I (Jeremy) original wrote a blog called “My Personal Experience Healing Back Pain” on a different site just over 4 years ago and only a couple of months after I experienced a somewhat miraculous healing experience with my problematic lower back. I am happy to report that my results have remained consistent for over four years and I am celebrating an anniversary of sorts. I decided this was also the perfect excuse to justify playing 18 holes of golf at my favorite course in Palm Springs on an otherwise random Monday morning.
Like I usually do, I decided to carry my bag on my back today even though a riding cart was included in the price and even though I have one of those push carts that I left at home and even though I did a 3.5 hour mountain hike yesterday. Considering where I was with my back just 5 years ago, I will never take for granted a completely pain free walk around a beautiful course like this or any of the other ones I have been playing for the last four years. I felt a sense of gratitude with every single step I took. With that said, it also saddens me to see how few others are celebrating this type of anniversary these days.
I also realize that writing a travel blog about chronic pain and mind body medicine may not be right up the alley of a typical reader of this blog. But, if even one person reads this, and it leads them out of a lifetime chronic pain it is worth losing any readers that don’t want to hear it but strangely decide to read it anyway.
my story – the short version
I battled various forms and degrees of chronic pain for years. I have been formally diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease in my spine, pinched nerves, plantar fasciitis in my foot, a displaced bone segment in my shoulder from a broken bone that did not heal correctly and that rubs on other bone/nerves, a displaced bone segment in my foot that didn’t heal correctly and that rubs against other bone/nerves, and what I was told was significant neck damage due to a head-on car accident. I was told in no uncertain terms that my conditions were not curable without risky surgery, but that by working the rest of my life with physical therapy, strengthening and treatment, I could at least manage them to some degree. I spent the better part of a year working with a chiropractor, strengthening my core, stretching my muscles, changing my office ergonomics and getting regular treatments and yet my condition was only deteriorating.
Flash forward a few years and I discovered the work of Dr. John E Sarno and I read the book Healing Back Pain, The Mind Body Connection. Within about 3-6 months I was able to eliminate every one of these painful symptoms from the most minor tendon stiffness to the most debilitating back spasms. I have remained pain-free for a period of over four years. The only thing I did was read and learn. Yes, you heard me correctly and no, I am not selling you anything. What I learned was that my pain was not being caused by the physical condition that I and my doctor were associating it with. What me, and a great majority of others, suffering chronic and even severe pain are experiencing is oxygen deprivation to the muscles and tendons surrounding the perceived injury. I understand that my personal experience and results are completely anecdotal, but I can also assure you that they are far from uncommon.
If you are interested in hearing my story read on. If you are looking for RV info, or if you are starting to get angry about the basic premise, or if my personal experience is threatening to your livelihood, please click elsewhere. I am sure you can find a great blog about how to clean an RV black tank sensor somewhere but not in today’s blog. Ours hasn’t worked for 4 years so I got nothing for you on that subject.
Where I am now and why I am sharing:
As I sit in an RV park in Desert Hot Springs, California I am reminded almost every day about the affect chronic pain is having on the world I live in even if not on me personally. Although I am spending the winter in an incredibly warm, beautiful place, not a single day goes by that I do not hear a sad story about a sore back or neck or knee or hip or elbow or foot or face or sciatic nerve. I spend zero time in my life researching random medical conditions that I don’t have and yet I can speak intelligently about all kinds of conditions such as sciatica, fibromyalgia, and spinal stenosis. In some cases I even know what medications are typically prescribed just from listening to others around me and watching TV!
Sometimes just getting paired up randomly with a guy on the golf course ends up being a deep and intricate five-hour lecture on the spine. My playing partners and pain professors can describe every disc in their back by number and by which one has this or that defect or which was has been fused or needs to be.
Today, I was partnered with both a bad back guy and a bad hip guy, and I got to hear several times about how nice it must be to still be young and able to walk and carry my bag on back. I just smile and say “Yep, it sure is.” I do have to wonder how many of these same guys were forgoing paid golf carts and hoofing it on a long tough course in their mid 40’s, but I never mention my back or Sarno or anything else accept that I like to walk when I play.
There is too much stigma around mind body medicine and my story just pisses people off most of the time. On the other hand, I can tell you with 100% certainty that there is zero stigma associated with talking about how you are playing golf 3 months after hip replacement surgery. Even when you are hobbling and still in pain the entire round. In fact, it is the the opposite of a stigma. Most are quite happy and proud to share their story, and unlike me, they have a legitimate excuse for their crappy golf game.
Even if I don’t leave the RV, I can just log onto Facebook for all I can read. Television these days is also a walking billboard for chronic illness. Some horrific stories of pain are followed by stories of limited success from everything from “frequency infused” stickers to major surgery. But unfortunately, none of these stories ever seems to end with how a person has remained 100% pain free. Just more pain, more remedies, more medication, more addiction and more ways for people to make money.
