Chronic back pain and the mind body experience


I had always been in pretty good shape with no real health issues. I was active, ate well, slept well, exercised and led a full life. I owned a company, was in a relationship and made a very good living. In 2004 I started to have lower back issues. As 2005 approached those issues escalated to the point where I couldn't sleep for more then an hour at a time. I couldn't sleep in my bed, I couldn't sleep on the floor. I couldn't get in or out of my car, let alone go to the gym. I have great respect for the medical profession. I saw first hand how my Dad's cardiologist helped him live to 94 years of age. But I was never a big proponent of going to doctors for a back issue. Too many friends and associates were recommended back surgery that ultimately did not solve the problem. A year to two years later , they were told the first surgery helped but another surgery was recommended to really solve the problem. That was not for me.  In 2005, having not been to the gym in many months, my trainer called and suggested I make an appointment with a Dr. John Sarno. He said this was not what I might expect... this was a doctor who had novel ideas and alternative options when it came to back pain.

Desperate for relief, I made an appointment to see Dr. Sarno at the Rusk Institute in NYC.  It was a meeting that changed my life. After giving me a physical examination, Dr. Sarno brought me to his office and pulled out a blank piece of paper, drew a horizontal line across the middle and proceeded to explain that above the line is the conscious mind, and below is the unconscious mind. And in the unconscious mind there's a lot going on... there can be feelings of anger, rage, resentment. These emotions could stem from childhood experiences, life's pressure, relationships, etc. In an effort to prevent these negative emotions from breaking through to the conscious mind. The brain inflicts pain to an area of the body to keep your mind on the pain rather then the anger or rage. Dr. Sarno said the pain is real... It's not imagined. But rather then a structural abnormality,  the symptoms are caused by mild oxygen deprivation. It's similar to a spasm. He explained this is not dangerous and does not damage the involved tissue, nerve, muscle or tendon. He recommended to accept that emotional things are entirely responsible for the pain. The purpose of the symptoms (pain, numbness, tingling, etc) is to protect you from those painful, sometimes dangerous feelings by keeping them out of the conscious mind. It does this by keeping your attention focused on your physical body. But by learning about those hidden feelings sends a message to your brain that says, "I appreciate what you did to protect me from those feelings in my unconscious mind, but I know about them now, so I don't need your help anymore; YOU CAN STOP THE PAIN." Dr. Sarno advised to speak this out loud when experiencing pain and correlate it to something that might be going on in my life that could be the cause. I consider myself a pretty conservative, conventional person. This concept might ordinarily have been too far "out of the box" for me to embrace. But for some reason, perhaps because of an unpleasant situation that was going on in my life at the time, I locked right into it.  I followed Dr. Sarno's instructions, I kept a journal, I would vocalize his mantra and sure enough the back pain vanished.  Every now and then, I'd get a flare up. I automatically knew it was in my head... I'd vocalize the mantra with complete conviction, and the pain would disappear sometimes in seconds.  Dr. Sarno, for me was a genius. A rare trailblazer. I was pleasantly surprised to come across this article that reinforces all he did for me and thousands of others. We should never underestimate the power of the mind... or the possibilities of alternative solutions.

Read more about Dr. John Sarno's work here:


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