Have Back Pain? Want To Fix It?

Smart And Spicy


1 See a movie

2 Call a (specific) doctor

3 Read a book

Would you believe something works if enough people swore it?

What if it contradicted established medical thinking?

What if someone said you could cure your own back pain, without surgery or drugs?

"He saved my life."

"He completely changed my life."

So many people say this about Dr. John Sarno that there's a website just to thank him, (thankyoudrsarno.org). Every book he wrote was checked out of the LA County Public Library when I wrote this.

This, despite the fact that Dr. Sarno was ignored by the mainstream medical establishment.

Dr. David Schechter, practicing in Culver City for 20 years, did research with Dr. Sarno.

"Dr. Sarno was unique in his ability to stand on an island; he wasn't widely accepted in the medical profession," says Dr. Schechter, who told me to call him Doctor Dave.

John Sarno had a medical degree from Columbia University. He was Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Medical School, and practiced at NYU Medical Center from 1965-2012.

On August 11 a film about Dr. Sarno, "All The Rage," will open at the Music Hall. You'll have a chance to make up your own mind.

I can just tell you that when I saw it the entire audience clapped, and actually gave a standing ovation - to a movie in a darkened room.

Dr. Sarno wasn't there; he died of cardiac failure the week before the movie's premiere, one day before his 94th birthday.

"I can’t tell you how sad I am that my hero is gone," Howard Stern wrote to Dr. Sarno's wife.

“I suffered horribly from back pain for many years … and he really saved my life," he says on his website.

Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm) appears in the film along with Howard Stern.

"Doctors told me I had all the 'ITIS'es," Larry tells. "They said I had all the 'itis' family, but never stopped my pain.

"Dr. Sarno said, 'There's nothing wrong with you. You have tension.' And that made sense because I was a comedian and there's a lot of stress in that."

Howard Stern: "After Dr. Sarno, it was two years and I was laughing at the pain."

Larry David: "It was the closest I ever had to a religious experience. And I wept."

"TMS" is the name Dr. Sarno gave to various types of chronic pain (Tension Myositis Syndrome). He believed TMS has psychological causes, and may be due to mild oxygen deprivation caused by reduced blood flow to nerves and muscles.

Dr. Sarno: "Not working and economic worry can be a driver of people's pain. Economic sensitivity can be an enormous increaser of physical pain."

I worry about this geometrically increasing due to current political reality in the U.S.

Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, co-Directors of the film, decided to feature Michael's own story. He had pain so bad he once spent 17 days writhing on the floor. "At age eight, I had something very traumatic happen."

Galinsky shows his own family as he recounts marriage, having children and extreme work stress. After discovering and being treated by Dr. Sarno, Galinsky's pain disappeared. Over years, with other symptoms, he returned to Dr. Sarno, and says his pain was once again cured.


How? How exactly, I wondered. The film gives clues, but never exactly says.

So I asked Dr. Dave my top question: "Once people realize they have psychologically traumatic incidents, how do they deal with it to relieve pain?"

The first thing, Dr. Dave said, is to have a medical doctor decide there's no structural explanation for their pain.

Dr. Dave said it's important to be open to the psychological side.

The process begins with diagnosing TMS, pain where you feel it, but without a medical cause. The trigger, Dr. Dave says, is emotional, therefore in the brain, the central nervous system.

"An important part of getting better is to hear from a physician that your problem is TMS. Then the patient can go through the process on the way to healing.

"When people hear about this for the first time," says Dr. Dave, "it depends to some degree on their curiosity, openness, or desperation."

"Are you a psychiatrist or psychologist?" I asked.

"No. I'm a medical doctor, with a specialty in family and sports medicine, and mind-body medicine." Dr. Dave is at Cedars-Sanai.

"Interestingly, at least half my patients have been in psychotherapy at least once, but they're still having pain. It's not enough to be psychologically-minded; you have to understand that the symptom you're experiencing is coming from your emotions.


"Pain is always a symptom."

Dr. Schechter says he's taken Dr. Sarno's research further. "Dr. Sarno didn't know about this: The concept is important - you can train your brain to be in pain.

"We change the software of the brain by getting the patient to understand their condition in a different way, and by getting the patient to change their self-talk. That's how neural pathways begin to change in the brain."

I asked his top tip.

"My tip is to not ignore your emotional life and your feelings and stresses when it comes to any physical symptoms you might have.

"It's knowledge, that's the cure," Dr. Sarno says.

John Stossel discusses his 20/20 interview with Dr. Sarno in the film. "That was 20 years ago," he says. "People come up to me still, saying, 'Your story on Dr. Sarno changed my life.'"

Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin also talks of meeting Dr. Sarno in 2004. "I haven't had back pain since."

In his obituary, the NY Times said Dr. Sarno "walked from his Upper East Side home to N.Y.U. every day well into his 80s."

Something to aspire to!


The movie:

"All The Rage" at the Music Hall August 11.

The doctor:

David Schechter, M.D. http://www.MindBodyMedicine.com

The book:

Dr. John Sarno:

"Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection"

"The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders"

Dr. David Schechter:

"Think Away Your Pain"


Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything.

You can write to her at: smartspicy1@gmail.com


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