In a 1999 story for ABC’s 20/20 program, John Stossel investigates Dr. John Sarno’s theory that many chronic pain conditions are caused by emotional and psychological factors rather than physical problems.
The story generated a lot of interest with many people praising the program for shedding light on an alternative approach to treating chronic pain.
Millions of Americans suffering from chronic back pain are presented with a pioneering treatment that can potentially end their years of suffering. The treatment involves an adjustment, not to their spine, but to their mind.
Jeanette Farber and Keith Labus, who have been suffering from back pain for years, have tried various treatments like acupuncture, acupressure, orthotics, cortisone shots, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy, but none of them have been effective. Some people even resort to surgery, but even that doesn’t always work.
Dr. John Sarno, a professor of rehabilitative medicine at New York University Hospital, has become a cult figure for back pain sufferers. He examines people to make sure they don’t have an obvious injury or disease, and then he tells them that the pain is in their heads.
This may sound dismissive, but he makes it clear that the pain is real, but the cause is not structural, but psychological. He encourages his patients to tell themselves that there is nothing wrong with their back, neck, or shoulders, even if X-rays or MRIs show abnormalities.
His weekly lectures run for three hours, and he tells people they have to say, ‘I know there’s nothing wrong with my back.’
Scientists have recently discovered there’s almost no correlation between pain and what shows up on X-rays and MRIs.
The story highlights the fact a lot of people suffer from back pain, and the treatment of the condition is complex, and it can be challenging to determine the best approach.
Although Dr. Sarno’s treatment might seem unconventional, many people swear by his approach. The story highlights people who have tried everything, including surgery, painkillers, and physical therapy, with little success. However, after seeing Dr. Sarno, they have experienced significant improvements in their pain.
For example, Jeanette Farber had back pain for years, and her pain was so severe she had to use an electric cart to get around. After seeing Dr. Sarno, she was able to walk again without the need for the cart.
Keith Labus also credits Dr. Sarno with helping him overcome his chronic back pain. After years of trying various treatments with little success, he was finally able to find relief by addressing the emotional causes of his pain.
Many people with structural abnormalities experience no pain, while others with no structural issues experience significant pain. This suggests that the cause of the pain might not be physical but psychological, which is what Dr. Sarno argues.
His approach offers hope for those who have tried everything else with little success. It also highlights the importance of considering the psychological factors that might be contributing to chronic pain, rather than focusing solely on the physical aspects.
Dr. John Sarno’s theory is based on the idea that the root cause of back pain is not a physical issue in the body, but rather an emotional one. He believes that repressed emotions, such as anger, fear, and anxiety, can manifest as physical pain in the body.
During his three-hour lecture, Dr. Sarno explains to his patients that their back pain is not caused by any structural abnormalities in their bodies, but rather by the tension created by their repressed emotions. He encourages his patients to acknowledge and confront their emotions rather than push them down, and to accept that their pain is a result of these emotions.
Dr. Sarno’s approach has been met with skepticism from some in the medical community, who argue that there is little scientific evidence to support his theory. However, his approach has also gained a dedicated following of patients who credit him with helping them overcome their chronic pain.
While Dr. Sarno’s approach may not work for everyone, his success in treating chronic back pain through psychological means has challenged traditional beliefs about the causes of pain and has opened up new avenues for research and treatment in the field of pain management.