Sarno Believed Our Brain Used Pain To Distract Us From Experiencing Negative Emotions
Lower back pain is among the chief reasons people go to see a doctor in the US, and nearly a third of American adults say theyve been afflicted. The US spends approximately $90 billion a year on back pain more than the annual expenditures on high blood pressure, pregnancy and postpartum care, and depression and that doesnt include the estimated $10 billion to $20 billion in back pain-related lost productivity.
Doctors have overwhelmingly failed people with back pain. Many of the most popular treatments on offer bed rest, spinal surgery, opioid painkillers, steroid injections have been proven ineffective in the majority of cases, and sometimes downright harmful. Only in the past couple of years, with the rise of the opioid epidemic, has the medical establishment begun to acknowledge this failure and suggest people explore alternatives for their sore backs.
Enter John Sarno. A specialist in rehabilitation medicine, he had very different notions about the causes of back pain than his medical peers. Sarno was most active during the 1980s and 90s, a time when back discomfort was thought to arise mainly in the presence a mechanical problem . Instead, he argued the painwas actually the result of a psychosomatic process and emotional factors.
He also thought that pain was created by reduced oxygen and blood flow to the muscles and nerves of the body. So our brains unconsciously direct blood away from certain areas of our body, and that creates pain.
Healing Back Pain.
Common Terms And Phrases
Take A Leap And Read This
Although the psychology here isnt as sophisticated as modern psychology is, this book still resonates. If you feel stuck in chronic pain and have tried many avenues – if you are tired of feeling more and limited physically and like you cant do things you enjoy – then read this book and see if it resonates. Game changer.
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What People Are Saying
So after nearly an entire lifetime of no back issues, bang I was hit with sciatica. Ouch. No pain in the back really but a lot down the leg supposedly caused by the back. So I embarked upon the …Read full review
I’m not even done with this book yet but it’s already helped me. The statistic that blew me away was that nearly all severe back pain is found in people between the ages of 30 and 60. Not young people …Read full review
Pain Often Starts In The Brain
The idea is now mainstream that a substantial proportion of people can be helped by rethinking the causes of their pain, said Tor Wager, a neuroscience professor at Dartmouth College and the director of its Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab. But thats different than the idea that your unresolved relationship with your mother is manifesting as pain.
Dr. Wager said most scientists now believe that pain isnt always something that starts in the body and is sensed by the brain it can be a disease in and of itself.
Approximately 85 percent of back pain and 78 percent of headaches dont have an identifiable trigger, yet few scientists would say that all or even most chronic pain is purely psychological. There are also social and biological reasons for pain. In most people, its some confluence of the three, said Daniel Clauw, a professor of anesthesiology, medicine and psychiatry at the University of Michigan and the director of its Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center. Im sorry, there are a bunch of people for whom Sarnos method isnt going to work.
Today, a similar approach to Dr. Sarnos method is emotional awareness and expression theory, in which patients identify and express emotions theyve been avoiding. Its not only been shown to significantly lower pain in people with fibromyalgia and chronic musculoskeletal pain, its also considered a best practice for treating chronic pain by the Department of Health and Human Services.
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Statistical Studies Of Tms Treatment
Sarno’s books describe two follow-up surveys of his TMS patients. The first in 1982 interviewed 177 patients selected randomly from those Sarno treated in the preceding three years. 76 percent stated that they were leading normal and effectively pain-free lives. A second follow-up study in 1987 restricted the population surveyed to those with herniated discs identified on CT-scans, and 88% of the 109 randomly selected patients stated that they were free of pain one to three years after TMS treatment.
In 2007, David Schechter published a peer-reviewed study of TMS treatment showing a 54% reduction in the average pain intensity scores for a cohort of 51 chronic back pain patients, whose average pain duration before the study was 9 years. In terms of statistical significance and success rate, the study outperformed similar studies of other psychological interventions for chronic back pain.
Notable patients of Sarno include radio personalities Howard Stern and Tom Scharpling, comedian Larry David, actress Anne Bancroft, filmmaker Terry Zwigoff,20/20 co-anchor John Stossel, television writer , and Sopranos actor Michael Imperioli. Many of them have praised Sarno and his work highly. Stern dedicated his first book in part to Sarno. Stern, David, and Stossel are featured in a documentary about Sarno.
Lessons From Healing Back Pain By Dr John Sarno: Part 2
This is the second part of a story that started here. In case you missed the beginning, Ive been writing about the things I learned when I read Healing Back Pain by Dr John Sarno. This book was revolutionary in my life and set me firmly on the path to thinking about my pain differently. It was the foundation piece in how I learned to live without pain and Im so excited to share my insights with you.