Yes, as a full-time RV’er in my 40’s, I do spend more time around retirees and older people than most my age, but my guess is that quite a few people reading this can relate none the less. And regardless, more and more of these stories are coming from people in the 30’s and 40’s. Just do a little test. See how long you can go without someone mentioning a chronic pain condition that they are battling. Not a recent injury but a chronic condition that has been going on for months and years. Unless you are living in a bubble it won’t be a long wait, and it is not a small portion of the population that is affected.
Although today is a mini celebration for me, it is also kind of a milestone of disappointment and frustration as well. I have been living a miracle and sharing my story for years now in various forms and formats and yet almost no one takes me seriously or even considers that a similar cure could be possible for their chronic pain condition. For some, hearing stories like mine is frustrating or angering but definitely no help. At the end of the day, all I can do is to keep sharing my story and hope someone is in the right place to hear the information and become curious the way I was years ago. Because my original “story” is now four years old I thought this would be a good opportunity to update it to where I am and what I know today.
My story – the long version
Although I wasn’t someone that talked about it regularly, I was one of the multitudes in significant pain every single day for years. I physically could not lift my right arm straight in the air for many years because of severe shoulder pain. I also couldn’t turn my neck fully most days due to sharp pain. I had red hot knots in my shoulders and even acute sharp pains in various places in my neck. I had hip/leg pain when I slept and I was also dealing with severe foot pain due to too much dog walking on hard surfaces with bad shoe beds at the animal shelter where I volunteered. And my low back pain would lock me up to the point I could not get out of bed some days after too much golf or sitting. Even things like basic bending and stretching resulted in pain and discomfort almost everywhere.
When I occasionally did try Yoga, I always had to modify half of the class to accommodate my ailments and pains. My wife would look at me like I was crazy as I described the excruciating experience of doing a simple forward fold for the first time or even just attempting to sit straight with my legs out in front of me. It wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was downright painful!
In addition to computers and desk chairs, mattresses were the other bane of my existence. I have probably wasted more money and done more damage to the environment based on my bad back, hip and shoulder than in any other area of my life. We have tried a few different types and only the exact right combination of body pillows, memory foam and strategic propping up could get me through a night without waking up in a knotted-up ball of shooting pains. I won’t even go into the excruciating details of my first night sleeping on the mattress that came with our new RV, but I can tell you that I walked around stiff like a Zombie for about two days. A “My Pillow” and an RV “Sleep Number” bed quickly found their way onto our credit card bill and yet another nearly new mattress found itself in a landfill. On a side note, I believe I am the only person in history that paid full price for a single “My Pillow”. I am surprised I haven’t been called to testify in court.
I have always been a little skeptical of using traditional medicine for everyday aches, pains, and ailments based on the results I saw other people getting. I did not want to go to an MD for my back because I knew I would not be interested in the treatment. I was not interested in the pharmaceuticals (even Tylenol) or injections that they were likely to suggest, and I was not particularly interested in the barrage of radiation I am sure my body would be subjected to as they carefully zero in on what I already knew. I have an arthritic back condition and it is exactly what my aunts, uncles and grandparents all struggle with and what essential left my grandfather crippled for a good part of the later years of his life.
How I got involved with a chiropractor
When I first started experiencing the low back pain it was not too bad, but I was primarily worried about my future. I probably could have kept sucking it up but unfortunately it was starting to affect not only my ability to play golf well, but my ability to play golf at all. While attending a local golf expo in Denver years ago, I talked to a chiropractor that had a booth set up. He explained how he specialized in back and neck issues for golfers and that his program was not a quick fix. It was a combination of chiropractic adjustment, soft tissue manipulation, ultrasound stimulation to increase blood flow, and a thorough and specific program of stretching and exercise based on my golf goals, specific weaknesses, and any physical abnormalities that would be revealed during a thorough physical examination. He also assured me that I would not be asked to quit playing golf! That was the crucial piece to me and what convinced me to make an appointment. I had heard chiropractic care was quackery, but this guy was an actual doctor and sounded legit to me, so I thought I would give it a try.
Since I have always had a high deductible, HSA insurance plan, the chiropractor’s quoted out of pocket prices seemed very reasonable compared to the traditional insurance route of going to a family doctor, getting a referral to a specialist and paying for it all out of my high deductible. The chiropractor also answered my questions and concerns as I explained to him that since this was all out of pocket for me, I was not sure I wanted to start a long-term treatment plan. He assured me that his main goal was to teach me how to treat myself through exercise and that once we got rid of some of the persistent pain in a couple of visits, only an occasional office visit for a maintenance adjustment would be required.
houston we have some problems
During my first office visit I questioned the need for an X Ray primarily because I didn’t want the radiation and because I really didn’t think my problems were that severe yet as I was only in my 30’s. He assured me that the X Ray was safe and necessary so that he could have a better idea what he was dealing with physically. So, I went along. To be honest, I was stunned when the X Ray, not only showed abnormalities, they were, according to the doctor, extensive for someone my age. In hind sight this is exactly the moment my real problems started. He spent a good deal of time showing me my narrowing discs, crooked low back and neck compared to someone with a healthy spine. To be honest it was not just surprising it was frightening.
