On the face, it sounds too good to be true: a simple, non-invasive, non-medical cure for back pain. Not just a little soreness. We’re talking back pain that leaves you lying on the floor all day; crippling, debilitating pain that dominates your life. Yes, that kind of back pain is said to have a simple cure.
At least, if you subscribe to the school of Dr. John Sarno or are one of his many advocates and supporters. Dr. Sarno has written several best selling books on how to cure your back pain without using drugs or having surgery. He claims to have treated over 10,000 patients throughout his career and either cured or drastically improved back pain for nearly all of them.
Is this guy a quack? One of those woo-woo doctors? No, in fact he’s a board certified physician, and spend most of his career as head of the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation, a wing of the prestigious and highly regarded NYU Medical Center in New York City.
Not only does the guy have credentials, he’s got some big names backing him. Sarno has been interviewed on 20/20 by John Stossel who claims that Dr. Sarno cured him of intolerable back pain many years ago. Similarly, a pro golfer, TV producer and radio talk show host all claim that Dr. Sarno changed their lives.
In addition, a writer for Forbes Magazine was so impressed with the results that he wrote two op-ed pieces for Forbes. One called “America’s Best Doctor and his Miracle Cures”. The other, “How America’s Best Pain Doctor Took on the Medical Establishment and Won”.
You need only go to Amazon and read one of nearly 1000 reviews. People have been writing reviews for his books for years and close to 90% say that reading his booked either eliminated their pain condition or changed the course of their lives. Those are HUGE claims.
So how does Dr. Sarno heal these people? Well, it’s easy and it’s not so easy. First he presents a pretty compelling body of evidence to show that nothing is actually wrong with them physically. He does an examination to ensure something like cancer or a tumor isn’t responsible for the pain. Once the patient is cleared of an outside cause, he test certain areas of the body for pain. Pressure points so to speak. If the pressure points are painful, he moves on to what kind of person they are.
Are they stressed out? Do they tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves or feel a lot of pressure in their daily worlds? Do they go out of their way to do the right thing or be a good person. If the answer is yes, the diagnosis is confirmed. He calls is Tension Myositis Syndrome. The tension part of the diagnosis is meant to describe tension in the mind.
Dr. Sarno believes that too much tension in the mind causes pain to develop in the body. If you’ve studied any sort of mindbody science, this won’t be a stretch for you. But for others, it feels like blaming the patient. Sarno insists that it’s not. It’s just the mind’s way of distracting people from the intense amounts of stress they’re carrying around. He believes it to be some sort of defense mechanism.
Perhaps one of the most surprising elements of his strategy is the adoption by other physicians. While most doctors reject the concept immediately, there are doctors all over the country who use doctor Sarno’s approach with patients. Many patients, of course, do not want to hear that their backs are fine and that their minds are not. However, for the patients who are willing to listen with an open mind, the results are quite impressive.