Dr. John Sarno: Back Pain Physician

When patients first experience back pain, most doctors are very conservative in the way they treat the patient, knowing that the condition will go away on its own, in most cases. When acute back pain symptoms don't resolve on their own, doctors then focus on the area of the back where the pain originates. After one or more diagnostic tests, doctors choose a treatment program appropriate to the area of the spine where damage has occurred. This sounds like a very good approach to the treatment of a patient's pain condition, right? Not so fast says Dr. John Sarno of New York, USA.

To treat back pain, most doctors focus on finding the anatomical problems in a person's spine and treating them accordingly. In some cases, the anatomical instability or lesions in the spine may be fixed through physical therapy, and in other cases, surgery must be performed to remove the cause of the problem that is putting pressure on the spinal ligaments. Dr. Sarno has another belief. He believes that all people have some problems in their back due to age related changes in the body. Anatomical abnormalities in the spine, such as degenerative disc disease and facet joint arthritis, do not separate the people who have back pain and those that don't. Dr. Sarno proposes that a variety of pain problems are triggered by the mind. Dr. Sarno first published his innovative theories in the book entitled, "The Mind Body Prescription".

We all deal with stress at some point in our lives. Some people deal with stress more frequently than others, and some people deal with stress more severely. Some people have learned natural coping mechanisms that they can use when encountering stressful situations. The way we internalize stress and cope with it may affect our physical body in more ways than one.



Stress can make any ailment worse. Did you ever consider the possibility that stress, or more specifically tension, could be causing your episodes of back pain? Dr. John Sarno (MD), professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at New York University, has been featured on ABC's TV newsmagazine "20/20" as a savior to celebrities suffering from lifelong attacks of back pain. Celebrity advocates of Dr. Sarno's ideas and treatment philosophies include Andrew Weil MD, Howard Stern, John Stossel, and Dr. Oz Mehmet (Dr Oz), Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Anne Bankroft.

Dr. Sarno recommends that patients with back pain and symptoms of fibromyalgia would be much better served from receiving psychotherapy, not invasive back treatments such as narcotics or back surgery. He says that we all have herniated discs, and that this is not the reason why our backs hurt. Sarno believes that most people are in pain because of a condition known as Tension myositis syndrome (TMS) - also known as tension myoneural syndrome. TMS advocates and physicians do not believe that back pain is all in your imagination. In fact, Dr. Sarno very much believes that the symptoms of back and neck pain, for example, is quite real. Instead, he proposes that the medical community doesn't understand how the mind can trigger imbalances in circulation or tension that can in turn create real clinical problems and symptoms.

Patients that may find relief under the guidance of a TMS physician may include those patients with obvious conditions such as herniated discs as well as those cases that stump spine physicians. Cases that stump spine physicians include those in which a physical examination, blood testing, and medical imaging don't provide a clear-cut problem for the doctors to fix. In these cases that stump the spine experts, patients often have found no back relief despite traditional treatments designed to help them. Patients who have exhausted other resources may want to read "The Mind Body Prescription", or his other books, including "The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders" and Mind Over Back Pain.

Dr. Sarno's ideas about the cause of pain evolved during observations in his clinical practice that the conventional treatments of his day were leaving so many people still in pain. He observed that physical therapy helped some people and not others. Why? Eventually he discovered that the source of pain was tension in the muscles and myofascia brought on by emotional distress. Dr. Sarno eventually came to believe that tension or anger can be a trigger for things like back pain and headache because he suffered from migraine headaches. Dr. Sarno was able to prevent the onset of his own migraine headaches simply by thinking about what caused them.