His eyes got wide while he took notes as I described how much golf I was playing, my family history and daily computer working position and desk/office setup which was soon declared an ergonomic disaster area. He also quizzed me about any accidents I have been in that might explain some of these neck issues he was seeing. I explained what I could remember about the time I was in a head on collision unrestrained and how I broke the car windshield with my forehead and about all of the times I had tumbled head over heels skiing steep double black diamond terrain while living in Colorado.
This lead to my shoulder and the time I broke it and tore my rotator cuff skiing in Aspen years ago but stupidly didn’t do the follow up Physical Therapy that had been prescribed. I let him listen to the loud audible clicking sound my shoulder would make right before the extreme pain made me drop my arm in agony. He explained that the sound was my bone grinding against the other bone and pinching a nerve that was causing this shooting pain and even finger numbness. I decided that it was not necessary to mention all the other neck injuries I had as a kid from playing sports, taking soccer balls to head as a part of a wall, backyard tackle football, falling out of trees or off rickety skate board ramps or about the few times I have been knocked out at least for a few moments.
Although I didn’t mention all of these in his office that day, I sure did think about them then and in the ensuing days, weeks and months. If I only knew how much long-term damage I was doing, maybe I would have been more careful? I didn’t think I was in that bad of shape, but given what he told me and showed me, I discovered I was probably being a lot tougher than I realized.
After the examination, he suggested we get started on treatment right away and that he probably had to back off a little on his original prediction of only a few visits for me. After the grave X ray session, I was just happy I wasn’t being sent for surgical consult right away! He suggested weekly visits for at least 6 weeks and I immediately agreed. Something I am certain I would not have agreed to at the golf expo or without the X ray.
The Treatment then
He did a survey and asked me to rank my pain in various places one to ten. He cracked my back and spent a bunch of time on what he explained to me as a new technique that was showing great results. It was basically soft tissue manipulation and it did feel wonderful on my always stiff neck. A lot of days including this day, I could typically only turn my neck a few degrees in either direction, if at all, but the treatment undeniably did improve the limited range of my zombie neck. I also spent some time with the ultrasound machine hooked to my back and shoulder. That loosened me up and felt great.
I set up an appointment for a week later and I left his office with a little spring in my step and the proud new owner of a giant inflatable purple balloon that would become part of a regular exercise routine as well as an eyesore in the floor of my home for a couple of years. According to the doc, although there was no cure for my condition, if I could strengthen my core enough it would relieve some of the pressure on my bad discs.
After the first week of chiropractic treatment and before my second appointment, my pain had gotten a little worse. My doctor explained that this was because the exercise program almost always causes things to get slightly worse before they get better. He suggested some modifications to my routine that would take some of the pressure off my back and we did another round of ultrasound, adjustment and tissue manipulations.
It was winter, so the golf clubs were hung up for a while and after a few weeks of exercise and office visits I was starting to feel a little better. I had completely replaced my office chair with that giant balloon ball thing and my abs were no doubt getting stronger as I worked on sitting up straight not only at work but everywhere. In fact, every time I sat I had to pretend I was the queen of England.
My doctor explained that improving my posture was in turn relieving the stress on the bad discs in my low back and neck. I did not exactly understand how or why based on the explanation, but like my chiropractor said, he is the one who has a degree in this stuff, not me.
I was feeling so well that I decided to stop my weekly chiropractic visits and make my next visit a month away instead of a week. Denver weather was looking good and I was excited to try out my new strong core on the driving range. For my first time out in quite a while, I was hitting the ball pretty well and with little pain. In fact, I hit balls at the range several days in a row and I excitedly made a t-time to play a round. Well, it turns out my golf game was a complete disaster and I am not even sure I broke 100. Although I was disappointed in my game, that was not too big of a deal and my back did not hurt too much during the round. Unfortunately, that evening my lower back was throbbing. Maybe worse than ever. I made an appointment with the chiropractor and we both agreed that going a month between visits was probably way too long. Since I was now starting to play golf regularly we decided that I should go back to at least weekly treatment. I was disappointed, but if that is what it would take to keep me playing golf, then I was up for it.
having some success
For the next few weeks, I continued to play and hit balls, get weekly treatments, and do exercises and stretching as prescribed. I by far felt my best the day after my office visit and ultrasound treatment so I started scheduling my golf game for the day after my chiropractic visit. Based on my doctor’s suggestions, I cut my driving range practice way down, saving what good swings I had for the course. I also stopped walking as much and bought a push cart for when I did. Carrying my bag on my back for 18 holes was not even a consideration for me 6 years ago.
