John Sarno, M.D.
Doctors of western-based healthcare systems and alternative therapy are divided over the role of the mind and its association with back pain. Some back pain specialists are only concerned with treating the structural problems associated with back pain, and some doctors are more likely to recommend against any invasive treatments of back pain (surgery, trigger point injections) in favor of approaches that favor stress relieving approaches to managing back pain. One of the doctors in favor of the mind approach to treating back pain is Dr. John Sarno. Dr Sarno is the author of books such as The MindBody Prescription and Mind Over back pain. Dr. Sarno began his career as a typical MD practitioner of back medicine, prescribing medications, physical therapy, pain injections, or back surgery when appropriate. Over the course of several years and many perplexing observations, Dr. Sarno began wondering why some patients responded well to medications and physical therapy and some did not. There seemed to be no way how to predict treatment outcomes based on the type of back pain the person had and the particular treatment prescribed to them. Dr. Sarno began to look at some of the similarities between all back pain patients. Was there a small category of factors that were responsible for the majority of back pain cases, and if so, were there treatment alternatives available to patients other than the most common ones already out there?
After years of research, Dr. Sarno concluded that rather than muscle weakness and degenerative joints being the primary cause of back pain, more often than not emotional and psychological factors were the primary influence. The theory that the majority of back pain cases have psychosomatic origins is met with skepticism by most doctors of modern medicine, and most doctors don't believe it. But Dr. Sarno's ideas are becoming adopted by more doctors every year, and Dr. Sarno reports very high success rates among his own patients that practice his treatments. Dr. Sarno has successfully treated many high profile patients, including Howard Stern, broadcast journalist John Stossel, author Janette Barber, and Anne Bancroft.
Dr. Sarno identifies patients who have back pain and the typical symptoms of arthritis as a result of emotional origins as having "Tension Myositis Syndrome" or TMS. TMS patients may not have any overt signs of a clinically apparent psychological problem, but many have inner emotional pain that manifest themselves in the clinical symptom of back pain. Dr. Sarno began sharply focusing on using psychological treatments to treat back pain patients thought to have TMS. Many of Sarno's patients had subtle or apparent anger, rage, major stress as a result of recent events in their lives of painful memories. The theory was that by resolving some of these stress or anger issues, the patient would begin to experience significant back pain relief. Common personality traits of people in this group were highly ambitious individuals, those who were their own worst critics, and those who exhibited compulsive traits.
In order to diagnose TMS, Dr. Sarno would first rule out organic causes of back pain. Next, he would identify the features of TMS to check for anger issues, anger, or repressed emotions. After diagnosing TMS, Dr. Sarno would take a multi-disciplinary approach towards the patients confronting difficult painful issues and learning how to decrease the amount of stress in their life