Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection

Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection View on Amazon
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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 causesWith 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.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Life & Style; Reprint edition (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446557684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446557689
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces

Customer Reviews

Worth a look.

 November 7, 2002
By 2bluesky2

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.

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 Spinal Stenosis. Good luck!

Still doing great after five years!

 May 29, 2004
By Teresa Medeiros "New York Times Bestseller"

I like to check in every now and then with my progress and I have to say that since reading this book and implementing its suggestions in 1999, I have been free of back pain for five years. I NEVER take it for granted. I biked 35 miles just today without so much as a twinge. I had suffered with back pain for ten years after being attacked by a combative patient at work (I was a psych nurse) so it was pretty much a miracle to stumble on Dr. Sarno’s book and his theories. I’m an incredibly practical person who tends to pooh-pooh a lot of holistic medicine, but these theories are based on common sense. If I ever feel even a twinge of discomfort, usually re-reading the Prologue is enough to make me better. Thank you, Dr. Sarno, for changing my life!

Start here…period

 April 1, 2002
By David P. Ellis

If you’re like me and thousands (millions?) of others who suffer from back pain and other ailments (e.g., sciatica, “tennis elbow”, even frequent urination and skin rashes), this book is a literal lifesaver.

I first learned about Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS), the name Dr. Sarno gave to this condition, in 1999 when Dr. Sarno appeared on Larry King Live. At that time, I had been suffering from chronic low back pain for a decade. I first developed it my junior year in college and had back pain off and on since. Because I was a military officer at the time when it was most severe, I was afforded exceptional healthcare and offered every possible treatment at the U.S. government’s expense. However, no amount of treatment – physical therapy, chiropractic care, exercising/stretching, acupuncture, etc. – could free me of my debilitating pain. That is, until I discovered Dr. Sarno’s diagnosis.

By the time I read Dr. Sarno’s book, I had every known type of imagery done to determine the root of my low back pain – MRI, CT, X-ray, etc. Still, nothing was conclusive, so once I learned through Dr. Sarno’s book the pain could simply be a phyiscal reaction to emotional pain, the diagnosis made perfect sense to me and was easy to believe. Within days of reading the book, I was cured. Amazing.

Unfortunately, I still have bouts with TMS, sometimes severe bouts. As such, I continue to seek out a permanent cure for my problem. Dr. Sarno’s book helped me put the pain in perspective and regain control of my life. However, it has not been able to rid me of TMS all together. He suggests psychotherapy if TMS persists, but I live in South Korea and do not have that as an option. Nonetheless, I am at least relieved to know I haven’t caused any real injury to my back. I can thus go about my business and simply manage the pain as it arrives. Thank you, Dr. Sarno, thank you.

Incidentally, before I close, I should mention many people rave about Fred Amir’s book “Rapid Recovery from Back Pain”. I too have that book, but I have not found it that helpful (see my review). Regardless, whatever answers you seek beyond this book, don’t do so until you’ve started here. Dr. Sarno’s book is the foundation for any further help you may seek.


I am writing to reaffirm how wonderful this book truly is. I am very happy to report I have had literally no back pain in nearly two years now. None. My treatment? Nothing other than reading Dr. Sarno’s book. That’s it. Please, folks, do yourself a favor. Give this book a try. I exaggerate not when I say that reading this paperback alone can free you of pain forever. I’m living proof.

Learning to read might be the first emotional problem to overcome

 October 10, 2008
By James E. Carruth

I was sort of amazed that at least five reviewers here knocked Dr. Sarno’s book because they couldn’t find a method in the book to follow. For example:

“I read it, and it didn’t change a thing. And there is no description of the actual method.”

“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.”

“Be warned — there’s no actual treatment plan in this book.”

“He doesn’t tell you how to heal it (as the title suggests), but rather tries to drum into you the idea that you may, indeed, have his syndrome. After which you discover that the only way to heal it is through workshops/videos/personal consultations.”