6: The conditioning behind pain
Healing Back Pain explains how we can become conditioned to believe that a certain activity or even person or time of year or place can cause pain.
If, for example, you got up from a chair one day and felt a twinge in your lower back, its possible that your brain might associate sitting with being the cause of your pain. Your brain comes to expect that you will feel pain every time you sit and so you do. Without even realising it, we create habits that dont serve us well and that can be really tricky to break, especially if we arent aware of whats happening in the first place. The power of conditioning can be so strong that we can even be conditioned by things that people tell us or that we read which makes it even trickier to break the bad habits!
Dr Sarno and other authors Ive read subsequently cite many fascinating examples of how conditioning contributes to pain. It seems we might be more similar to Pavlovs dogs than many of us might want to believe!
7: The influence of personality
8: Healing starts with awareness
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Sarno Got Some Things Right
Its now mainstream to view chronic back pain as a biopsychosocial condition meaning biological factors may play a role but psychological and social factors can too. Researchers have found, for example, that people who are under stress or are prone to depression, catastrophizing, and anxiety tend to suffer more with chronic back pain, as do those who have histories of trauma in their early lives or poor job satisfaction.
Was the first person to discover the mind-body connection? Of course not, said Schubiner. But Sarno popularized it .
A new understanding of pain, commonly referred to as central sensitization, is also gaining traction. The basic idea is that in some people who have ongoing pain, there are changes that occur between the body and brain that heighten pain sensitivity to the point where even things that normally dont hurt are perceived as painful. That means some people with chronic low back pain may actually be suffering from malfunctioning pain signals. So again, its whats going on in the mind that matters for their pain, more so than whats going on in their bodies.
Now, this doesnt mean everybodys back pain has a psychological root cause. It also doesnt mean the mechanism Sarno suggested decreased blood flow created by the brain has been validated, or that its repressed emotions that hurt people. But Sarno was ahead of the science with his broader mind-body approach.
Lessons From Healing Back Pain By Dr John Sarno: Part 1
Along my journey to becoming a life coach and working with people who struggle with chronic pain and other trauma after effects, I came across several books and resources that helped me change my life. My intention with this blog is to share some of these with you. Learning about how other people transformed their lives inspires me and helps me stay on the path of pain-free living. I hope sharing these resources and stories about my healing will spark some magic for you on your journey to live without pain too.
Please note that my posts are not meant to be formal reviews of any of the resources. My goal is simply to share with you my biggest learning nuggets and how they helped me. In most cases, this probably involves making the material a whole lot simpler than any of the creators intended. Any mistakes I make along the way to simplifying the material enough for me to understand and communicate easily are all mine and I beg forgiveness. I have no intent to offend!
Theres so much meaty stuff in my first resource, Healing Back Pain, that I decided rather than skimping on the magic, Id write this in two parts. Read on for my first 5 learning nuggets in this post theres more over here when youre ready.
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Pain Can Take On A Life Of Its Own
But how does the brain cause chronic pain in the first place? Dr. Sarnos theory that our brain uses pain to distract us from negative emotions by cutting off blood flow to the muscles is not backed up by science, according to Dr. Wager.
Instead of blood flow, scientists now look to the nervous system to understand chronic pain that isnt caused by nerve or tissue damage. Basically, your brain circuitry malfunctions, prolonging, amplifying and possibly even creating pain.
Dr. Wager said we dont fully understand the mechanisms of this, but we do know that stressors can promote inflammation in the spinal cord and brain, which is linked to greater pain sensations. Early adversity, such as child abuse, economic hardship, violence and neglect, has also been linked to chronic pain.
Many Doctors Still Think Sarnos Views On Back Pain Are Off
Back pain researchers and doctors generally didnt find Sarno convincing and many still dont. Andrea Furlan, a psychiatrist who has published numerous systematic reviews on back pain, says the big problem with Sarnos approach was that it was too one-size-fits-all. Some peoples back pain may be exacerbated by emotional problems or stress, but not everyones. I think it is a mistake to generalize to all people with back pain, Furlan said.
Blaming this all on repressed emotions is a pretty narrow view of psychological contributors to pain, Oregons Chou added. It ignores a lot of what we understand now about changes that occur centrally in persons with chronic pain. For example, we now have MRI studies showing that people with chronic pain have different areas of their brain light up when they are exposed to painful stimuli.
