How Dr. John Sarno works with Back Pain and other
kinds of Body Pain, and the Basic Principles of How
he Achieves Chronic Pain Relief.
Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief with Joe Polish On The I Love Marketing Podcast
NOTE TO READER: This weblog on Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief with Joe Polish is written such that anyone can access and understand it. All technical terms and concepts are defined in layman’s terms.
However, this will be sent primarily to Soft Tissue Therapists: massage/bodywork & yoga / stretching practitioners, and some physical and occupational therapists. Some fitness trainers are expanding into these areas as well. … So the information is more “technical” though not very complex in nature.
Because my therapeutic trainings & coaching mostly start with the physical body, I’ve been asked why in my trainings I highlight a process such as Dr. Sarno’s, given that his is almost purely mental & emotional in nature, with no physical treatment involved. …
My primarily manual therapy trainings deal directly with the physical body — body pain and chronic pain relief — yet with subtle yet effective attention on the mental & emotional processes and mindfulness behind a Client’s physical issues. And therapists trained in this method have a LOT of success with Client’s various issues, even though primarily physical in nature.
I believe a truly GREAT therapist has as wide a perspective as possible on body pain with as many aspects of assessment and treatment as possible, even if they’re a specialist in a comparatively narrow area.
Sarno provides some very interesting perspective on the pain relief issues at hand. (Literally and figuratively.) This allows a therapist to refer a Client to other practitioners when appropriate or necessary.
OR it allows the soft tissue therapist to modify their assessment & treatment strategy to adapt to the Client’s different needs, should the therapist’s standard approach not produce desired results. …
Our approach, though it’s a hands-on, manual technique, is to take the attention off the therapeutic techniques and onto a more direct connection with the Client’s soft tissues, engaging the Client’s mindful attention to highest the degree they’re willing or interested.
It’s a relatively and deceptively simple technique, allowing more direct contact with deeper structures of the Client’s body, brain & mind. This is about dissolving neuromuscular and myofascial tensions and stress at a deeper level than many therapeutic techniques in the massage & bodywork field achieve.
Too many therapists are too focused on “delivering a technique” versus “feeling and responding” to the Client’s often very subtle differences, nuances, and reactivities in the texture of the soft tissues. It’s very often the attitudes and mental/emotional predispositions controlling — and sometimes producing — their body pain. We also use a myo-structural approach to pain relief, giving us a wider range of information about possible sources of whatever problems or challenges a Client has.
Sometimes, the physical source of a body pain is quite a bit distant from where the Client experiences it. If so, chronic pain relief is seldom achieved, OR, it keeps coming back a day, week, or more later.
Also, in the healing professions, a highly restrictive “Scope of Practice” and Standard Of Care have nearly crippled truly wholistic (whole health, full range) approaches to human healing & wellness. The strict boundaries between the various healing professions must necessarily soften, or even dissolve, and perspectives & treatment strategies must expand if the Clients and Patients of the World are to ever experience Full Spectrum & Whole Health Healing.
Hopefully, this knowledge about Sarno’s approach brought to you by the podcast, Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief with Joe Polish, will help bridge the gap between various aspects of bodymind health and therapies.
Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief with Joe Polish
This article is a response to the September 14th, 2016 I Love Marketing podcast sponsored by the Joe Polish marketing group (Piranha Marketing based in Tempe, Arizona).
Mr. Polish is one of THE Leading Marketing Gurus in America, using Direct Response Marketing & Advertising to unusually great success. He teaches his highly specialized and effective methods to entrepreneurs and business people all over the world and via the internet. He’s also the founder of the Genius Network, a HIGHLY Educational and Mastermind Program he sponsors.
If you follow the high-tech, entrepreneurial, and marketing worlds at all, the list of people Mr. Polish includes as students, friends, and associates, and their openly stated admiration for him is truly mind-boggling.
Mr. Polish occasionally has a Bonus Edition of his podcast where he discusses other issues besides marketing, including a significant commitment to utilizing and teaching state-of-the-art health care philosophies and practices. … This is one of those podcasts.
More to the point of this podcast are the healing powers of Dr. John Sarno’s methods — I’m calling it here the Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief Method — for resolving all kinds of body pain in the human body, not just back pain. This approach might well apply to almost every chronic pain or dysfunction most people experience.
