Chronic low back pain—the type that is not due to a physical trauma or accident—is one of the most common chronic medical complaints, yet one of the most difficult to treat. Standard therapies include: exercises and physical therapy, rest, painkillers, and/or various types of injections.
Some people have undergone multiple surgeries and still have their pain. What is going on? Dr. John Sarno, who died In New York recently at age 94, had an answer. And while his theories were considered radical by most doctors, and were rejected by the medical establishment, Dr. Sarno gained a huge following of devoted patients, including countless celebrities.
He was a professor at the Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical School. He wrote several best-seller books, and his followers created online forums with huge and devoted followers. This year, a group of grateful patients released a documentary about his work, “All the Rage (Saved by Sarno)”
Low back pain: Dr. Sarno’s theory
Basically Dr. Sarno believed that many (not all) cases of low back pain were due to a strong mind-body connection. Note that he was talking about low back pains that were NOT secondary to physical traumas or accident. This in itself is not controversial; most back-pain experts agree that psychological factors can make low back pain worse. But what made Dr. Sarno controversial was that he believed that the actual pain may be completely caused by the person’s mind. That is, unconsciously, the sufferer’s brain is manufacturing the pain. He said that this was done for a reason.
Why the brain would “make” this pain
Dr. Sarno, a strong believer in Freud, theorized that the brain manufactured this pain to distract the person from what was really bothering him—some uncomfortable or traumatic experiences or feelings that the person could not openly express. Dr. Sarno believed that these feelings were deeply buried in the person’s unconscious mind. In effect, it was easier to experience the physical pain than the emotional pain that was the root of the problem.
Not only back pain
Dr. Sarno believed that it in many people, these deep buried sufferings were expressed as low back pain, but in other people it could manifest as chronic headaches, abdominal pain, or fibromyalgia. He invented the term “tension myositis syndrome” that described these chronic pain problems.
The experiences or emotions that are buried could be anything from the past or the present. For example, childhood abuse that is “forgotten”. Or if a person really hates his job, but cannot admit it, or is angry at his children. Dr. Sarno said the underlying emotion caused the person to be angry, to have a rage, that expressed as pain.
Pleasant perfectionist person
Many of the people seem on the outside to have very pleasant personalities. In fact, many of them are always trying to please, and be “perfect”. But they suffer a chronic pain because something is bottled up inside them.
Fortunately, Dr. Sarno found that treatment for most of these people was not complex, and usually very successful. The treatment involved first recognizing the deep hurt inside, whatever it is, and talking about it, even though it might be difficult. The second part was to go back to normal activities; that is, act is if the pain was not there.
Keep track of the pain
Many of his patients apparently got better from learning about this condition (through books, online forums, or knowledgeable doctors) and understanding what was going on. Keeping track of the pain, via a pain journal, helped many. Some people needed help from a psychologist or therapist, but most were able to improve without, and just by externalizing what was inside.
Again, Dr. Sarno’s theories are controversial, and clearly many cases of low back pain are due to physical causes, especially if following a physical trauma. But if you are a sufferer of chronic low back pain, it is worth considering what Dr. Sarno talked about. The Internet has many sources. Good Luck!
Read also in ProcuraMed:
Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)