Dr. John Sarno's book "The MindBody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain" is invaluable. I first bought Sarno's book titled "Healing Back Pain" for my mother in South Africa and learned that stress, tension and psychological factors can cause back pain and migraines. Since I have chronic migraines I bought his later book "The MindBody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain." His thinking is of course outside mainstream medicine. Sarno found that strong emotions generated in the unconscious mind, particularly rage, cause the mind to create a more socially acceptable physical distraction. The brain does this by reducing the blood flow and thus the proper amount of oxygen to the tissues involved. He says the change in the muscles, nerves and tendons account for 90% of the pain. He calls it TMS-Tension Myositis Syndrome as it is a physical disorder caused by tension in muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments. The pain from the TMS takes our attention away from the emotional trauma and instead of dealing with our repressed feelings we focus on our body.
Treatment involves looking at what was going on in our life when the pain started and identifying repressed feelings from the past.
An experience I had makes me think what Sarno says is true. When my half sister and her husband, from South Africa, lived with me for five months they bought a car that had engine problems that only got seven miles to the gallon to tour America. I was concerned about their car purchase but did not say anything. I developed severe neck and back pain and could not turn my head for a week. I shared my concern about their car at a Co-Dependency group meeting and to my surprise I became very tearful. As I spoke the ache in my neck evaporated like vapor. I later joked with them and said, "You're a pain in the neck!"
I fit perfectly with the personality characteristics common in people with TMS-conscientious, responsible, perfectionistic with a strong need to please and to be helpful and good. And as Sarno says these tendencies have lead to tension and anxiety and physical problems.
When I looked for repressed anger when the migraines started I discovered that I felt extremely rejected, betrayed and used by my sister and brother-in-law at that time. Once I identified the repressed anger and sadness I started to grieve. It was like going through a divorce. Now I see we had different expectations for our relationship back then. I thought of us as a family. They wanted to immigrate to America and saw me as their ticket to get established.
When my stepfather heard I was angry he said, "Why don't you float your negative feelings in a paper boat down your creek? I thought I had! Now I see that Sarno's views are more helpful. Sarno says, "We are frail beings with brains strongly influenced by childish, illogical, reactions and dependency needs. Most of us carry feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, humiliation, shame and anger at ourselves for not living up to our own expectations and rage at others for perceived hurt and betrayals. The brain-mind is a conglomeration of thoughts and feelings that are often at odds with each other. It is not the neat, well organized, logical organ we would like it to be." Thanks to Sarno I've decided it's all right to be illogical and childish. It's part of being human and it is universal and if it means getting rid of my migraines and rage and becoming a better person in the end, then so much the better.
To help people recognize that their mind, rather than a physical abnormality is the source their pain Sarno's treatment program involves lectures, group meeting and psychotherapy, if necessary. Patients are encouraged to discontinue all physical therapy, resume all physical activity, and review the 10 daily reminders: I have no structural abnormality only mild oxygen deprivation;-I have a harmless condition caused by repressed emotion (mostly anger);-TMS exists to distract me from emotions;-I have nothing to fear;-my physical aching is not dangerous;-I will not be concerned or intimidated by pain;-I will shift my attention from pain to emotional issues;-I intend to be in control-not my subconscious mind;-I must think psychological, not physical.
Sarno has treated more than 11,000 patients with chronic pain-many of whom have suffered for years. He estimates he's cured more than 90% of them and has helped thousands of patients overcome pain without drugs or surgery.
I've been studying the principles in Sarno's book for two months now and, unfortunately, still have the migraines. If the migraines are caused by TMS I may be among the 5% Sarno talks about who will need to actually experience my grief and rage with a therapist to get relief. However, Sarno's book has been invaluable as I feel happier and more at peace. He has helped me realize that I need to spend more time with people that leave me feeling loved, empowered, and inspired....