Back Pain

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Please keep in mind that before treating any condition, including Back Pain, as TMS or PPD, it is vitally important to consult with your physician in order to rule out any serious medical conditions. To learn more about TMS and PPD, and to help you figure out if you have it, visit our An Introduction to TMS page and watch the video there. Some more guidance in figuring out if this approach is right for you can be found in the video at the top of our So You Think You Might Have TMS page.

To contribute your own story of healing from TMS, please click here to see how to post it on the forum.

Back Pain and TMS Success Stories

  • On pages 77-78 in To Be or Not To Be Pain Free, Dr. Marc Sopher discusses treating Charlene Penz, a 56 year old who suffered from back pain and sciatica for over 30 years. She had several structural abnormalities including arthritis and degenerative disc disease, and was instructed by her doctors to take a variety of muscle relaxants and was injected with a multitude of steroids. After understanding what triggered her TMS, her daughter had breast cancer and her father left her family when she was a child, she was able to overcome her symptoms and remains pain free to this day.
  • On pages 79-80 in To Be or Not To Be Pain Free, Dr. Marc Sopher describes treating Sally, whose MRI showed an abnormality called spina bifida occulta and was prescribed Ultram. After four years of treatment, including going to a chiropractor, and having acupuncture and physical therapy she was still in pain. Sally tried all conventional treatment methods and even went to a special pain clinic. However she still had so much pain when she stood and sat that she had to stop working. After seeing Marc Sopher and understanding how her perfectionist goodist personality caused her pain she became symptom free in one month.
  • On Pages 80-81, in To Be or Not To Be Pain Free, Dr. Marc Sopher discusses Ken. Ken was living in a stressful home. His emotionally abusive father began living with him after Ken's mother died. Ken's stepson also had a learning disability. This stress led to Ken having back pain that ran down his entire leg into his foot. He had this pain for over 25 years. Originally Ken was treated with back surgery, that provided brief relief but the pain returned. He was then diagnosed with a herniated disc, which was again treated with back surgery. Seeking pain relief became the center of his life. Ken couldn't sit at his desk at work, and he bought orthopedics and a special mattress. During his appointment with Dr. Sopher, Ken talked about how he was a perfectionist and over achiever. After his visit with Dr. Sopher, where he learned about TMS, Ken's pain began to diminish. After three months Ken was pain free and was able to engage in athletic activities.
  • Janette Barber: Janette Barber is a stand-up comedian, television producer, and author. At The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Barber was the supervising producer and head writer. She shared five Emmy Awards with the other producers of the show. Janette suffered from back pain, and ankle pain that was diagnosed as tendinitis. The severity of the pain eventually prevented her from walking so that she had to use a wheelchair. After a segment about Barber's pain on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, a viewer suggested that she see Dr. Sarno. She did and was diagnosed with TMS. Barber said that, after treatment for TMS, she was able to walk and run again. Barber's story was covered by 20/20 and Larry King Live. (Janette's biography at the food network)
  • Baseball65's story: Baseball65 describes how, despite being born with an L5-S1 fusion, one leg that is over an inch longer than the other, spinal stenosis and a herniated disc, he led an active and pain-free life, until experiencing muscle spasms one day at work. The pain progressed rapidly and led to a failed surgery and a nearly complete physical and psychological meltdown, until he read Dr. Sarno's book, saw himself in the pages and began taking his life back again.
  • Wiser Now, began suffering from TMS at the age of 13, and first recovered by reading Sarno's books. Then 10 years later, other symptoms began to emerge, but she was able to overcome them by utilizing the TMS techniques described in Unlearn Your Pain, Back Sense, and the Sedona Method. She reports being pain free for over one year.
  • Professional Golfer, Ben Crane: From an article in the Portland Tribune: "Work with renowned rehab specialist John Sarno has helped Crane correct a back issue that kept him off the Tour for six months in 2007 and threatened his career. “I'm in the best stretch of health I've had,” Crane says. “Dr. Sarno has been instrumental in giving me a second lease on my career. He's helped me change the way I think about my back.”
