Who was Dr. John Sarno?

Photo of clouds shows how the Dr. Sarno method alleviates and heals chronic back pain and Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS).

Dr. John Sarno was a prominent physician who specialized in the treatment of chronic pain disorders.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1923, he graduated from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1950. He completed his internship and residency at the same institution before serving in the US Army Medical Corps during the Korean War.

Dr. Sarno began his career as a general practitioner, but he became interested in psychosomatic medicine after observing that many of his patients were suffering from chronic pain with no apparent physical cause.

He was particularly intrigued by the high prevalence of back pain, which he believed was often caused by psychological rather than physical factors.

Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS)

In the 1970s, Dr. Sarno began to develop a theory of mind-body medicine, which posited that many chronic pain disorders were the result of repressed emotions and psychological conflicts.

He coined the term Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) to describe a range of chronic pain conditions including fibromyalgia gastrointestinal issues, migraine headaches, and other disorders that he believed were caused by emotional stress and tension.

Dr. Sarno’s approach to treating Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) was based on education and empowerment. He believed that once patients understand the psychological basis of their pain, they can take control of their symptoms and recover without the need for medication or surgery.

Many lower back pain, spinal disc, and musculoskeletal neurological disorders are associated with underlying emotional issues.

How Dr. John Sarno healed back pain

  1. Dr. John Sarno would conduct a comprehensive case history and examination to rule out any structural or pathological causes.
  2. Using the principles of Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS), Dr. Sarno would ask patients about their life experiences when they first noticed the back pain. His specific question was: ‘Do you remember what was happening in your life when you first noticed the back pain?’ This would encourage self-reflection and allow patients to identify how their emotions and disappointments could affect their body’s nervous, vaso-vagal system, and immune response, ultimately helping them overcome resistance to self-reflection.
  3. Dr. Sarno believed that understanding what was happening in the TMS patient’s body was crucial to their recovery. He presented weekly Monday night lectures where he used a slide show to explain the physiology behind the symptoms.
  4. Dr. Sarno advised patients to resume their normal exercise routine or begin a balanced exercise program for their overall well-being, rather than symptom relief.
  5. Dr. Sarno encouraged patients to keep a journal of their life experiences, which helped them understand how their pain was connected to inner conflicts.
  6. To calm the nervous system, Dr. Sarno recommended meditation and breathing exercises.
  7. Dr. Sarno observed that once patients realized the cause of their pain, the pain would cease to exist. However, some patients struggled to accept the psychosomatic diagnosis and were referred to Dr. Arlene Feinblatt’s ISTDP clinic for psychotherapy, which integrated the mind and body, leading to the resolution of inner conflict and the subsiding of pain.

Dr. Sarno’s work gained a following among chronic pain sufferers and healthcare professionals, and he published several books on the subject, including “Healing Back Pain”: The Mind-Body Connection” and “The Mindbody Prescription: “Healing the Body, Healing the Pain.” He was also the subject of a documentary film, “All the Rage,” which explored his theories and their impact on patients.

Dr. Sarno retired from clinical practice in 2012 and passed away in 2017 at the age of 93.

Dr. Sarno was a pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine and a champion of the idea that chronic pain can be overcome with knowledge and self-empowerment.

Sarno Clinic advances the Dr. John Sarno method for healing chronic pain.