Sarno had no interest in seeing brain MRIs, said Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, author of the book Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery. He was actually very limited in his scope … until his last days, stuck in a Freudian mindset, viewing what was going on with patients as evidence of psychological problems rather than neurological problems.
But there are some things Sarno got right, Schubiner added. The science is catching up to Dr. Sarno.
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Sarno Helped Me Reclaim My Life
I only wish I could personally thank this doctor for his true study towards this awful and painful condition. Thank you Dr. Sarno for making my life better and educating me so that I can see the truth and root cause of my back pain which was not ever discussed by any other Doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist and its 2016 for cripes sake! I was desperate to know more about how the mind affects the body. I had suffered from anxiety and depression. My severe back pain kept me from being able to exercise regularly because I was dealing with excruciating pain. I do have a large herniated disc and the doctors expected that I would be in severe pain. I’m 32 years old and have a perfectionist/ people pleasing personality. I was at to very bottom of the barrel, praying and asking God to help me with this pain. I some how found it on iBooks and couldn’t stop reading it. This book made so much sense to me and truly has changed my life to understand the true root core of the problem which is unfortunately not accepted because there is no money to be made for the treatment.
I Have To Believe This Book Cured My Pain
Every time someone tells me their backs been giving them trouble, I lower my voice before launching into my spiel: I swear Im not woo-woo, but
Let me rewind a bit. For more than a decade, I had a near-constant throbbing in my left piriformis, a small muscle deep in the butt. I tried treating it with physical therapy, ultrasound and Botox injections. At one point, I even considered surgery to cut the muscle in half in order to decompress the sciatic nerve that runs underneath.
Then, in 2011, I picked up a library copy of the 1991 best seller Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection. It claimed that, in order to distract the sufferer from repressed anxiety, anger or feelings of inferiority, the brain creates pain in the neck, shoulders, back and butt by decreasing blood flow to the muscles and nerves.
The books author, Dr. John Sarno, was a rehabilitation physician at New York University and something of an evangelist, touting a methodology bolstered by anecdotes from his practice and passionate testimonials from patients like Howard Stern or Larry David, who described his recovery from back pain as the closest thing that Ive ever had in my life to a religious experience.
But I couldnt deny it worked for me. After exorcising a diarys worth of negative feelings over four months, I was in spite of my incredulousness cured.
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John E Sarno Healing Back Pain Audiobook
John E. Sarno Healing Back Pain Audiobook
If you still do not believe me, fire me a comment on this evaluation and also maybe we can talk using email. I used to walk with a walking stick because of my discomfort and also currently Im climbing up hills, back to work, dashing, weight training, you call it. Good luck.I have found the cause and also treatment for my horrible hip & leg pain that I suffered for more than ten years!!! IT ALTERED MY LIFE !! What a fantastic alleviation! I actually reviewed Dr. Sarnos book ten years earlier as well as had experienced great outcomes. The book was suggested by my friend Judy, who got assistance from reading this book as well as treated her TMS. I was fairly certain that I was having TMS back then. Nevertheless, I failed the battle due to the fact that and I didnt recognize just how to handle recurrence episodes, so I assumed I was not having TMS. What a big mistake!! I surrendered on the concept, put guide back to guide shelf as well as returned to my old therapies physical treatment, acupuncture treatments, chiropractic specialists, pain medication, massage, ice, etc., for ten years !! I really wish I kept Dr. Sarnos theory as well as conserved myself a lot unneeded suffering
You Can Find The Off Switch
The bottom line, according to Dr. Howard Schubiner, a protégé of Dr. Sarno, is that all pain is real, and all pain is generated by the brain. Today Dr. Schubiner is the director of the Mind Body Medicine Program in Southfield, Mich., and a clinical professor at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.
Whether pain is triggered by stress or physical injury, the brain generates the sensations, he said. And this is a mind-blowing concept its not just reflecting what it feels, its deciding whether to turn pain on or off.
So, by this rationale, all pain is in both the body and the brain. Which is why, when my adductor stopped hurting in July after eight weeks of physical therapy, I didnt expend too much mental energy trying to figure out what had worked: the exercises themselves, my physical therapist giving me the go-ahead to keep exercising, the once-a-week opportunity to talk with her about my recent move and the other stressors potentially contributing to my pain or all of the above.
In the end, Dr. Sarno was right about exercise aiding, not hampering, recovery and about the link between emotional and physical pain. But not all chronic pain is psychological. Dr. Sarnos Freudian treatment is far from the only one that works. And few scientists would say that our brain uses pain to distract us from negative emotions .
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