physical abuse as a child) to the trivial (e.g. some jerk cut you off in traffic today). We would rather experience the physical back pain than deal with these often complicated issues. In addition, polite society doesn't appreciate us sharing these psychological issues in a public venue. However, our friends and family are perfectly willing to swap stories about chronic back pain. So, we swallow the pain caused by the deeper issues. Walla, back pain!

Sarno had some great support for his idea on the topic of ulcers which he also views as primarily psychological. This resonated with me, because I've often wondered, "Where did all the ulcers go." Everyone who was anyone in the professional world had one in the 1970s, then they disappeared overnight. Sarno believes this is because having an ulcer became synonymous with being worrywart which is again unacceptable in polite society.

His prescription is seemingly bizarre. You have to lay out all the things that have pissed you off in the past or are pissing you off now. If you can make an honest catalog of these issues and believe in your heart that they are the source of your back pain, your pain will magically go away. You don't even really have to address the underlying issue. You just need to acknowledge it.

I have to admit I felt like a schmuck recording every real or imagined ill that anyone had done to me, even though the exercise was done in private. It made me feel petty. I can also certainly understand why none of us are encouraged to share these issues with family or friends. It would irritate them!

Despite the fact that the exercise was uncomfortable, it worked. I rock climb, mountain bike, and ski. I do all of these aggressively for a 45 year old, and I have been free of back pain for almost 6 months now.

Despite Sarno's odd prescription, I would recommend reading the book if you have any chronic back pain. It worked for me!
Profile Image for Tom Stamper.
571 reviews24 followers
April 19, 2015
I suffered a back injury in 1998 and continued to suffer pain from it until 2005 when I read this book by Dr. Sarno. That's all it took. In fact, I don't think I read more than half the book and my pain was gone. When I say pain I mean there were days when I couldn't get out of bed or drive a car. The book stopped all of that and it took years before I felt any kind of pain again. Why? Because Sarno says that back pain is really a subconscious defense mechanism against stress. Once you consciously understand where the stress comes from the pain goes away.

Over the last ten years I would have some stiffness from time to time but no debilitating pain until last month when I was struck again. So much time had passed I couldn't remember why the book worked the first time and I couldn't locate my copy. After missing a day of work this week I purchased a digital copy and read it again. My back has felt better every day and I was strong enough today to lift weights at the YMCA.

Forget surgery or rehabilitation or medicine. Read this book.
Profile Image for Diane.
15 reviews
June 28, 2011
This book gave me the tools to save myself from the chronic pain that was destroying my quality of life. I'd recommend it to everyone who has chronic pain of any form. Deal with this component of the pain to find what damage or issues is left, so it can then be dealt with appropriately is what I've told my loved ones. Might be surprised just how much is related to this issue! I was willing to do ANYTHING to quit hurting... come to find out what I needed to do was read even if it wasn't with an open mind to start!
Profile Image for Gerard.
136 reviews15 followers
February 14, 2015
An eye opener, analyzing back pain and many other illnesses in a completely different and sensible perspective!
2 reviews1 follower
February 19, 2014
I wanted to find a place to shout out loud about this book and thank god for goodreads now i can do that!

First and foremost Dr. John Sarno is a god and I owe him my life, I would happily die for him. That being said here's my story:

I was diagnosed with DDD (Degenerative Disc Disease) only when i was 19 years of age, and i shook me to my core. I was devastated. The pain, the agony of back ache is beyond what I can describe, living in constant pain and unable to perform daily activities, its hopeless and more so for me because I had my entire life in front of me and I couldn't imagine living it in such pain. I was sick of the pain medication and my passion of working out had to be abandoned. I was devastated.

Then I stumbled upon this book and it changed my entire perception of pain. Soon it all made sense, more so because I wanted something to believe in and slowly it started to go away. I don't know if its placebo or whatever, I was feeling better and that's all i ever wanted.

Now, its been more than 2.5 year since I have finished this book and I can proudly say that i am pain-free still. I go to the gym daily and I play all sports and i do everyday activities with all the ease in the world. My life has been turned upside down.

If you are in any kind of chronic pain, this book is godsend, read it and transform your life...