“There’s not one thing about his program. I certainly wouldn’t have purchased it if I knew this wasn’t his actual program, just a sales pitch for it. This was a waste of money.”

While other reviewers’ critiques consisted of (inaccurately) boiling the method down to something like “If you’re in pain, ask yourself what you’re angry about and you will be healed.”

Well class, if you will kindly turn to page 70 in the book, as the table of contents suggests, here you will find the step-by-step method outlined under the unambiguously titled chapter called, “The treatment of TMS.” Here are the steps, edited for brevity, for those of you who missed it, or haven’t quite got the hang of learning how to read yet:

© 1991 by John E. Sarno, M.D. Text quoted under fair use copyright law. No infringement is intended.

The treatment program rests on two pillars:

1. The acquisition of knowledge of insight into the nature of the disorder.

2. The ability to act on that knowledge, and thereby change the brain’s behavior. So, one must learn all about TMS. What actually causes the pain, and what part of the brain is responsible. Then one reviews the psychology of the disorder. The fact that we all tend to generate anger and anxiety in this culture, and that the more compulsive and perfectionistic of us generate a lot.

3. What one must then do is develop the habit of “thinking psychological, instead of physical.” I suggest to patients that when they find themselves being aware of the pain, they must consciously and forcefully shift their attention to something psychological. Perhaps, something they are worried about. A chronic family or financial problem. A recurrent source of irritation. Anything in the psychological realm. That sends a message to the brain that they are no longer deceived by the pain. When that message reaches the depths of the mind – the unconscious – the pain ceases.

4. Talk to your brain. What one is doing is consciously taking charge, instead of feeling the helpless, intimidated victim which is so common in people with this syndrome. The person is asserting himself, telling the brain that he is not going to put up with this state of affairs. And it works. Patients report that they can actually abort an episode of pain by doing this.

5. Resume all physical activity, including the most vigorous. Though it is often difficult, every patient has to work through his or her fear and return to full, normal physical activity. One must do this to liberate oneself from the fear of physical activity, which is often more effective than pain in keeping one’s mind focused on the body. That is the purpose of TMS, to keep the mind from attending to emotional things. As Snoopy, the great contemporary philosopher once said, “There’s nothing like a little physical pain to keep your mind off your emotional problems.” I suggest to patients that they begin the process of resuming physical activity when they experience a significant reduction in pain, and when they are feeling confident about the diagnosis. One has to confront TMS – fight it – or the symptoms will continue. Losing one’s fear and resuming normal physical activity is possibly the most important part of the therapeutic process.

6. All forms of physical treatment or therapy must be abandoned. Conceptually, prescribing physical therapy contradicts what we have found to be the only rational way to treat the problem. That is, by teaching and through education, invalidating the process where it begins – in the mind.

7. Review these 12 key thoughts at least once a day:

1. The pain is due to TMS, not to a structural abnormality.
2. The direct reason for the pain is mild oxygen deprivation.
3. TMS is a harmless condition caused by my repressed emotions.
4. The principal emotion is my repressed anger.
5. TMS exists only to distract my attention from the emotions.
6. Since my back is basically normal, there is nothing to fear.
7. Therefore, physical activity is not dangerous.
8. And I must resume all normal physical activity.
9. I will not be concerned or intimidated by the pain.
10. I will shift my attention from the pain to emotional issues.
11. I intend to be in control, not my unconscious mind.
12. I must think psychological at all times, not physical.

Patients are then urged to give this information an opportunity to “sink in,” to be integrated, to be accepted at an unconscious level. Conscious acceptance, though essential as a first step, is not sufficient to reverse the TMS.

It Works

 December 10, 1999
By Jonathan Hayes "Jaze"

It’s apparent that the Amazon.com reviewer didn’t read the book thoroughly, which is unfortunate. My lifestyle and career were seriously threatened by incapacitating back pain. I read Sarno’s book, and found it compelling enough to go on and take his course. Three years on, I’m back pain free. I know a handful of people who’ve been helped by the book alone, but it’s certainly true that the course is very effective, which validates his theories, which invalidates the vast majority of other back pain books. For what it’s worth, I’m an allopathic physician (MD) with significant orthopedic surgery experience.

