Back Sense

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In this book, Dr. Ronald Siegel, PsyD outlines the causes of chronic back pain, and gives a distinct program that guides people on how to recover from TMS/PPD.


While Siegel does not use any specific term, such as TMS or PPD, to describe the condition, he does credit the work of John Sarno as being a "pioneer in understanding the role of the mind in back pain." The first chapter of the book describes the success story of Siegel. His turnaround began when "A friend at work, hearing of my troubles, suggested that I look into the treatment methods of John Sarno, a famous doctor in New York. Dr. Sarno had supposedly helped a mutual acquantance." When he called that mutual acquaintance, he had been laid up for about four months, spending all of his time lying down. She suggested that he "go out and buy groceries for the family--your wife will appreciate it." He did, and experienced a transformation similar to others you may read about on this site.

The Pain Cycle

Siegel offers a unique perspective on how chronic pain is not only caused, but how it can be exacerbated. The pain cycle can start one of two ways. The first begins with an injury from some sort of activity. This then leads to feeling some level of pain, which can create negative thoughts such as worrying about the pain and thinking that you are damaged. These negative thoughts create negative emotions like fear, anxiety, and irritation, which causes a tensing of the muscles leading to more pain.

The pain cycle can also start from life stresses that can cause negative emotions like fear, anxiety, and irritation, which result in tensing muscles leading to the creation of pain. This sensation of pain then creates negative thoughts such as the belief of being damaged or having a "bad back" leading to more negative emotions that cause the pain. Once a person is in the pain cycle it can be extremely difficult to overcome it. Siegel does not suggest that the pain is created by oxygen deprivation (Sarno's theory), but simply suggests that the pain is created by tension.


In order to help people break out of the pain cycle, Siegel gives several tips on what to do including:

Guide to Exercise

Almost every TMS/PPD related book highly suggests that a person engage in exercise, however they usually do not guide the reader in how to do this. Physical activity can create immense fear for a person with chronic pain, so it can be difficult to re-engage in certain activities. Dr. Siegel lays out a clear plan that includes specific fitness techniques a person should do that walks a person through this difficult step. Each technique has a picture of Siegel demonstrating how it is correctly done, making it easy to follow. In the guide, Siegel gives five tips on how to engage in physical activity:

  • Set aside time for exercise, probably twenty to forty minutes per session, three or more times a week
  • Getting into shape will take time, especially since most TMSers have been limiting their movement
  • As you begin to exercise you will experience some pain and faitigue
  • Set goals for yourself and measure your progress
  • Don't worry if you miss a day, the purpose is to gain confidence.

TMS Wiki Member Reviews

I just finished reading a book called "Back Sense: by Siegel written in 2001 and found it most helpful. I am sure others are familiar with this book as it takes off from Sarno's concept but goes into more practical aspects of living in the moment, carefully explaining "mindfulness meditation" In any case if some of you do not have this book I think it would be a very worthwhile purchase.

5 Stars. I really love Back Sense too, Even over Healing Back Pain I would highly recommend it. Customer Reviews

  • An Amazon Customer gave it a five out of five star rating, and said:
After a fall, I suffered from chronic leg pain for a period of 20 months before finding this book. For 20 months I spent countless hours seeing doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, message therapists, and other health practitioners, including acupuncture. I was desperate to get well. I had made progress, but I still felt it very difficult to walk or move normally--I was still in essence "crippled," and I feared my life might never been normal again. Then I found this remarkable book. In the period of time it took me to read the first few chapters, I knew what the authors were suggesting would work for me. I was able to immediately implement the principles. I got up from where I was reading and began to walk completely normally for the first time in over a year and a half. Soon thereafter, I found myself bounding up stairs and skipping with joy. Three months later, I'm still doing great. I'm so happy to be "Free At Last!" If you suffer from chronic back, neck, or leg pain, I urge you to read this book. It may not have the same effect on you, but you have nothing to lose but your pain!

About the Author

  • Read more about Ronald Siegel here.

Interesting Links


You can purchase Back Sense from

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