I have never met you, only once read your book “Healing Back Pain” that was recommended by a friend. I owe you so much gratitude for changing my life! I suffered from over 8 years of chronic back pain. I was told I had bulging discs, spina bifida occulta and pars defect/spondylosis. Not only did I have back pain, but I have had 7 surgeries on multiple joints. 4 on my knee, one on my hip and both shoulders with rotator cuffs tears. To my surgeons amazement, I was a 34 year old homemaker and tore my rotator cuff without any accident or trauma! To dig deeper as to explain why I had so many issues at such a young age, I visited a rheumatologist who discovered I may possibly have Degenerative Back Disease and would probably have to take medication the rest of my life while my back disintegrated. Then read your book…
Before my pain issues I was a top runner in my state of Indiana and had a cross country scholarship to college. As my life stressors accelerated, so did my pain issues. After my junior year of college I could no longer run more that a 5K. As an adult I dreamed to run the Chicago Marathon. I had surgeries, physical therapy, took all the supplements I could find for my “bad joints” just so some day I could run again. Acupuncture, chiropractors and massage therapists too. Nothing helped long term. One issue would resolve just to have another injury occur. I couldn’t get past a 5K run without developing another injury or having significant pain.
I read your book March of 2012. To be honest, I got very angry! I couldn’t believe that all these years I had listened to all these Dr’s and professionals, when it turns out they were wrong all along. I put my running shoes on and went for a run, pain popped up here and there. Within a few days, the pain was gone.
I sit here writing this letter to you, not knowing if you’ll ever read it. But wanted to tell you that it has been 7 months after reading your book and I just completed my dream of running the 2012 Chicago Marathon!!! Not only did I simply finish, I smashed it! I ran it in 4 hours 2 minutes! I put your book down after reading it and haven’t stopped running since! I have no plans of stopping with a marathon either. The sky’s the limit! I feel like I’ve been given my life back and I credit you for that.
Forever grateful, Sarah
Dear Dr. Sarno,
I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve given me. You not only freed me of what felt like a life-sentence of excruciating and debilitating back pain, but your work has also helped me to become the person I am today. Reading Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection in 1997 not only changed my physical health drastically, it also opened my eyes to who I am and how I function. Your work started me on a journey from a girl who was emotionally unaware and detached from her inner-world, to an emotionally-rich woman who now works as a psychotherapist, helping others to identify and process their feelings and grow through a better understanding of themselves.
I was only 18 years old when I was diagnosed and relieved of TMS in 1997. It started with a twinge of pain between the shoulder blades while I was working as a counselor in a sleep-away camp. The camp nurse told me it was from the flimsy camp mattresses and would go away when I got home. But a few months into my senior year in high school, the pain grew stronger, more frequent and to more areas of my back. My pediatrician sent me to a sports medicine doctor. I had an MRI and other scans taken but they were inconclusive. So the doctor prescribed me muscle relaxants. When that didn’t help, my parents took me to a chiropractor. The chiropractor was convinced it was the after-effects of a car accident I had been in, but that never resonated as true to me (though it had to be for him to bill my insurance). He had me come in every week for an adjustment and time on a massage bed. As I would drive myself home from the chiropractic session, I would have some of my worst bouts of back pain (though the car accident hadn’t affected me physically, it probably had emotionally/ psychologically- triggering the TMS pain). I was a teenager but I would have to miss out on some social gatherings because I was at home writhing in pain, lying on a heating pad in bed, my mom trying to massage the knots in my back with massagers- to no avail. I felt like an 18 year old stuck in the body of an 80 year old. I was petrified I was destined to spend the rest of my life this way, since none of the doctors I saw could find the appropriate diagnosis, or cure. I felt helpless and hopeless and wondered how’d I go on.
At the time, my older brother was reading Howard Stern’s autobiography. He told my parents that in it, Howard had devoted a chapter to singing the praises of a medical doctor who had completely relieved him of his extreme and debilitating back pain simply by making him aware of how his personality and emotional management affected his physical well-being. My parents and I were skeptical, but we were out of options so called you, Dr. Sarno, out of desperation. You told me to read your book because that alone may cure me – I may never have to even go and see you. So I got the book but because of our skepticism, I still came to you for the physical exam and the lecture. Within a couple of months I was pain-free and back to normal. But more than that, I had also gained a lot of insight into myself, my emotional makeup and how I function. My experience healing from TMS began a personal journey of self-discovery and much personal, emotional and spiritual growth for me.
I often feel fortunate that I was so young when I experienced TMS and became relieved of it. At age 18, it was hard to attribute the pain to most other sources, and I was open enough to consider an “unconventional” diagnosis. Then I was lucky enough to take what I learned about the mind-body connection into the rest of my adult life and apply it. And now as a psychotherapist, I help my patients to make the connection between their physical health and inner-life as well, and introduce them to TMS and how they can recover from it. As someone who has recovered herself, it does not become just an act of generosity, but a sense of duty to help people find what works to become pain-free!
Dr. Sarno, words limit me in expressing the gratitude and appreciation I feel towards you for the tremendous contribution you’ve made to my life, as well as to countless others. And though you will no longer be practicing, I am confident your work will live on through the many people whose lives you impacted and will continue to impact through your books, your former patients, your successors, and the legacy you’ve imparted. And it is not just your lesson that moves me, it is also how you have delivered it. Considering the ground-breaking nature of what you have accomplished, and how many lives you changed, it never appeared to become about ego for you, or fame, or financial success. You always come off as very sincere and humble. For you it has always appeared to be about the message and not the messenger, and that too is truly inspiring.
Thank you. I wish you much peace and happiness in your retirement.
I am so pleased to have this opportunity to thank you, acknowledge you, and honor you.
Several years ago I limped into your office with excruciating lower back pain that severely impacted the quality of my life for 2 years. Prior to meeting you, I could not walk properly, run or dance without burning pain. I tried physical therapy, chiropractors, acupuncture, deep tissue massage, and even hanging upside down from my ankles for hours (inversion therapy). None of that worked. Then, NYC’s most prominent surgeons recommended back surgery and they had the MRI’s and X-rays to back-up their recommendations. As a last chance effort to avoid surgery, I went to see you. After working with you and Dr. Eric Sherman, one of your gifted psychotherapists, my pain disappeared. Treatment took less than a year and I have now been pain-free for over ten years.
Since I am a professional engineer, I was able to see the disc abnormalities on the MRI’s. It was therefore very difficult to not subscribe to the physical diagnosis given to me by so many doctors. In the face of my skepticism you held your ground and declared that while the pain is real, the source is not the disc but the mind. It was in your certainty that I found the courage to discover, confront and come to terms with painful emotions from which the pain served to distract me. When it was no longer necessary to be distracted from these emotions, the pain ceased to serve a function and went away.
I thank you for your courage to stand in the face of little to no agreement from medical establishment. I acknowledge you for being a doctor who, early on in your medical practice, told the truth to yourself and others when your patients did not get better using popular and lucrative (to medical and insurance companies) treatments—and then found a way to get your patients better. I honor you for distinguishing a new paradigm for the treatment of chronic pain.
The Collins Dictionary defines genius as “a person with exceptional ability, especially of a highly original kind; distinctive spirit or creative nature; a person exerting great influence.” Collins uses the example, “Mozart’s musical genius.” Future generations will no doubt use the phrase, “Dr. Sarno’s medical genius.” In every sense of the word, you are a genius. I am honored and fortunate to have been treated by you and to know you.
With deep love and respect,