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Chronic pain and our stress's all the rage!

10th April 2015


A few years ago I suffered a L5-S1 herniated disc in my spine. I experienced chronic pain for nearly two years. I had never experienced pain like this in my life. My consultant wanted to operate, but I resisted, balancing any fear generated by research with endless other possible pain management!

I suffered, my family suffered, my work suffered. I remember being told to practise CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which was ironic really seeing as this is part of my practise. Actually the suggestion made me angry. How could CBT possibly help me, the problem was not in my head, it was in my back...wasn’t it?

I can now reflect back at that very difficult time and clearly recognise how I fought every day with feelings of defeat. I believed I would never recover; I started to fear I had no choice, any “good” life felt over. It was a very dark experience.

Clearly this shows how my mind and my thoughts were not helpful. I would never have visited a sick patient, sat by their bedside endlessly telling them that their life was over, that they would never recover, that they may as well give up. But I did to myself!

So, I can accept that my unhelpful thinking affected my mental recovery which would have played a part in my physical recovery. But let’s dig a bit deeper: was it possible that my psychological health prior to my “injury” left me vulnerable to such a condition?

Dr John Sarno, an American Professor and originator of the diagnosis of the controversial psychosomatic condition known as TMS, Tension Myositis Syndrome, would believe so. Sarno’s theory is that a great deal of chronic pain, including most back pain, is caused by TMS. The basic idea is that TMS is initiated in the brain, not the body, as a result of the brain’s psychological need to repress deep emotional issues such as anger. According to Sarno, the brain creates pain as a “distraction” to avoid dealing with troubling emotions. The brain does this by using the autonomic nervous system to restrict blood flow to certain tissues of the body, resulting in hypoxia and then pain.

The links below are interesting, cast your opinion. One thing is for sure, his theory certainly highlights how the brain and emotional stress play a big role in chronic pain.