Media Briefings

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Chronic pain has become one of the most serious illnesses in the Western world today. 80% of Americans will have a severe case of back pain at some point in their life. Currently chronic pain is the number 2 reason for doctor's visits trailing colds and other respiratory illnesses. Chronic pain sufferers cost the United States over $100 billion annually in medical bills, disability, and lost production at work.[1] Science has increased the ability of the medical community to treat major illnesses, however these advances have not seen an increase in healing chronic pain. Studies have shown that only 10-15 percent of people are accurately diagnosed by available medical tests.[2] Also, a 2009 study found that surgery to repair so called degenerative pain or spinal abnormalities , along with with injections and prescription drug treatments have failed to cure people of pain.[3] A 1999 study had surprising results when it found that back pain worsened as a result of surgery.[4]

All of this points to a failure in the medical community to accurately and effectively diagnose and treat chronic pain. Patients suffering from chronic illnesses have not received satisfactory results from the medical community, despite the advances in modern medicine.

While there has been a failure to treat chronic pain with standardized medical procedures, there is one area of medicine that has seen tremendous success at curing chronic pain at a low-cost. Many health care practitioners have found success using a mind body approach to treat chronic pain. These practitioners diagnosis patients with TMS (Tension Myoneural Syndrome), also known as MBS (Mind Body Syndrome). TMS stands for Tension Myoneural* Syndrome, a term coined by Dr. John Sarno, Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University School of Medicine, and attending physician at the Howard A. Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical Center.

The practitioners utilizing this approach have found that many patients suffering from chronic illnesses have significant amounts of stress and anxiety in their lives, and have repressed emotions about past and current events. These repressed emotions are the cause of chronic pain.[5] Therefore, a successful treatment of chronic pain involves a patient to uncover repressed emotions and address what aspects of their past and current life trigger stress and anxiety. Dr. Sarno completed a study examining the effectiveness of his mind body treatment, and found that out of 104 patients, 75 percent were "restored to normal or near normal physical function."[6] By helping people uncover their repressed emotions Dr. Sarno, and other practitioners have successfully treated patients with chronic pain, a feat that standardized medicine has not accomplished. This is an important finding because it allows patients to avoid expensive and addictive prescription drugs, as well as serious surgeries.

There are several characteristics of TMS patients including:

  • Perfectionist
  • people pleaser
  • self critical
  • ambitious

The treatment programs for TMS vary, but most include some aspect of the following techniques.

  • Attending a lecture by a TMS practitioner. Many doctors hold lectures describing the mind body approach and how pain can be caused by repressed emotions.
  • Journaling. Many patients have had success through writing down their emotions. The practice of journaling has proven to help some people uncover their subconscious feelings and express them.
  • Psychotherapy. Many chronic pain sufferers have healed their pain by going to therapy, and investigating what issues might be contributing to their pain.
  • Reading a book on TMS. There are several books on the market about TMS and the mind body syndrome. Reading these books can help a patient gain further understanding of their diagnosis and help in their recovery.


1. Kalb, Claudia. "The Great Back Debate." Newsweek. 4/26/2004.

2. Deyo RA, Rainville J, Kent DL. "What can the history and physical examination tell us about low back pain?" Journal of the American Medical Association. 1992, 268: 760-5

3. Deyo RA, Mirza SK, Turner JA, Martin BI. "Overtreating chronic back pain: time to back off?" Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2009, 22: 62-8.

4. Mitra S. "Opioid-induced hyperalgesia: pathophysiology and clinical implications." Journal of Opioid Management. 2008, 4: 123-130

5. Schubiner, Howard. Unlearn Your Pain. Mind Body Publishing, Pleasant Ridge, MI. 2010. pg. 39

6. Sarno, John. The Divided Mind. HarperCollins Books, New York, NY. 2006. pg. 179.