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Back Pain: Does it Start in Your Mind or in Your Back?

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I have done some reading lately on the topic of how a great deal of our physical pains can be attributed to something inherent in our emotions and in our thoughts. Scientists as well as spiritualists will attest in some way, shape, or form that our mind, our thoughts, and our beliefs can have a huge impact on our overall health and well-being. The mind truly works in wondrous and mysterious ways when it comes to affecting one’s body.

Author John Sarno, who penned The Mindbody Prescription, is a professor of clinical rehabilitation medicine at the NY University School of Medicine in New York City. He believes that your body actually protects you from acting on the emotion of rage by transferring that energy, if you will, subconsciously to your lower back. After all, lower back pain is more socially acceptable than acting out on built-up rage.

So what does Sarno prescribe for this malady? In short, it is awareness. If you can accept that your brain is protecting you from the rage, your pain will go away. That qualifies as instant relief!

Sarno has coined the term “TMS – Tension Myositis Syndrome” to describe this condition. When we are suppressing our anger, the brain will mildly deprive the back muscles and certain tendons and nerves of oxygen to keep us from acting out on that anger. This can be a hard sell for many people, but only those who truly try it accept it and find the cure in it for themselves.

Sarno notes that people with certain personality traits tend to be at a greater risk for back pain, such as those who are specifically intelligent, talented, or compulsive perfectionists. Even those who constantly put the needs of others first can fall victim to lower back pain.

Spiritualist Louise Hay in her best-selling book, You Can Heal Your Life, notes that our inherent belief systems can affect areas of our bodies. She believes that how we think can affect how we physically feel, and subsequently heal. In her book, she itemizes a host of physical ailments and problems and corresponds those with certain emotional traits.

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EmpowHER Guest

Getting the Dx of Tension Myositis Syndrome saved my life literally. I had been in increasing levels of pain for many years and had no hope of it ever getting better. Getting a diagnosis from a rheumatologist who trained under Dr. Sarno was a turning point for me. Nothing else helped. That did. I went from having bouts of pain so bad I could not get out of a chair or walk unassisted to being able to play softball, drive, garden, and live my life again. I had given up hope on all of that. Now if I have any twinges I look at them as a warning sign that I have something repressed that needs attention, a sort of torando siren in my psyche. It is not stress that causes TMS but REPRESSED emotion. Bring what is repressed into the conscious through learning tools for listening to yourself and your body, and you move toward healing. It is really amazing and very real.

March 5, 2012 - 3:12pm
EmpowHER Guest

I usually do yoga to release any stress that I have. Maybe at the same time, it's releasing any back pain that I might be prone to having. I use those new G2 Fit mats.

December 1, 2009 - 12:32pm
EmpowHER Guest

I love this article... while I am a male I do believe in everything that you have written and I strongly believe that pent up rage is a sole contributor to low back pain. While I have a few skeletal deficiencies that have attributed to my scoliosis. I have known that having a stress reduced life lowers my pain by a score of 5-7 (on a 10.0) scale.

And yes, becoming more bodily aware should be something that all people should undertake. If only education "reform" or at least parents should teach their kids that both GUYS and GIRLS should become aware of how their mind and body works....

November 30, 2009 - 11:36pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.