that didn’t last long
Unfortunately, regardless of how I felt the day after treatment, things did not seem to be getting better overall and both me and my chiropractor were frustrated. One day after completing the typical pre-visit pain survey, my doctor suggested what I had been dreading. “Jeremy, you need to stop playing golf for the rest of the season so that you can focus on the treatments and getting rid of the inflammation that is causing this pain stiffness”. I walked out of the office for what would be my last ever chiropractic visit with my head hanging low and no spring in my step. I had been so optimistic about the treatment plan, but ultimately, my physical back problems, accident history, and my heredity probably meant that golf would not be a part of my long-term future. I certainly could not see any swelling in my back, but I could sure feel it and I could also almost feel my discs dissolving with every golf swing I took. Like the doctor said, being able to walk long-term needs to be a higher priority than being able to play golf long-term. We both agreed that surgery was a bad route to take for this.
why i got rid of my chiropractor
As I laid in bed wide awake with my back and neck throbbing, I begin to think about my journey with the chiropractic care. Things were becoming clear. I completed updated my office set up, I was doing the treatments, following the exercise routines and my core was stronger than it ever had been, but my back pain was at its absolute worse! Go figure. I called the office and got a copy of all my records including all the pain surveys I had taken. My weekly pain surveys proved exactly what I suspected and already knew. My pain had indeed gotten worse during treatment not better. I am not saying my chiropractor had any ill intention, but clearly the treatment plan was not working by any measurable body of evidence. But the only thing he was able to recommend was to double down on what clearly wasn’t working. It made no sense. This fact bothered my electrical engineering brain considerably. And probably also the brain that used to listen to too much Clark Howard.
So just that quickly I completely dropped my expensive and ineffective chiropractor and devised a new exercise routine of my own. I went immediately back to playing golf and hitting driving range balls pretty much every day. Just as I suspected, my back did not get any worse. In fact, if I were doing day to day pain surveys I was feeling better just playing and using mind over body to fight through my pain by spending less time focused on it. Sure, I was still exercising with that balloon ball torture device and I still had to get rub downs from my wife and use some heat treatment, ice and stretching, but I now knew that the office visits explained to me as crucial were only crucial to the person depending on my repeat business to feed his family. I just needed to play less golf and stop being a baby when I did. Like my grandfather used to always grumble, “growing old isn’t for sissy’s”.
I had sworn off my chiropractic treatment plan, and now I was just muddling through, dealing with pain and basically accepting the idea that this would be something I would have to live with and accept rather than cure. My time and money with the chiropractor was an expensive lesson that showed me that there was unfortunately no manipulation cure for my condition, a.k.a becoming an old man.
Then We hit the Road
Around five years ago is when we decided to sell our house and buy a 3/4 ton diesel truck to pull our new RV home around the country. Shortly after taking off full-time, my back condition got considerably worse. After our first couple of stressful moving days in the RV, I was bedridden for a good bit of the following day. Between the act of driving a truck long distances and sitting on another new bad office chair and playing a bunch of golf, I was feeling worse than ever and once again trying to figure out what to do about my back, neck, and shoulder.
As it turns out, my experience with pain is like my experience with various illnesses. My cure was not found sitting in a doctor’s office, my cure was already sitting on top of my sore neck, back and shoulders. I just didn’t know how to tap into it. But I figured it out with the help of Howard Stern. Not Anna Nicole Smith’s lawyer, the other guy.
how Howard stern led me to sarno and my cure
Yes, I will admit it. One day, while listening to the Stern show on satellite radio Howard mentioned the name John Sarno. He didn’t talk much, but he credited this Doctor for completely curing his chronic back pain years ago. I started to do a little research online and I soon found several books by Sarno. The most popular of which was the book “Healing Back Pain the Mind-Body Connection”.
I read some more about Sarno and his claims that most people that have chronic back pain are primarily experiencing a psychosomatic reaction to repressed emotions like fear and rage. Although I was intrigued I already knew that my back problems were not psychosomatic. Mine were clearly visible physical issues that were obvious on the X Ray and a result of past injuries and my heredity. None the less, as someone that is very interested in mind body medicine, I read some reviews on Amazon. Wow, very much to my surprise, the reviews for this New York Times Best seller were extremely positive for a book that claims to “cure” not treat chronic pain. So, I started reading the actual reviews to see if this was, as I suspected, primarily just for people that have mental disorders instead of physical ones like mine. I was amazed to see that not only did positive reviewers have X Rays as bad as mine some were on the brink of surgery or post-surgery with completely blown discs and herniation and most were claiming to now be pain free after reading this book! I even came across testimonials from people that claimed to have broken their backs severely in car accidents, requiring rods and how they have remained pain free due to Sarno. Others reviewers didn’t even have back pain but were claiming the book cured their knee pain, their hip pain and even pain from known past injuries like my shoulder! I was blown away and I hadn’t even downloaded the book.
How had I Never Heard of This?
At this point, I was still skeptical, but intrigued more. I found a past episode of 60 minutes and even a pro-golfer and a bunch of others who swear by Sarno. How had I never heard of this until now? Did my chiropractor know about this? Did Tiger Woods know about this?
