We all experience aches and pains from exercising, dancing all night or playing sports, especially after turning 50. That’s natural. What’s not easily explained is the sudden onset of pain in our backs, knees, hips, shoulders or migraines. We decide it’s because we overdid an activity or slept in a funny position. Our minds convince us that we did something to cause this discomfort. What happens when we can’t seem to find relief? For some, seeking medical attention is obvious. They want to know what the extent of structural damage has been done. What kind of medication will they need to take, or worse, is surgery involved? For others, they will seek the help of a more holistic approach: Acupuncture or a good chiropractor.
What would think if I told you that you may not need any of the above? What would you think if I told you to check your emotions first? Maybe your family life plus pressures from work are making you feel powerless. Do you feel the need to be perfect? Are you taking care of everyone before you ever consider making yourself a priority? Does the idea of being resentful for all that you have to do, make you feel guilty, even angry? Did you have to overcome a tough childhood? Are you in a bad relationship? What is going on in your life that is keeping you from being happy? Believe it or not, our brain tries to help us with these overpowering emotions. Our unconscious mind holds our memories, but it doesn’t relate to time. Events in our past, stay with us as if it just happened. If we have unresolved anger our bodies hold onto it. Repression helps us to function so we can get on with our lives. If we don’t come to terms about past or present trauma, our brain makes the decision to keep us from thinking about it.
Dr. John E. Sarno has written a few books explaining how the connection between our minds and our bodies work together to keep us from feeling overwhelmed. He calls this condition TMS: Tension Myositis Syndrome He explains that the aches we feel are very real. When we are repressing anger, our mind decides that a distraction is needed. The brain causes a mild oxygen deprivation to certain muscles and the result is pain. When we seek a cure, such as medication or an adjustment, the ache may subside for a little while. If the anger is still there, the pain will move to another body part. What started in the back, is now in the shoulder. Dr. Sarno calls this The Symptom Imperative. It means the mind will move the pain around to keep you distracted. Many people have found relief just by reading Dr. Sarno’s books or attending his lectures. They identify with the different personality traits that are presented and find a way to confront their repressed emotions. It sounds too good to be true, yet it has helped thousands of people, including me, to be free of pain. For some patients, professional therapy may be the answer.
Many patients insist, that after being x-rayed, their doctor’s have told them that they have structural damage. For example a herniated disk, a torn rotator cuff, or cracks in their back. Dr. Sarno explains, that is all normal wear and tear on the body. Many people will have the same results on an X-ray or MRI and live pain-free. Dr. Sarno always gives a complete physical to rule out infection or disease.
“Many years ago I concluded that the structural abnormality was not the true cause of symptoms in most cases, because I found no correlation between the location of the pain and muscle weakness if such existed, and the structural aberration. It is remarkable that practitioners can undertake a serious treatment like surgery in light of such blatant clinical inconsistencies. One of the dirty little secrets of the medical community is that clinical medicine is clearly not always as scientific as many would like to think. Of the thousands of patients with disc pathology that we have seen over the last thirty-two years, not one has ever developed “permanent nerve damage” after refusing surgery and following treatment for TMS.” -Dr. John E. Sarno-The Divided Mind
The program 20/20 did a report on Dr. Sarno. Please watch the video below:
To find out more please read these books by Dr. John E. Sarno:
Mind Over Back Pain: A Radically New Approach to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Back Pain
The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain
Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection