Friday, 7 November 2008

Dr John Sarno

I have become very interested recently in the work of Dr John Sarno - his theories are turning my understanding of pain upside down.
As far as back pain is concerned, Sarno's thesis, crudely stated, is that much back pain is generated by emotion, particularly anger. The pain in your back is real, genuine pain -- it's not your imagination. What you are feeling is muscular pain which results from the muscle being held in tension for long periods, which deprives it of oxygen (tension myositis syndrome). But Sarno argues that what is causing you to hold that muscle in tension, for far longer than is required in normal physical activities, is a largely unconscious group of emotions. Learn to understand your emotional reactions to events, and the pain can disappear.

Over the past couple of decades, Sarno has had a remarkable level of success in treating patients who suffer from back pain of this kind, and now he has extended this work to give sufferers some insight into the possible psychosomatic causes of other physical disturbances.

Sarno, who is now 83, is Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, and attending physician at the Howard A. Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University Medical Center. As he will be the first to tell you, his work on back pain is not accepted by the scientific community, for a variety of reasons relating to 'academic rigour'. However, I think there are good reasons for supposing that the 10,000 patients whom he has successfully treated for back pain and RSI probably don't care too much about that.
Rachel's testimonial:

"My story, in a nutshell: I had RSI for about a year and a half. By random luck, a stranger (actually, two of them) referred me to 'The Mindbody Prescription' by John Sarno. This was September 1999. I had chronic arm pain, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I treated my arms like they were made of fragile glass, I didn't type at all (I used voice recognition software to do most of my work). I saw myself in the book, but I was afraid -- afraid that if I believed in Sarno's theory I might get worse, might hurt my arms more, etc. Nonetheless, over the course of the next 4 months, I gradually became more and more convinced of his theory, enough to take a leap of faith around January 2000 by choosing to take a lot of classes rather than a few (i.e. coddling my hands). By May 2000 I was very confident and was not restricting my physical activity at all. I was typing, writing, opening doors, lifting weights, everything. I still had some pain. By September 2000, the pain was gone. I was working a full-time job as a programmer, in an extremely un-ergonomic workstation, and I was completely pain-free"

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