That was more than enough for me and I bought the Kindle eBook and started reading Healing Back Pain. From the very first few pages I felt that John Sarno was writing directly to me as he explained about Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS). His description of a typical patient of his was me including the personality type. He further described the more typical less effective diagnosis and course of treatment and the role it plays in exasperating the condition. Exactly what I had incorrectly bought into with the chiropractor hook line sinker.
So much of the book made complete sense and some of the questions I always had were answered. Since I have a disc problem, why would most of my pain be present at night or in the morning, or when just sitting on the couch or even sometimes randomly? This was very different than the time I broke my leg. I had to keep that still for weeks and then it was completely and permanently healed. Pretty much the opposite of my back condition which almost seemed to get worse the less active I was. Why not much pain during the day or when I am walking or when the bad discs were receiving the most shock and friction? Some days, I felt little pain at all playing 18 holes. Especially on days when I was hitting it well. On other days, 26 minutes sitting in the waiting area at the DMV and I would have been willing to try heroin to make the pain stop.
It was all starting to come together
On days when I could not even move my neck, what was physically happening compared to days that I could? Was the nerve going from pinched to un-pinched somewhat randomly? My chiropractor did not have an answer for that one but Sarno did. I devoured each page of the book like a hungry lion but at first, my pain and stiffness were still there although something was feeling different in my body. More so each day that I read and contemplated.
rise and walk – you have been healed by Sarno!
A day or two later, although I had not even completed reading the entire book, while sitting outside of my home in the early morning on a cushion on a dock on the Island of Cedar Key Florida, my eyes awakened from my daily morning meditation and my awareness landed squarely on my normally throbbing lower back. After fifteen minutes or so of straight back meditation, the area of normal biting pain, was extremely warm and tingly. I turned my neck side to side and found that I had a full range of motion and no pain. I raised my right arm straight in the air and there was no sharp bite. I scanned my body head to toe and realized that for the first time in years I had absolutely no pain anywhere! If this were the morning after after a chiropractic appointment I would have been calling my chiro a miracle worker and telling everyone I know about him. But I hadn’t done anything but read a book!
Although it would be a while before I could explain this to my wife or anyone else, tears welled in my eyes quite a few times during the ensuing days as I began to grasp the enormity of the miracle I was experiencing. I literally walked through the next day or so in a complete daze of bewilderment and gratitude. I thought I knew that there was no quick fix for my conditions! How was this working? Was this just a placebo that was going to go away in a couple of days?
Over four years later, I can tell you with certainty it was no placebo. It took a few more months for my results to become permanent, but with ongoing research, more reading and regular meditation I have learned to return to that dock and that day on command. I know others can learn how too.
Completing and fully digesting the book “Healing Back Pain The Mind-Body Connection” by John E. Sarno and reading several other books by this author has answered my questions and, as advertised, has healed my pain. My own personal experience as well as others that have shared their experience has backed up the info in the book up very well. My own book review is now one of the hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon.
And now, over four years later, I have remained 100% pain free and only expanded the extent of my permanent cure to other body parts and chronic ailments. I have played golf nonstop and crisscrossed the country multiple times driving our truck and trailer/home. I do all the yoga exercises the doctor told me not to do. I am currently sitting hunched over like I usually do, writing on the most ergonomically incorrect desk setup I have ever had in my life. Primary just because I can, and because it would make my chiropractor’s head explode if he saw it.
I came across that balloon exercise ball/desk chair when cleaning out the crawl space of our cabin last summer. I decided to beat it with a baseball bat while playing “Die Motherf…er D ie” by the Geto Boys like they did with the printer in the movie “Office Space“. For the first time ever, my back felt good, really good while exercising with that thing.
Now a days, instead of sitting up straight like the Queen of England while watching TV, I lounge on the couch any damn way I please. I can even lift that shoulder and swing it around like a crazy person if I want. It still sounds like I am making popcorn but there is no pain. I don’t even bend at the knees when picking up something heavy if I don’t feel like it. Hiking for hours and even carrying my golf bag on my back for 18 holes is a regular occurrence for me these days. I still don’t have any pain. Let me make this clear, I don’t have less pain, I have no pain!
Sure, I can get stiff or sore muscles after exercise, but it quickly dissipates as it should and there is no lingering chronic or severe pain or locking spasms whatsoever. Trust me I know the difference well.
The Treatment now
When anyone is interested in hearing about my experience (they rarely are) they want to know what I do when I have a pain or symptoms. Well, the simple answer is that with the knowledge I gained, I have learned how to think psychologically instead of physically. Knowing that there is nothing physically wrong with my body alone keeps most pain from showing up in the first place. When I do occasionally feel a twinge or tightening in the exact areas that used to give me problems, I now simply and ultra-confidently acknowledge the sensation as completely non-physical in nature and a symptom of TMS. I definitely don’t ignore the sensation. I do the opposite. I welcome it because I know there is nothing physically wrong with me and that my body is just communicating to me about some emotional things deep inside via harmless oxygen deprivation to the tissue.