According to Wikipedia, Dr. Sarno was Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, and until his retirement in 2012 was attending physician at the Howard A. Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University Medical Center.
Those are pretty darn good credentials.
Now retired from practice, Sarno has written several very popular books on pain relief with very wide distribution, and over the decades successfully treated many thousands of patients whom had a wide variety of pain and dysfunction, even though they had nearly given up on ever getting better. (Links to Sarno’s books at bottom of this page.)
Most of his method of healing back & body pain revolves around Dissolving and Resolving Repressed Emotion such as Anger and Rage.
See more of Dr. Sarno’s credentials and a description of his work, at his Wikipedia entry:
Mr. Polish has, through his own personal experiences of significant and persistent levels of pain, become a strong advocate of the Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief Method (and many other forms of pain & dysfunction, as well). In Joe’s podcast, he interviews Mr. Steve Ozanich, a man who has taken it upon himself to carry the torch for the retired Dr. Sarno’s methods. Steve became a nearly full-time advocate of Dr. Sarno’s work, writing books and consulting with individuals on applying Dr. Sarno’s work to their health care situation.
In this 90-minute podcast, Joe interviews Steve. They discuss, in quite a bit of detail and with personal stories, how Sarno’s methods work, and the results they produce for so many people. It’s quite interesting and informative. For therapists, it should also be mind and perspective expanding, with significant, even if indirect, applications to their therapeutic practice.
Joe Polish and Steve Ozanich — the two people on the podcast — probably know much or all about what I’ve written about Dr. Sarno, and probably a lot more about his specific methods than I do. But further below is my Soft Tissue Therapist’s Take of my point-of-view on Sarno’s work, and how soft tissue therapists can benefit from his knowledge and experience.
And I’ve got 40 YEARS of my own experience very successfully treating more extreme soft tissue conditions with clinically and medically focused, hands-on myo-structural bodywork & postural yoga therapy. Most of it, including the yoga, is based solidly on orthodox medical research.
I do use a few Essential Insights from the East, but most of it is based on solid Western Scientific & Philosophical Methods and common, modern medical science. Yet the idea of “mindfulness” and introspection, though more associated with The Far East, has undergone much scrutiny by the orthodox, medical neuroscience community in the last couple of decades.
Mindfulness can no longer be considered “an Eastern Thing.” … It is a HUMAN Thing.
Yet neither I nor Sarno engage in “woo-woo” types of ideas or techniques. However, I think there are very interesting implications revolving around the body-mind integration approach I use compared to Sarno’s.
So it’s quite possible I have something to contribute to the topic as well. ( )
(Link directly to the I Love Marketing Podcast by CLICKING HERE or on the photo of Steve, above at right, or continue reading below.)
QUICK SUMMARY of Dr. Sarno
Back Pain Relief & His Work:
Dr. Sarno developed a very non-invasive procedure for helping thousands of patients, and non-patients who merely read his books, free themselves of body pain in various parts of their body. In fact, it’s about as non-invasive a chronic pain relief “procedure” as you can get. …
And many people — including many celebrities from around the world — find the method to make profound changes in their lives. … Even Howard Stern, the New York City radio personality, called Sarno The Steve Jobs of Pain Medicine, and his HERO!
UPDATE: Dr. Sarno, unfortunately, passed away on June 22, 2017, at the age of 93. Here is a Trailer for a documentary produced about his work:
Sarno achieved all this purely by helping his patients get in touch with repressed (chronically hidden) emotional stress — such as rage and anger — held in the unconscious mind. Yet the emotion expresses itself, via the nerves, as chronic tension & stress in various muscles and organs of the body. The muscles, in turn, along with their interaction with their respective nerves, produce the mechanisms of pain.
Therefore, his diagnosis for this became Tension Myoneural Syndrome.
Myo (muscle) + Neural (nerve) = Myoneural ==> Muscular Tension, stimulated by chronically excess nerve activity, producing various symptoms and conditions (syndromes) in the body.
Originally, Sarno’s name for this was Tension *Myositis* Syndrome. But the prefix myo- means muscle and the suffix –itis means inflammation. So the word myositis implies inflammation of the muscle. Yet, as he confronted the reality that inflammation was NOT necessarily, and much or most of the time not at all, present in the areas of pain, he had to modify the term more accurately to Tension Myoneural Syndrome.
