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Is Back Pain Triggered by Emotions?

Medscape has an interview with John E. Sarno, MD, a pivotal figure in the arena of pain management because of his hotly debated approach to the diagnosis and management of back pain. Dr. Sarno has a greater than 80 percent success rate using mind-body techniques to treat low back patients with the worst type of back pain. As it says in the editor's note, Dr. Sarno, Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University School of Medicine, and Attending Physician at The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical Center, is the author of three books that postulate the theory that most back pain is triggered by psychological origins instead of by a physiological defect. Other research has also confirmed this phenomenon, which is known as tension myositis syndrome (TMS). It may also be the culprit in other pain disorders. In the interview Dr. Sarno expands on the mind-body pain connection and highlights:

  • His concepts of back pain diagnosis
  • The role of emotion in triggering symptoms of pain
  • The controversy his pain management concept has fostered in the medical community

Here is one excerpt from the interview--you have to register with Medscape to read the rest, but the interview is worth it:

"One reason why I've concluded that we all have rage inside of us is because there are other "equivalent" physical states that seem to be serving the same psychological purpose -- conditions that are analogous to back pain. I'm referring to [gastroesophageal] reflux, which is very common; irritable bowel syndrome; headaches; common allergies; hayfever; and asthma. I'm referring to common skin disorders like eczema and others. The skin is a great area that the brain uses to create symptoms. These conditions all serve the same purpose: to keep one's attention focused on one's body."

Medscape June 14, 2004

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