Sometimes I know right away what emotional baggage I am repressing and sometimes I don’t. Regardless, as long as my knowledge is applied without doubt, I can just sit back as the pain quickly dissolves into the same warm tingly sensation I felt that day on the dock years ago.
I don’t want this to sound easy because it is not. I can take a full 110% swing with my driver, hear an audible “pop” sound from my back with a shooting sensation that goes from my neck to toe. I must be able to quickly and unequivocally recognize this as a nonphysical reaction to the subconscious repression of emotions and have no doubt that there is nothing physically wrong with me that caused that sensation and noise. When I do there is no lasting effect. Even when the physical deception is that strong. If I think physically when faced with the same circumstance, I am laid up.
Over time, this type of conscious process is rarely required as the subconscious mind eventually loses the motivation to deceive the audience that is on to the ruse. I could write on and on about the books I have read and what I have learned about repressing emotions, the subconscious mind, fear, anger and oxygen deprivation and about how the cure is not solving these issues, but becoming aware of them. Ok, maybe I will, but really you should just read Sarno!
a little deeper for your consideration
If you have read this far, good for you. I am going to go a little deeper and here is a list some things I think are important to understand. When I first started reading about this, I immediately thought I knew what TMS was all about and I was skeptical. Here are some things that I think are important to consider and that I did not fully understand before Sarno straightened everything out for me.
- This Mind-Body technique is not a technique that teaches your mind to overcomes its reaction to a real physical pain. The knowledge, once integrated, eliminates the root source of the pain which was not what you thought or were told. The cure is knowledge based, not treatment based and not even belief based. In fact, there is no actual technique. Knowledge IS the cure and Sarno is the professor. The books are the assigned reading.
- My degenerative disc conditions as well as the physical results of past injuries are real, and they still exist and can still be seen on an X Ray. They just are not, and never were, the source of my ongoing and at times schizophrenic chronic pain. My mind naturally linked them, and the doctor strengthened that mental link with a bad diagnosis. Family history also fuels the deception. Numerous studies on patients that have no pain have proven that things like degenerative disk disease, herniated disc, tendinitis, torn meniscus, and arthritic joints are common for just about everyone of a certain age whether or not they that have pain to report and whether or not they have a family history of it. In other words, if you are over 30 and you show up at the doctor complaining of chronic pain they are not going to have too much trouble finding a physical issue or past injury to link it to. It’s part of their job, but unfortunately, this is also a big part of the problem. The book explains how. Our bodies are simply not as fragile as we believe and are told! They are extremely good at physical healing and have been for generations.
- Just because the pain is not being generated from the physical place that it resides, that does not mean that it is not real pain. It was real and the worst pain in my life. Far worse than the pain associated with breaking a leg, breaking an arm, a deep cut, or being knocked senseless by a windshield in a car accident. My pain was not fake pain and it was due to a real physical condition which was oxygen deprivation to the tissue, nerve and tendons. The book explains how.
- Although the source of my chronic pain is the repressing of emotions, fully dealing with past repressed emotions is not necessarily a requirement in order for them to stop the pain in my body. The book explains how but in short, learning to think psychologically and presently instead of physically and historically is the key for me and others I know that have success. Instead of thinking about what you did to yourself physically in the past to cause your pain you have to learn to think about what you are doing emotionally in the present that is causing the symptom right now. Lots of people that I know journal and do other formal things to get to the bottom of the repressed emotions but that has never been required for my results. I simply acknowledge that deep things like childhood trauma and past unresolved emotional issues can be the source of my symptoms or that they can be simple day to day stresses. Then I move on with my life in the present moment and without any fear of a larger physical issue.
- Just because I have a tendency to subconsciously repress emotions causing pain, it does not mean I have some sort of psychiatric disorder requiring psychotherapy and it doesn’t mean I am crazy! The repression of emotions that causes pain can be very simple things and the same sort of everyday anger, fear or frustration that every human experience to some degree whether they are aware of it in their conscious mind or not. In fact, some of us that outwardly and consciously are very fearless have subconscious fears and emotions that find their way into other areas. For me it was back and shoulder pain. The book explains how.
- Yes, stress plays a part in chronic pain but solving stress does not solve chronic pain! This is the biggest error I see people make when they learn about TMS but don’t get better. They simply trade a bad mattress for a bad day at work as the known source of their pain but they don’t improve the root type of thinking. You cannot eliminate stress from your life and even if you try, you will only stress yourself out! You can eliminate chronic pain from your life independent of stress! Recognizing the role that our completely subconscious mind plays is what solves chronic pain. Period. For example, when we were starting on the road I was writing blogs about how lucky I was to be fulfilling a lifelong dream. That is also how I consciously felt on the inside at the time. The reason I was in such extreme physical pain is that I was repressing and failing to recognize the underlying and justifiable fear associated with such an endeavor. It’s simple to see in hind sight but when you are locked on the physical you remain blind and distracted by symptoms and fear.