Even though this realization about lack of inflammation has appeared in the medical literature for three decades or more, Sarno was one of the more prominent to point out that it had never been clinically nor scientifically proven, barring any actual, recent, acute damage to the tissues, that inflammation was indeed a factor in most — or any — of the truly chronic pain conditions most people experience in the neuromuscular/ myofascial/musculoskeletal system.
(More on this in my Comments on next web page, linked at the bottom, this page. But a key distinction is inflammation in the musculoskeletal system is very different than inflammation in the cardiovascular system, which really IS a big problem for many people today. While a person could have a lot of inflammation in the bloodstream, they might also have NO inflammation in the muscles and joints.)
Though retired from practice now [and now passed away], as Sarno’s perspectives, research, and experience evolved, he eventually used NO manual or physical modalities at all. Mostly, he only used seminars (or his books) to educate patients or readers on the nature of emotionally-based stress manifesting as various symptoms (or syndromes) in their neuro-musculo-fascial-skeletal system.
(And YES, many people said reading his books ALONE produced significant relief for their issues of body pain and desired chronic pain relief.)
A small percentage of patients needed one-on-one therapeutic counseling to make their breakthroughs.
He tells a story of how he eventually let his manual therapy staff go because he did not want to reinforce the idea there was anything “physical” about any patient’s pain. It was not a happy day as he said the therapists were a great group of highly skilled people. Yet based on his growing experiences, his focus was increasingly on the psycho-emotional aspects, and he did not want to distract any patients from that non-physical focus. Sarno’s latest book, The Divided Mind (linked below to Amazon), is an extensive delve into the deeper layers of that aspect of his work.
This does NOT mean it was “all in the head” or a “figment of their imagination.”
The actual pain was (is) indeed produced by physical manifestations or expressions of mental/emotional stress.
It is psychosomatic: psycho = “relating to the mind or psychology” and somatic = “relating to the body.” They work together in most cases. Most, if not all, emotional & mental phenomena activate respective nerve pathways, which are, of course, physical. If you can feel it, there’s a nerve somewhere bringing sensory data to the brain. In response, the brain and nerves send signals out to the muscles, organs, and systems of the body, stimulating them into action, or inaction (inhibition).
Some nerves lead to various muscles, causing them to contract. As muscles contract, they tend to bulge and harden (see illustrations to right and below). This can press on certain adjacent blood vessels or nerves. Sometimes the nerve goes to an organ, causing digestive or metabolic problems.
If this happens once in a while, or the emotional event is of low-level intensity, usually no problem. But if it does not get resolved, and there’s a longer term, persistent process going on, and of greater intensity, and the respective brain-nerve-muscle pathway(s) stay(s) stimulated long enough, often enough, this produces chronic (habitual) muscle tension or “tight muscles.” Or hyper-active organs, eventually degenerating or breaking down.
Chronically “tight muscles” can physically impinge on other nerve trunks or restrict blood flow to an area, or otherwise irritate other nerves and soft tissues. It can become a viscous cycle, and very often, it all happens in the sub- or unconscious parts of the brain and mind, unknown to the person.
Restricted blood flow (called ischemia) reduces oxygen levels (called hypoxia). …
It is a medical fact that ischemia and hypoxia can produce pain.
Ischemia is a restriction in blood supply to tissues, causing a shortage of oxygen [hypoxia] and glucose needed for cellular metabolism (to keep tissue alive). Ischemia is generally caused by problems with blood vessels, with resultant damage to or dysfunction of tissue. It also means local anemia in a given part of a body sometimes resulting from congestion (such as vasoconstriction, thrombosis or embolism). Ischemia comprises not only insufficiency of oxygen, but also reduced availability of nutrients and inadequate removal of metabolic wastes. Ischemia can be partial (poor perfusion, that is, malperfusion) or total. [Perfusion means to permeate or saturate an area. ~DSL]
Signs and Symptoms
Since oxygen is carried to tissues in the blood, insufficient blood supply causes tissue to become starved of oxygen. In the highly aerobic tissues of the heart and brain, irreversible damage to tissues can occur in as little as 3–4 minutes at body temperature. The kidneys are also quickly damaged by loss of blood flow (renal ischemia). Tissues with slower metabolic rates may undergo irreversible damage after 20 minutes.