Profile Image for Lindsay.
75 reviews25 followers
March 30, 2010
I got about 3/4 through this book and then moved and never picked it back up. However, the last 1/4 of the book are examples of diagnoses with Sarno's comments on its relevance to TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome). I gave the book 4 stars b/c I thought the last 1/4 was a bit redundant.

Sarno has many years of medical practice under his belt. And, thankfully, he has gone beyond textbooks and rote exercises and linked the conditions of the mind with back-pain. I do like how he has made this link. I don't 100% support his suggestion that all patients push past their pain to not be crippled by TMS. I understand that he is suggesting not becoming victims to our mind conditions. However, if oxygen is not getting to muscles in the back -- how about a massage, or good, living food, and then some movement!?

I also found this book especially helpful considering that I am a yoga teacher. He identifies key areas to test for TMS in the body. Of course, I am not going to diagnose people; at least I know what to look for.

It's a good and easy read. And, for those of you with chronic back pain -- let Sarno set you free!
Profile Image for Sherri Obermark.
Author 3 books8 followers
February 18, 2015
Healing Back Pain is absolutely correct in describing low-back pain, and other forms of chronic pain as being tension-based, and it is created from the subconscious mind (autonomic nervous system).

I felt that this was my problem as soon as I read it, but after reading this book, and several others of Dr. Sarno's books, I was no closer to understanding how to treat it.

It took a while, but I developed a method for breaking the cycle of pain and managing negative emotions. I was pain-free in less than two months, after two decades of debilitating low-back, plantar fasciitis, and sciatica pain. My method is safe, painless and effective.

Sherri
172 reviews2 followers
June 3, 2022
Read it years ago when I suffered the worst of back pain due to a herniation in one of my discs. Fast forward 4 years now, I'm almost pain free. I still get back pain during that time of the month, or when I carry heavy stuff, but nothing as serious as it used to be. I almost believed doctors who told me that I wouldn't be able to function as I used to due to my back's "injury" and I even thought I wouldn't be able to walk if I lived my life normally. May god bless Dr. Sarno for this book because it really changed my life to the best, thank good I read it when I needed it the most.
Profile Image for Deirdre Keating.
728 reviews48 followers
November 24, 2008
I don't suffer from back pain, thankfully, but the ideas here apply to several forms of cronic pain. Interesting theory that I might dismiss if I didn't know of so many people who felt it helped them.
Profile Image for Alison.
5 reviews
January 18, 2017
Changed my life. After 9 1/2 years of chronic pain, I no longer suffer. I feel like my old self again. I have my body back! It didn't happen overnight. Took at least half of the year to fully accept and internalize. But Now I'm just as strong as I was 10 years ago!
121 reviews1 follower
December 30, 2013
I'm pretty sure this book will change my life and ultimately have a larger impact on me than anything I've ever read. When that happens, in 4-6 weeks, I'll go back and up the rating to a 5.
Profile Image for Illiterate.
1,637 reviews28 followers
July 30, 2020
Yes, pain can have a mental component. But Sarno offers no systematic evidence for his particular theories. Are they even falsifiable?
Profile Image for Amy.
Author 1 book1,029 followers
May 7, 2021
Looking for your next great read? Check out all my book reviews on MomAdvice and join our Patreon community for loads of bonus bookish fun.

I have been using an app, called Curable, to help manage chronic pain. Although I was familiar with Sarno’s work, I had never been curious enough to read his book until this year.

Although this is targeted to back pain, in particular, the principles can apply to so many areas of the body and how the mind-body connection comes into play.

Through his work, he shares how many of our beliefs about chronic pain are false and that much of this is related to muscle tension from repressed emotion that can be solved through a process of reframing the source of our pain and the unnecessary steps we can become distracted by when finding the source of it all.

If you find value in this book, I would definitely take the time to download the Curable app because it puts the ideas of this philosophy into a digestible format.
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 4 books11 followers
August 3, 2020
What a great easy-to-read book. I know people who have simply read this book and their pain disappeared. Short and snappy read. Ground breaking ideas which have proven to have helped thousands, if not millions, of people. This book moves beyond the scope of just how the mind affects the back and will provide valuable information to those with auto immune dysfunction and a myriad of other conditions.
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