- Sarno claims that chronic pain is our subconscious mind attempting to protect us from harmful emotions that we can’t deal with. I have always had a problem with this one because it didn’t make complete sense to me. But the more I read and watch the more sense it makes. Who knows, I suppose it is possible that without the pain distraction, I would have been too scared to sell my house and hit the road in order to fulfill my lifelong dream. It is not hard to see how this scenario might be playing out for others you know if you think about it a little. Its a natural protection mechanism that seems to have gone a little haywire given the emotional roller coaster most people in our modern society are on. I see amazing Moms all the time on social media with incredible stories of juggling full-time work, parenting, yoga class, book club, PTA, soccer practice, groceries, bills, homework, multiple sick kids at home, dealing with active shooter drills, chores, tasks, diets, and a list of obligations that absolutely makes my head spin! When you find out they are accomplishing all this for everyone else in-spite of the fact that they also have several herniated disc it is even more mind blowing really. Or is the pain distraction, the only reason these Moms aren’t sitting in a corner rocking back and forth hysterically frozen? I am pretty sure I would be.
- Not only was exercise, stretching, core strengthening and medical care not helping, these endeavors were feeding the flames of my pain by reinforcing to my conscious mind that the source of the pain was physically related when it wasn’t and never was. All physical treatment must stop for this cure to work completely. You can still exercise strengthen and stretch. I certainly do. I just never, ever link that activity to chronic pain management. That work is emotional/psychological and completely separate for me.
- Most people simply cannot accept that their beloved healthcare provider is not only not helping them, they are making them worse in the long term. Although not tough for me, I see this as a huge roadblock to so many. Being addicted to medical treatment is the same as being addicted to anything; you can’t accept the bigger picture of what it is doing to you because the treatment feels so good. Even when the treatment results in poor long term outcomes that are measurable, obvious, and impossible to deny, they keep getting repeated over and over and the people getting the treatments and having the bad results swear by them. We have both prescription drug and medical treatment addiction problems in this country and both are contribution the epidemic of chronic pain.
- In addition to stopping physical treatment you must resume physical activity and stop protecting the fragile back or joints that aren’t that fragile. This was key to me early on. Sarno gave me the permission and freedom to play all the golf I wanted without fear of doing additional damage to my body! He gave me back the exact freedom the chiropractor took from me years before. When I did what I was told I shouldn’t do and I didn’t get worse, it strengthened my knowledge about the root cause of my pain. As my knowledge increased so did my confidence. Then, bye, bye pain.
- The biggest error that modern medicine is making is not recognizing what Sarno calls the “Symptom Imperative”. You may have surgically or otherwise solved your perceived physical problem in one place and you might even have a far better functioning joint or fused spine, but if you have not dealt with the root emotional source of the chronic pain, your symptom will simply reappear in another location. You will be on that ride the rest of your life swearing by your new body parts and cursing the old ones. The medical community has no incentive to recognize this reality. The customer is happy with the services and back for repeat business. The book explains how and after you understand the link you can also see it play out with those you know that continue to look at only physical solutions to pain problems. Just watch.
- Chronic pain is contagious in society. The more time you spend listening to people talking about chronic pain the more chance you have of being afflicted by the same. In other words, your inherited genetic physical conditions are likely going to get worse the more you hang around talking to your family. Or watching them hang upside down on an inversion chair. The book explains how.
- Dr. Sarno was fond of the ulcer analogy and I am too. Here is my short explanation of something in the book that helped me understand how and why TMS knowledge can cure chronic pain. There was a time in this country when ulcers were a public health epidemic. People were getting them at an unprecedented rate and they were often so severe that people required major surgery and even often died from ulcers. Here is the catch though, back when ulcers were at epidemic levels in this country doctors had no idea that ulcers were caused by severe stress and anxiety. They were instead linked to genetics and poor diet. Sound familiar? Today, the fact that stress causes ulcers is pretty much common knowledge in society and they are treated that way. As a result, people in our society have all but stopped getting ulcers and the small numbers that still do are more easily treated because they are made very aware of the roll their psychological state is playing in the illness. I assure you, the fact that ulcers are extremely uncommon today is not because people are less stressed. Our societal stress has just moved on to other symptoms that have yet to be positively identified as psychosomatic based such as chronic pain! What Sarno brilliantly illustrated with ulcers is that simply becoming aware of and accepting the mind body connection is what made this health epidemic go away. Just exactly like the host of issues that I solved for myself with knowledge about root cause.
