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Harvard Health Blog
Mind over back pain
- By Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D., Contributing Editor
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
The lower body pain includes the low back, gluten muscles, hips and legs. This could be because of muscle strain, degenerative tissues, a herniated disc, sacroiliac joint disease, arthritis of the facet joint or a fracture in the lumbar vertebrae.
Horses for courses…there is no one solution that will help everyone but these various approaches should help most people. Equally, some people like the commentator Angela Lamb, may not be helped by any of these approaches.
It is audacious to assume everyone’s pain will be affected because for some, nothing will.
All we can do is keep trying.
stressed often negative thinking
have Myesthenia Gravis neurological disease ( Ocular area)
exhausted during the daytime hours. Usually after noon
In the morning is when I have my energy.
Every study is only a piece of the puzzle. It’s good that one study of 320 people showed a benefit for mindfulness and CBT after one year. It does not mean that every single human being with back pain will be cured immediately by mindfulness and CBT, as @Angela’s pointed out.
In January, JAMA published Steffens et al’s meta-analysis of 30 850 people showing that combined exercise and education prevent back pain in about 30 percent of patients for a year (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26752509).
Again, exercise and education are not a cure-all, but they help a significant number of people, like @Jeff.
If you’d like to hear an informed, balanced, yet light-hearted analysis, I invite you to read my latest book, The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back.
For everyone, best of luck healing and preventing back pain.
Melissa Yuan-Innes, M.D.
Alexander Technique is a psycho -physical method that’s incredibly effective for chronic, non-specific lower back pain. It will change the way you perceive yourself and question habitual thought-patterns that you’ve always taken for granted. It’s tested by randomised-controlled trials, the teachers are well trained and it’s very safe.
“You might also try on your own. You could explore CBT using the book on which the University of Washington class was based: The Pain Survival Guide: How to Reclaim Your Life.” This is great sir…. This is very helpful… Thanks for sharing…
It’s absolutely no surprise to Alexander Technique teachers who have shown it’s about the way you “use” yourself (mentally, emotionally, physically) for over 100 years!
It’s been clinically proven for back pain with NHS funded gold standard randomised trials which were published in the British Medical journal and recommended by backcare.org.uk
Even though Dr. Sarno’s books are awesome, in my opinion they are NOT a must-read (anymore). Why do I tell you this? Well, I’ve read all Dr. Sarno’s books, along with 18 more recent Mind-Body books on curing back pain and body pain.
The best book and the method I use with my clients is the cutting edge Zero Pain Now process and book by Adam Heller. There’s a reason he has a 97.4% success rate with one single session.
This information, along with my clinical experience does ‘prove’ structural abnormalities like herniated or bulging discs, spinal stenosis and scoliosis are RARELY the cause of your pain.
So what is causing the pain? Most pain is caused directly by constricted blood vessels, resulting in local oxygen deprivation. In those areas you will find lowpH and increased production of pain substances, causing you to feel pain.
Why does the autonomic nervous system create constricted blood vessels? To divert attention away from feeling ‘unbearable’ emotions. Most ofter rage, anger, fear, sadness and shame.
Myofascial trigger point formation is a clear manifestation of this process. Since I’ve been working as a trigger point specialist for 8+ years, the key is to get rid of those muscle knots… but also to eliminate the underlying cause. Just eliminating trigger points only is therefore temporary or just moves the problem to an other area of the body.
Your best bet is probably to read Zero Pain Now. Other highly recommended books and programs are “The Tapping Solution” (EFT), “Think Away Your Pain” and “Unlearn Your Pain”.
In conclusion: even though I honor Dr. Sarno in being the initial pioneer in this area, I have found there’s some more effective treatments or programs available now in 2016.
My experience with Dr John Sarno’s work. Remain skeptical but he saved me after dozens of failed therapies
Ronald – is there a direct email for you?
I had nine surgeries (lower back, #1 and #5 were big ones on damaged tissue – prior to 2001) then fracture/compression in 2014 (Sport motorcycles = safe, $2 sled in VT = this!). Hot Yoga has been great, finally off pain meds but it was a Psych med finally prescribed that made ALL the difference (mental focus on task/not pain + discomfort).
The Mind-Body Connection by Dr. John Sarno is a must read for anyone with back or neck pain. I had serious pain for 10 years I just chalked it up to having a gymnastic childhood, it hurt, I would cry and curse my life until a friend heard an interview with Howard Stern crediting his life to Sarno and healing his pain. Ultimately, the book explains how we internalize our past rage and our bodies manifest it through chronic pain as opposed to dealing with it psychologically. I cured every last tweak of pain just by doing personal mental and writing exercises from this book for about 2 months.
Dr. John Sarno, look him up.
I have back pain plus sciatic pain. Had surgery. Do yoga and meditate. Exercise and ride a recumbent bike. Take care of my own house and am very active. 71 years old. STILL have back pain. It is not in my attitude. I believe your research may be valid but am tired of all this questioning pain. Pain is pain. It is chronic. I live with it but it does hurt.
Pain is pain. You are correct. Had three back surgeries for scoliosis >25 yrs ago, i do not want to go under the knife again until last resort. I deal with it and take ibuprofen occasionally. Stretch ritually every am and pm. Really helps. Got to keep moving!
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