Clinical manifestations of acute limb ischemia (which can be summarized as the “six P’s”) include pain, pallor, pulseless, paresthesia, paralysis, and poikilothermia. [emphasis added]
Without immediate intervention, ischemia may progress quickly to tissue necrosis and gangrene within a few hours. Paralysis is a very late sign of acute arterial ischemia and signals the death of nerves supplying the extremity. Foot drop may occur as a result of nerve damage. Because nerves are extremely sensitive to hypoxia, limb paralysis or ischemic neuropathy may persist after revascularization and may be permanent.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ischemia … [emphasis added ~DSL]
This is, of course, in the extreme. Yet this process is potentially operating in Tension Myoneural Syndrome, even if at a less intense or severe level. The degree of muscular impingement on nerves and blood vessels is, well, a matter of degree.
So, even though emotionally based issues might start “in the head,” they can become very physical in nature, becoming Tissue Issues, and are not anything to mess with. This is one reason practicing tension reduction strategies (TRS) like yoga, and receiving therapeutic massage or bodywork, and other relaxation-based activities, can be so helpful in staying healthy.
Sarno’s approach, however, is to attempt to go to the root cause of the soft tissue issues (nerves, muscles, blood vessels, organs), which in his many successful patients, was initiated in or within the mind and emotions. (Few people realize emotions are PRIMARILY physical and secondarily mental in nature.)
He coached his Patients on how to observe and understand their emotional states in such a way as to dissolve those sources of excess neural activity affecting the muscles and organs. (Many of the organs are constructed of smooth muscles, also subject to accumulated tension and stress. This can produce significant health issues by interfering with various metabolic processes.)
MY ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ON SOURCES OF PAIN …
I have additional theories about all this, including what I call neuromuscular discombobulation (confusion), but in no way contradicting Sarno’s diagnosis or methods. This only adds understanding and dimension, while acknowledging that some chronic body pains are indeed primarily due to physical insults to the soft tissues of the body, while others are internally generated by mental and emotional processes.
(There are, of course, acute injuries where there are damaged tissues such as broken bones or lacerations, tears or ruptures to the tissues. That is, obviously, a different category of pain.)
Yet I do observe, and therefore believe, many people CAN respond to and heal from physical methods, if properly evaluated, strategized, and administered, and depending on the source of their pain. This is discussed on the next web page and other pages on this and other of my websites. …
But PLEASE! Go there AFTER you listen to the Podcast: Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief with Joe Polish
Some people, of course, need an emphasis on one or the other, or both. OR, they have a metabolic/nutritional issue that could be the main cause of their pain or dysfunction. That, of course, is another realm of therapeutics all together, usually involving diet & nutrition, and the relatively new field of Functional Medicine.
The Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief Method for
“Physical / Structural Degeneration”
Of Great Importance, many of Sarno’s pain victims had visible and significant evidence of “structural” degeneration of the bones and joints, in many cases severe degeneration, such as mild to severe osteoarthritis of the joints, often bone-on-bone. This includes spondylolisthesis, stenosis, herniated or ruptured discs, bone-on-bone, hard tissue joint degeneration, and such.
Despite visible evidence (via X-ray and MRI) of such degeneration, sometimes “obvious” and extensive, a large percentage of Sarnos’ patients became pain-free, or nearly so, with NO physical treatment.
This includes many cases of visible (on X-ray or MRI) spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal or openings), considered by many physicians to be a “sure thing” for needing surgery.
Yet many of Sarno’s stenosis patients became pain-free with his emotionally based strategy, and NO physical treatment.
And these were, in a high percentage of cases, not just temporary, short-term fixes. Many of them had long lasting relief. Great and competent therapists need to be on the look-out for such possibilities.
I know of one individual in whom a lumbar vertebra had broken apart into tiny pieces and migrated rearward into the nerve tissue of the spinal cord itself. Surgery gave instant and more-or-less permanent relief. That is one of the rare cases where I think surgery actually was called for and might have been the only real solution.