  • Howard Stern, the well known radio personality and actor credits the TMS approach with healing his backpain. In a review of one of Dr. Sarno's books, he wrote, "My life before Dr. Sarno was filled with excruciating back and shoulder pain. For twenty years I also suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and thought my back pain was due to my height or some sort of spine problem and that my OCD was a chemical imbalance and only treatable with medication. But all my thoughts were wrong. Imagine the miracle in my life when in a matter of weeks my back pain disappeared. Imagine my shock when I applied Dr. Sarno's principles and never suffered a single symptom again. Quite simply - I owe Dr. Sarno a lot."
  • John Stossel a 20/20 correspondent wrote this for one of Dr Sarno's books. ""For fifteen years, my life revolved around my back. I took time off from work, conducted meetings lying on the floor, and slept with ice bags. Could this be psychogenic? I had considered Dr. Sarno's idea preposterous, but ten years ago I was talked into seeing him. I haven't had back problems since. If Dr. Sarno is right about other psychogenic pain, America is wasting billions of dollars. What a tragedy."
  • lockwest discusses how he first began having back pain after starting at a University. The pain was so intense he compared it to "a railway spike through the lower back at times". To make matters worse he developed an actual injury when he was hit by a car. This story gives an account of how he overcame TMS by reading Healing Back Pain.
  • Newmom's story: This is Newmom's moving story of how she began having severe low back pain during pregnancy, was diagnosed with one bulged disc and one ruptured disc, and was advised to have surgery. Instead, she was guided by a friend to Dr. Sarno, found the TMS Help Forum and through reading the stories of fellow TMSers, eventually learned to change her life.
  • Domenick's story: Domenick tells his inspiring story of how his troubling family life triggered chronic back pain at age 18. A four-sport letterman in high school, Domenick was forced to quit running cross-country in college, as his pain became so intense that it sometimes prevented him from getting out of bed. Domenick discovered TMS through a Howard Stern radio broadcast, bought one of Dr. Sarno's books, and conquered TMS. His story provides advice and words of encouragement for other TMSers.
  • flyefisher's story: This is flyefisher's personal account of how stress in his life (including a 6-week visit from his mother-in-law led to unbearable pain that was diagnosed as "degenerative disc disease," and an "L4/L5 internal disc disruption." After experiencing a near psychological breakdown at the chiropractor's office, his chiropractor recommended Dr. Sarno's book, and flyefisher found both TMS and his sanity.
  • sdiddy's story:Sdiddy describes how he lived in constant unstoppable crippling FEAR for 6 years. He was so worried that his back pain was nerve related that he pictured himself getting worse, being paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for his whole life. This is a great example of how fear can fuel TMS pain, and how using TMS theory you can banish the fear and the pain.
  • Kvent's story: Kvent describes herself as highly strung perfectionist who put a lot of stress on herself to be the perfect wife and mother. She suffered headaches for years and after a tragedy in her family she began to suffer horendous sciatica pain, numbness and lower back pain that even morphine could not eliminate. Thanks to Dr Sarno's books and Dr Schubiners workshops she finally became pain free.
  • kelvin's story: This is a must-read story of Kelvin's in which he describes his 10+ years of back pain despite a laminectomy and L4/L5 fusion. He spent most of the day in a chair or in bed and could not spend more than 30mins in a car without severe pain. One day he accompanied his wife on her trip to her physician during which she complained of back pain. The doctor told them about Dr Sarno and TMS and within a month of reading The Divided Mind he was 80-90% better.
  • mizlorinj's story: Lori's story tells of her awful pain which she was told was due to her herniated disc. Thankfully after an appointment with Dr Sarno (in who's waiting room she had to lie on the floor!!) she began to improve and get her life back. Lori is a great advocate of jounalling to express and release emotions and has lots of good advice and tips in this post.
  • pandamonium's story: This is Pandamonium's story of how she put her back out pushing a sofa, and how this led to 10 years of disabling back pain caused predominantly by her fear and conditioning. In sheer desperation she searched the internet to see if surgery was an option for her annular fissure and instead discovered a link to Healing Back Pain by John Sarno and having read it in one sitting, she started to get her life back on track. You can visit Pandamonium's TMS Wiki profile to say hi!
  • PegHanson's story: PegHanson, a registered nurse, tells a touching story of how she overcame 10 years of chronic pain, muscle spasm, tingling in her neck, upper back and arms after reading Healing Back Pain. Her symptom resolution was a gradual process, and she has gone from a deep depression in which she felt like a failure as a mother and wife to "still doing great 8 years later." She is a frequent contributor to the TMSHelp forum and an editor at the TMS Wiki.
