With the documentary film of his life and work released last month, a string of best selling books to his name, and news of his passing away on the 22nd June 2017, Dr John Sarno’s approach to treating pain has recently been in the spotlight. Having been described by writer and Wall Street trader Edward Siedle as ‘the most brilliant doctor in America and unfortunately, a largely neglected national treasure’, Dr Sarno achieved remarkable results for people suffering with chronic pain yet his methods were met with criticism from the medical establishment. Dr Sarno’s approach addresses the psychological origins of chronic pain, a strategy which I follow in my practice and through which many patients’ symptoms improve. Read on to find out more about Dr Sarno’s work and how my therapy can help your pain.
Emotional Repression causes Physical Pain
Not only does emotional stress exacerbate chronic pain, it can also cause pain. Dr Sarno coined the term tension myositis syndrome (TMS) to describe the range of symptoms caused by psychological trauma. TMS is a psychosomatic illness which causes chronic back, neck and limb pain and doesn’t respond to medical treatments. TMS is the mind’s defence mechanism against repressed unpleasant, painful or embarrassing emotions, and manifests itself in chronic pain.
Our bodies respond to these emotional issues as if it was a physical threat by producing tension and pain. Dr Sarno’s theory states that the nervous system responds to emotions such as anger and anxiety by decreasing blood flow to muscles, which results in oxygen deprivation and pain in the affected tissues. If your symptoms have no known physical cause, they could be caused by TMS and will benefit from Dr Sarno’s approach to pain treatment; a practice which I use to help my patients achieve long-term relief from pain.
Treating the Psychological Origins of Pain
Dr Sarno taught that instances of chronic pain, including migraines, back pain, fibromyalgia and gastrointestinal disorders can be caused by deep-seated psychological anxieties, and therefore can be treated by addressing their psychological roots. Some of the practices which he prescribed are journaling, gradually resuming normal physical activity and in some cases psychotherapy; he also claimed that just by learning about and being aware of the psychosomatic connections to pain patients saw an improvement in their symptoms.
Dr Sarno never conducted formal studies of his methods, preferring to use his time to help his patients individually. He used to tell his critics that ‘my proof is that my patients get better’. Thousands of people have been permanently cured of their pain by following his mind-body approach to treating pain, either through direct consultation or reading his books. The majority of emotional activity occurs outside of our consciousness, so many people do not realise they are repressing emotions and that this could be a cause of their pain.
The documentary film made about Dr Sarno’s work, All The Rage, received fantastic reviews after its release last month, and his books are as popular as ever, so it seems Dr. Sarno’s approach continues to inspire. If you have been inspired or intrigued by Dr. Sarno’s work or would like to treat your pain with the support of a therapist who follows his approach, please contact me, and together we will bring your pain to an end.