Sarno’s track record was, of course, not 100%. His results varied from study to study, yet many physicians and researchers found the results impressive. But I’ll address that in my comments on the next page, as well as several myths on such things as osteoarthritis and “bone-on-bone” pathology
(YES, I DO want you to listen to the podcast before you go to the next page. Or at least come back to the podcast later.)
Useful Information & Insight On Accuracy
(or not) Of Medical Diagnoses
Of Great Value in Sarno’s books are thorough descriptions of most of the common structurally related diagnoses originating in various distortions or breakdowns in the bone & joint structures. Yet he very well debunks notions that these are always or even often the cause of pain, at least in many cases. This knowledge is invaluable to both Soft Tissue Therapists as well as their Clients & Patients in attempting to educate them on the Myths & Realities of body pain and chronic pain relief.
This is important so the therapist can explain to the Client or Patient why joint degeneration observable on X-ray or MRI does NOT necessarily nor directly correlate with the cause of pain. In many cases, rather than joint degeneration causing the pain, it is the excess, chronic muscle tension causing BOTH the joint degeneration AND the pain. I will reference that on the next web page, the addendum to this page.
This perspective is also a good element of a presentation for potential Clients, whom might be looking for better answers to the puzzles of their body pain, dysfunction, and poor posture.
Admittedly, Sarno’s work on body pain and chronic pain relief has been VERY controversial, especially among more orthodox physicians. They usually attack the fact that most of his results are based on “anecdotal stories.” Yet their criticism usually falls short. Especially with how often orthodox diagnosis and treatment (usually drugs or surgery, some physical therapy, and occasional bed rest) fails, does not last, or has significant side effects.
It should be noted that I fully recognize it would be GREAT if we could get “real,” highly scientific studies to confirm or disconfirm much of what Sarno says on a wider basis, or even what I say on the next page, as well as the great work being done by a number of soft tissue therapists around the world. However, securing funding for such expensive studies is usually quite difficult. As well, filtering for the many variable factors in such kinds of conditions and treatment methods, and the very high viability of skills of therapists is extremely difficult, if not impossible.
One dose of a drug can be manufactured to be nearly identical to all other doses of the same drug. So their effects can be measured rather precisely. But not all therapists, nor their techniques, are created equal. And one, for example, neuromuscular therapist, with the SAME training, is most likely to produce VERY different experiences than another. Hands-on therapy is a very individual process, and cannot be reproduced with a high degree of precessions and certainty that one Client will receive the same effects as another Client, even with the SAME therapist. So it’s a very unlikely prospect the problems in such studies will be solved anytime soon.
But hopefully, at some point, enough resources will be found, by someone, to perform at least somewhat more “scientifically acceptable” studies.
If not, the anecdotes will have to do.
In the meantime, Case Studies can be highly instructive, even if not 100%. Ignoring the anecdotal (personal experience) stories of so many people, including physicians, makes NO sense at all. After all, as Robert Mendelsohn, author of Confessions of a Medical Heretic, pointed out, in most “orthodox” medical practices, the bottom line is, very often, asking how the patient feels after treatment.
That’s about as “subjective” and “anecdotal” as you can get. Yet it’s probably a very common question asked of most patients by most of their doctors, most of the time.
Yet one criticism might be justified, that being not everyone responds well, or at all, to The Sarno Methods. But that probably means their Soft Tissue Issues had a more physical source, rather than being psycho-emotional in nature.
Hopefully listening to Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief with Joe Polish will help you decide if it’s something you should look into or pursue. (As if any modality offered by orthodox, alternative or complementary medicine works all the time, every time, either.) …
My more detailed responses to all that are included on the next web page … But First, Please Listen to the Podcast …
CLICK HERE for My (DSL’s) Comments on The Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief Method as Presented in the I Love Marketing Podcast
(on this website)
(NOTE: I make NO money off the sale of any of the books featured below.)
Thanks for Reading about the Doctor Sarno Back Pain Relief with Joe Polish & Steve Ozanich Podcast, and Body Pain and Chronic Pain Relief …
David Scott Lynn (DSL*)
* DSL: Your Hi-Touch Up-Link to the Inner-Net*
* Inner-Net: Your Psycho-Neuro-Musculo-Fascial & Joint System