Update: June 20, 2010 – still back-pain free! Thank you, Dr. Sarno!!!

Dr. Sarno’s insights are profound!

 December 7, 1999

After 20 years of excrutiating back pain, I’m curred. As I was reading Dr. Sarno’s book I found myself identifying with his patients and with his diagnosis. I read the book very closely, trying not to miss any details and applying his recovery techniques as I’m reading and my back pain started subsiding before I finished the book. I still had to work with his suggested techniques another week before I had my pain completely under my conscious control. I also had severe foot pain from plantar facitis and had stopped running three years ago, but thanks to Dr. Sarno’s book, I have no more foot pain and have resumed my running program. I have been seen by many medical doctors for years for my problems and none could ever help me. I was on the verge of getting surgury for my feet and am so glad I didn’t do that. I now realize that I must deal with the emotional issues as they arise every day in my life no matter how insignificant they may seem, but to continue in the same old attitude of denial and subjugation of my rightful feelings can only bring me more of the same, pain and misery directed at my own body from my subconscious mind. I am a believer in Dr. Sarno’s theories. Thanks so much for your wonderful book.

In pain? Read this book!

 January 11, 2000
By Joel Friedlander

I was debilitated by severe back pain early in 1999, a repetition of a problem I had in 1987. Over the years, I accommodated to the pain, limiting many of my activities. I would often have to take some time off to “lay down” to relieve occasional attacks. Then this year I was laid low by extreme pain in my legs radiating from the lower back.

An MRI and the diagnosis of 2 leading neurosurgeons confirmed the existence of 2 herniated disks, several bulging disks and spinal stenosis. Both recommended surgery, but I was hesitant. Even though I could not drive, sit up, or function in any normal way, I resisted the surgery. I was taking painkillers, anitinflammatories and doing physical therapy, but getting no better. None of the healthcare professionsl I queried would admit to knowing Sarno or anything about his ideas–what a shame.

After seeing Sarno on 20/20 I bought the book and recognized myself in his description of the typical back pain sufferer. I started to apply the ideas in his book that day, and started getting better immediately. After 4 weeks I was basically pain-free and after 8 weeks I felt I had recovered to my earlier level of health.

Now, 9 months later, I’m more active and in better shape than in the last 10 years, and feel 20 years younger. If you can get your mind to go along for a few weeks, this book will change your life for the better. Not least of all, you will feel that you really can influence your back pain syndrome, instead of being a passive victin. Try it!

Dr. Sarno is a Genius!

 March 4, 2000
By erik scott

If your back hurts, buy this book… now.

I have suffered from chronic back pain for the last 13 years, after having pain from powerlifting and being diagnosed with a ruptured L5-S1 disk. I also have a spina bifida occulta in my sacrum.

In those 13 years I have tried chiropractic therapy, stretching, exercises, heat, ice, nutritional supplements, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, special chairs and shoes, facet joint injections, physical therapy, anti-depressants, surgery (laminectomy in 1991), scar-removal procedure (2 yrs ago), and even daily high dose narcotic painkiller for over a year. The pain ALWAYS came back. It even started spreading to my hips and right shoulder over the past 2 yrs.

I found this book about a month ago when I woke up in pain yet again, even though I had been stretching and exercising every day. There was no logical reason for the pain, and that’s when I decided to figure out what was really going on.

I found this book by Dr. Sarno and over the past month, the pain has gone away completely. I have never felt better.

Once you understand how the brain and nervous system function, you can begin to take control of the situation.

For those suffering back (or any other) pain, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I would recommend reading this book before going on to Sarno’s “Mind-Body Prescription”. I don’t think I would have understood the info. in “MBP” as readily if I haven’t read “Healing Back Pain” first. Read them both though.

Once you are pain-free, you will again see the world as your oyster.

I can’t praise this book by Dr. Sarno enough

 April 1, 2005
By Allan J. Masison

At 70 years of age I became progressively worse in terms of pain.

What started as back pain was diagnosed from an MRI as spinal stenosis (friction of the spinal cord from growth of the vertebrae narrowing the canal that the spinal cord passes through). Then I had severe pain of sciatica in both legs. Then I lost most of my strength in both legs which was diagnosed as being caused by motor nerve impingement from the spinal stenosis. I walked with a cane and then only for a few feet at a time. I was anticipating that I might spend the rest of my life in a wheel chair.

My only hope was back surgery. I scheduled surgery at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for a lamenectomy (removal of a portion of the vertebrae) of S-4 and S-5 to relive the pain. Hopefully I would be free of pain and able to walk normally again.

Then I read Dr. Sarnos’s book, Healing Back Pain, the Mind-Body Connection.

I was then examined by a TMS physician in Sandwich, MA who reviewed the MRI. He assured me that the pain was from TMS (emotionally induced) and that there was no structural cause of the pain.

In a short time I recovered 80%. I started to walk without a cane. I cancelled the surgery. It took a few months to gradually recover to 100%.

Since then I have been completely pain free. I am physically able to do whatever I want to do again. I can run, climb stairs at two at a time and, to my joy, I can ski again.

In my opinion, Dr. Sarno does a great job in describing his theory of TMS pain (oxygen deprivation to muscles and nerves caused by constriction of the blood vessels as the result of tension and stress) and treatments of the pain.

He acknowledges that the pain is very real and intense. It is not “all in one’s head.” In particular, he covers the misdiagnosis by the medical profession of the cause of back pain (structural instead of stress or anxiety).

He also provides an excellent section in his book for the reader on how to treat TMS pain. I recommend this book highly. It certainly made an incredible difference in the quality of my life.

Looking over this review, it looks like someone’s fantasy. It is all true.

If you would like to know about Dr. Sarno back pain support groups or if you would like a list of TMS physicians, please send me an email.

Get rid of back pain – FOREVER

 October 16, 2006
By Sridhar Hariharan

UPDATE: May 2010. Its over 3.5 years since my review..I have stopped thinking about my back completely (like how it should it be). Not a single day of back pain. I hope this helps everyone like it helped me.

Hello All. I am 29 currently and I have had backpain on and off for over 9 years now. After a particularly nasty back spasm at the gym 2 years back ( where I could hardly walk), I was getting desparate. I looked at physiotherapy,and briefly at some other forms of exercise. I could not find lasting results anywhere and then I came across this book. It was god send. I read it in couple of hours flat. Re-read it next day. Thought a lot about what the author suggests are reasons behind the pain. It is generated from within and the cure also should come from within us. Anyone who thinks that cure CAN ONLY come from outside is going to be looking for a cure, the rest of their lives. I analyzed the book ( I am an engineer) and trusted the book.
The remedy is stright forward and easy. Just read the book. Its not any black magic or pills or wierd exercises.

For me the pain stopped the same week I read it. It has been over 2 years now. I exercise every single day running for over an hour. I just returned from a 2 week back packing carrying very heavy load on my back for 15 straight days. I have done road trips driving for 10+ hours a days. All of these with absolutely no back pain. On particularly exhausting days, pain would last one night like it should and disappear next morning. I have not woken up feeling pain in the back for 2 years now.

I know for sure that I will NOT get the kind of back pains I got for past 9 years. I know it because I have found the cause and cure. After understanding the book, I know why my friends are developing back pains i.e. the timing of their back pain. I can almost predict it for some people, given their nature plus events surrounding them.I try to help the open minded one’s. The one’s that complain the loudest usually are not looking for a cure, they would rather have the attention, I guess. But I was embarassed by the pain and wanted a 1 time solution for the rest of my life – And that has what Dr. Sarno has given me. And for that, I cannot thank him enough.

Most treatments start at around $500 or $1000 and those are the cheap one’s. And here is a $10 solution for life. To me its a no brainer. Best of luck to all of you and wish you great health.

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