  • crk's story: This is an interesting story by CRK because he describes how he beat most of his lower back pain within 3 days of reading Healing Back Pain, but how he then deals with a couple of relapses. This story and the tips included there may be helpful to people who feel they are taking a while to become pain free.
  • Drew Martin's story: This story follows Drew from his first post where he describes acute back pain due to a herniation, his appointment with Dr Sarno, his struggle over the next few weeks to come to terms with TMS and overcome it, and finally his success story. Drew realised that he had walled off his emotions for years due to an unhappy childhood and once he started journalling he uncovered many issues and began to engage with his emotions and the pain disappeared.
  • hottm8oh's story: Hottm8oh's back pain started in 2001 after a personal crisis. In an attempt to become pain freeI she went to chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and orthos. The pain got unbearable in 2008, and after having been told she had bulging lumbar discs, she went to the library and took out every book they had about back pain. In the middle of the stack, and the smallest book out of the bunch, was Dr. John Sarno's Healing Back Pain. The back pain is history.
  • An article about Garret's Story: Garret experienced road rage when a driver cut him off. The stress and anger caused severe low back pain that was debilitating for Garret. The pain persisted for several weeks, until Garret was willing to forgive people in his life and let go of his anger. This article was written by a therapist and contains information about relevant research.
  • Dan's Buglio: "I had frequent pain episodes lasting anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks of severe pain. Pains radiating down one leg or another, using back cushions for my chair at work and one for the car. I spent much of my day laying on the floor when I should have been playing with my kid. At work I often had to shut the door so I could lay in my suit on the floor and stretch out my aching back. It was awful." After adopting Sarno's techniques, Dan says, "These days, I'm 99% better. I'm golfing, can run on the treadmill, lift weights and pretty much have unrestricted motion. Sure, I still get a little stiff and have very minor discomfort once in a while. But it usually passes in a day or so because I know with certainty what is going on and how to deal with it."
  • Mella 623's Story: "I had terrible pain at work one day, I remember sitting at my desk just before the horrific pain began. I was crying,I hated this job and asked myself why I was being tortured having to work at this horribly stressful job. I then got up and pulled a file drawer open and that was it. I almost fell to the ground.I had to leave work, and I went straight to the doctor. He said I had back spasms and a sciatic nerve injury from pulling the draw open,a draw that I pulled open everyday for 7 years. I had an MRI that showed disc bulges and a sequestered disc fragment at the L3 level. My doctor immediately sent me to a neurosurgeon, who checked me out and then told me that I may need surgery. I refused the surgerybut I went into panic mode. I suffered through 8 mths of excruiating pain, pain killers that made me sick,NSAID that gave me severe stomach pain. Then my husband comes home with a book.Healing back pain by Dr Sarno, he had heard about this book many years ago on Howard Sterns radio show. I screamed at my husband and told him,my MRI shows a disc fragment laying on my thecal sac in my Lumbar spine, how can this pain be caused psychologically? I didnt touch the book for days. Finally after a day straight of crying in pain, I picked it up. I began to read, and I saw myself on the pages. I was the exact personality type for TMS. I read the book, and I stopped taking the nerve pain pills and stopped the IBU,and opiate pain killers. For three days I suffered like I never suffered before. I had the pills in my hand many times, but I fought through it. Slowly as I read, I was able to finally accept that the pain was caused by my brain, and that the sequestered disc was just a scapegoat for my mind to bring the pain on. I just finished Dr Sarno's The Mindbody Prescription, and I am about 75 % cured, I have the pain under control. I still have pain at times, I tell my brain to cut it out, I don't need help to deal with my emotions, and bye, bye pain. Hope this helps someone. "
  • There are also an overwhelming number of success stories posted on Amazon under the reviews for Dr Sarno's books. The TMS wiki is run by volunteers who have no financial interest in promoting Sarno's books (although we would recommend reading some of the excellent mindbody books out there - see the book review section for a selection). However, Amazon is such a great source of success stories it seems a shame not to share some of them here. Here are a small selection:
    • Viktor Shayne (May 7 2010): "I suffered for 20 years with back pain and it was gone within a week by following the program. I still am not sure how it works, but can only surmise that the mind-body connection is greater than anyone ever imagined."