- People that physically treat chronic pain and report positive results are likely reporting a temporary Placebo effect. The easiest way to identify this effect is when the treatment wears off and the chronic pain returns and craves more treatment. For example, there is no realistic physiological way to un-pinch a nerve using massage or manipulation. If you feel relief from a “pinched nerve” with these techniques, you are simply experiencing a temporary placebo effect. No one fixed your nerve pinch by rubbing your muscles. But the problem is bigger than that. There is no actual physiological explanation for a pinched nerve that causes a person back or neck pain on and off for years. It also isn’t observable despite what you are being told by a guy in a white coat with giant gaudy framed degrees surrounding him. An MRI is not going to be different on days you are having back or neck spasms versus days you aren’t. Even if a nerve was repeatedly being pinched and rubbed by bones, the nerve would become deadened in a relatively short amount of time. It would not continue to hurt for years. This is the reality and why what we are being told about pinched nerves and rubbing bones is just flat BS.
- Sarno recognized certain personality traits in people that suffer from chronic pain. We tend to be hard working, extremely motivated, and “do-goodist”. Why would these traits make you more susceptible to chronic pain? The book will straighten that out too and when it does, it makes sense. For me, spending hours and hours walking desperate dogs crammed in a packed city animal shelter WAS likely causing my plantar faciitis foot pain,but just not the way I thought. Similarly, hours and hours spent at the driving range attempting to fulfill my insatiable desire to become a single digit handicap golfer was also playing a role in my back spasms, but again, not the way I thought. Despite all my efforts or how bad I really wanted it or worked for it, I was having about as much success emptying that shelter of those pitiful dogs as I was playing to a 9 handicap. And it was eating me up.
- If you are reading this and thinking it isn’t scientific enough I get it. But trust me a lot of what you are hearing and what is being done at the traditional institutions is far from scientific either. Need further proof? Sarno devotes a great deal of his books to proving this.
These are just a few thoughts that I think might be useful to someone reading this blog and hearing about John Sarno for the very first time. Ultimately, I hope that people will just read the Sarno books like I did. Although there is no doubt in my mind that the writing and teaching of John E. Sarno could be a fountain of youth for many others, I am also aware of how few will ever be able accept the premises of mind body medicine or the work of this brilliant healer. Simply sharing my own experience will likely put me in the same category as an anti-vaxer, or flat earther to more than a few people.
This is bigger than just back pain
There are almost no limits to what can be achieved with mind body medicine from someone trained and knowledgeable about it. There are millions of us living this pain free reality even if most don’t talk about it due to stigma, and even if most others don’t believe what we are doing is possible. In addition to my experience with chronic pain, I have successfully treated everything from IBS digestive symptoms, to food sensitivities, to cold and flu susceptibility to allergic reactions using mind body medicine. I have gotten results most people do not believe when I tell them.
There are also numerous testimonials that you can find online from people that have treated all kinds of conditions from auto-immune disorders to things like endometriosis, shingles, and countless other disorders and syndromes. Try it yourself. Google “Sarno TMS [insert your chronic condition here]”. There is a good chance you will find testimonials from people successfully treating themselves for that condition using Sarno. It’s the least kept secret in alternative medicine these days.
It is frustrating when you can see both how easy and successful this stuff can be but also exactly how and why no one else around you can. I can’t imagine how Sarno must have felt his entire career. Regardless, there is comfort in the fact that the results I get from mind body medicine are independent of what anyone thinks – but me. I don’t have to worry about whether or not my insurance company covers my condition or how to pay for it if they don’t. Unlike most people I am looking forward to getting older when I will have even more mind body knowledge and practice and fully expect to feel even better and to be even healthier. Quite possibly even a better golfer but I am not going to put too much money on it.
Although book cures are perfect for someone like me, I realize that many more will never be able to accept a self diagnosis like this. Sadly, Sarno passed away in 2017 and few inside of the medical establishment seem willing to pick up the torch or take the hard and less lucrative path of practicing conservative, practical medicine and educating their patients the way he did. Thankfully more and more people outside of that medical establishment are, and the information is getting out slowly but steadily. Mostly through blogs and personal testimonials like this one.
Just today, in one of the online Sarno Facebook groups, a guy told me that he was the one that sent Sarno’s book to Howard Stern years ago! It’s hard to estimate how many people that small gesture may have helped but I believe it could easily be 100’s of thousands or even millions.
It is not my intention to convince people that mind body techniques will heal their pain, it is just my intention and hope to make sure people know that the alternative information does exist and that more than a few people like myself are experiencing seemingly unreal “miracles” doing exactly the opposite of everything the paid experts told us to do. Until we change to a system where healers are compensated based on results they get and not based on the amount of treatment they provide, we are in for a long, expensive, painful, and sickening battle where mind body medicine will remain non-traditional and discredited. Regardless, by reading Sarno, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that solving chronic pain comes down to one thing.
KNOWLEDGE IS THE CURE!
If you are interested in gaining the knowledge required to heal your chronic pain here are the books and videos I suggest getting started. If anyone has any questions for me about my experience or what I know, I would be more than happy to talk and share. i
Healing Back Pain The Mind – Body Connection – John E. Sarno
The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the
Pain – Jonh E. Sarno
The Divided Mind – John E, Sarno
The Great Pain Deception – Steven Ray Ozanich
A great interview of a wonderful and brilliant old man to which I will be forever grateful. Part 1.
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