    • Travis Shultz (March 23 2010): "One year ago, I was in great pain, the MRI showed multilevel degenerative disk disease, facet joint hypertrophy, widespread stenosis, ligament enlargement, etc. I felt helpless, resigned to a life of pain. I had other symptoms too - mysterious elbow pain, reflux disease, arythmias, tinnitus... Today, I am symptom and pain-free. I can do things in the gym that I thought impossible for me. It began with this book, and took me through many others, including "Divided Mind." Through introspection and great effort, including meditation, we can alter those pain circuits in our brains. We can locate and deal with the emotional issues that tie our bodies in knots."
    • Leon S Goddard (February 23 2010): "I heard about this book from a friend after 18 months of constant back, shoulder, neck and arm pains. After holding on to the book for 2 months, I had to return it so I was forced to start reading it. Half way through the book ALL...YESS ALL of my my pains were gone...GONE!"
    • Christopher Berninger (22 January 2010): "I read the book almost 10 months before writing this review, so this "healing" of my back pain has stood the test of time. The back pain issue I described had been in full effect the 15 months prior. So I had 15 months of back pain, nothing helped, read this book in 2 days, and from that point on for the next 10 months up until today, I've been fine. I'm even running a half-marathon this weekend. The odds of this book helping being a mere coincidence are extremely low given the timing of the pain and spasming going away."
    • Glomaster (29 December 2009): "I went to the doctor and got x-rays after suffering from back pain for almost 2 years. My doctor found nothing physically wrong with me and recommended I read this book. 2 weeks after reading this book my back pain started to dissipate. I have given a copy of this book to 6 other people and there back pain all disappeared as well. Works for back pain, migraines, head aches, and any other chronic problems you might have."
    • Mauricio Ledezma (3 December 2009): "I tried everything, pills, shots, physical therapy, accupunture, ... nothing worked until I read this book. I had back pain for 2 years and was very frustrated and Dr Sarno gave me my life back. It is real, I did what the Dr says: stop medication and start excercising !! I quit the meds and went to the gym, and so far I have been 12 years pain free !!!"
    • David Hen (6 October 2009): "2 weeks I've waited for this book. 1 week it took me to read it. 7 years of agony and pain ended last week after reading this book. I can't believe it! Pain that has been my evil companion and dictated every aspect of my life - gone!!!"
    • Gunner Akturk (23 June 2009): "My heart felt thanks go to Dr Sarno for fixing my three year old back pain. He simply changed my life as I was getting more and more desperate. My physically active life was about the end and this book miraculously fixed it within a week."
    • Ron Cardozone (11 June 2009): "This book is Amazing. I've been suffering for 15 - 20 years with a constant discomfort from my neck to my lower back. Touching my toes (I could really only get my palms just under my knees) was really painful. I'd get a burning sensation from my neck to my knees. I avoided physical activity and became afraid to pick up my daughter. I'm not even finished with the book and THE PAIN IS GONE!!!"
    • TMSguy (30 April 2009): "Before knowing about this book I had low back pain, tennis elbow, knee pain and other joint/muscle aches for years. after reading it I had a permanent remission of back, knee, and elbow pain, within 4-6 weeks after studying the book. This is the first book read to get acquainted with sarno's concepts, all his books are great but this one explains the back pain treatment in great detail, and is the one to get first to heal your pain."
    • A Hague (24 April 2009): "I'm not a big fan of ridiculous superlatives, but in this case it is true. I suffered from debilitating back pain that would come in attacks about 2 or 3 times a year and last for 3 to 4 days at a time. I was walking around in a state of fear of the next attack of pain. I had seen multiple doctors and spent thousands on physiotherapy. MRIs and X-rays had revealed some minor issues, but the therapy just wasn't working. I met someone who told me about Sarno and this book. I read it in about 3 days, and after about 2 weeks, there was no trace of back pain. That was about a year ago, and I am a new person."
    • Caroline Everett (10 March 2010) "I'm skeptical by nature but this book was a miracle for me. Several years ago I had an MRI and was diagnosed with a herniated disc which caused varying degrees of pain. During one of my pain free moments I foolishly went water skiing and had a bad fall. In excruciating pain, I spent the next 3 months getting acupuncture, and physical therapy. Finally my PT [snip] said, "Read this, I've given it to several patients and then I never see them again" Two weeks later I had to call her to cancel my next appointment, my pain was gone. [snip] I've been using this technique for about 3 years (through probably 3-5 episodes of back pain) and it always works. Our minds are incredibly powerful."
    • Paul881 (7 January 2010): "Since I read the book, it has truly changed my life. I still get back problems and twinges but I now tell myself that I know whats causing it and that its my body's way of dealing with the crap of life we sometimes have to deal with. As a result, I have been free of such pain for the longest period in my life."
    • Martin Tierney (6 September 2007): "I read this ten years ago during a particularly painful time and stressful job and was calling for Sarno to give more detail. I had suffered back pain for 9 years, the last 2 of those dominated by sciatica, and I thought it was mumbo jumbo but having tried every therapist: Chiro; osteo; sacro-cranium and some more besides, I felt I had nothing to lose and gave it a go. Literally 6 weeks later - I kid you not- the sciatica was gone. The back pain was gone. These conditions have NEVER returned. It's still something of a mystery to me."
    • A J Kirke (6 October 2006): "I had (sometimes burning) upper back and shoulder pain (before that it used to be lumbar pain) and I was almost constantly aware of it. All I care about is this book works. I'm not interested in the validity of the methods, because my results speak for themselves. My neck and back have been bothering me less for the last 3-6 months than they have in years - i.e. ever since I started getting into this book. I read a page or so a day. I can still sometimes feel some minor tension in my neck or upper back, but it is so nothing compared to my old pain, and can hardly be classified as pain - and I've lost that awful obsession and fear I used to have with back/neck pain and how it was affecting my life."
    • Pain_Matt (25 July 2001): "It's hard to believe that most back pain is caused by stress and NOT structural damage, but IT'S TRUE! I picked up the book barely able to walk for more than 10 minutes and always in pain due to sciatica in the right hip and hamstring, and lumber spasm. I was also struggling in the upper right shoulder and back. Within a week the lumber pain seemed to go, in just over a month the sciatica was gone and I was jogging (after 9 months without!), a month later I was playing football, and a month after that I can say I'm 99.9% free of pain and free to do whatever I want physically."
    • MJSadler (30 September 1999): "I have seen at first hand how effective Dr Sarno's approach can be. My wife had chronic back pain for 2 years. Her back totally dominated her life - she couldn't sit for more than half an hour, was losing sleep and becoming very depressed. When she read Dr Sarno's book she imediately recognised in herself the personality traits that lead to TMS, and six weeks later she is totally cured. 90% of the improvement came within the first 2 days!"
  • More recently, Dr Schubinerhas published Unlearn Your Pain - and also gets impressive reviews from people who have overcome chronic back pain as a result:
    • SJM (17 January 2011): "For more than 5 years, my life revolved around debilitating low back pain. Most specialists basically told me I'd have to live in pain for the rest of my life. I was extremely jaded. Searching for more ideas, I found Dr. Schubiner on the internet. I was able to meet with him in person, take his workshop and apply his principles. Within 2 months, I was about 90% better and feeling like a normal, healthy person for the first time in 5 years, and I have confidence that I will recover 100%."
    • Stefanierb (4 November 2010): "Shortly after I started reading and doing the writing excersises,I found myself having periods of time with no pain. That was in late March of this year.I am now about 80-85% pain free or very little pain but more importantly it has taught me a better way to live. Most important,it helped me to understand my pain was real but it has also given me a different view of the mind-body relationship-they really do work together!"

Back Pain referenced in TMS Books

The epidemic of back pain is due to the enormous increase in the incidence of TMS during the past thirty years, and, ironically, the failure of medicine to recognize and diagnose it has been a major factor in that increase. Instead of TMS the pain has been attributed primarily to a variety of structural defect of the spine.

I believe the exponential rise in the incidence of back pain correlates perfectly with two major societal trends in the latter half of the twentieth century. The first is the post-WW 2 baby boom with its attendant cultural shift towards increasing materialism and acquisition. The second is the technology revolution, a direct byproduct of which is better medical imaging. Not only do we experience more complexity and stress in our day-to-day activities, but we are bombarded by global images of conflict, destruction, and death by the ever-expanding reach of modern media. Increasing awareness of external conflicts, coupled with the stress of daily life and our own internal conflicts makes a perfect crucible for the creation of pain.

A Video on Back Pain

See Also

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