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Natural Awakenings New York City

Back Pain-Emotional or Structural?

Let’s talk pain. Back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, neck pain and migraine.

I’ve had to deal with all of these types of pain for years. Sometimes the pain would be gradual, other times, it would hit me like lightening. Each time I would try to figure out what I did to cause it. Did I sleep funny, did I lift something too heavy, is it all the dancing till 4am catching up to me? I would go to the Dr. or the Chiropractor. I would try Acupuncture, Acupressure, Reflexology and Kinesiology. Each time I would be cured but in a few weeks something else would hurt.

 My brother, Zach recommended that I read Dr. John Sarno’s book “Healing Back Pain.” It changed my life and how I look at pain.

 Dr. Sarno was the attending physician at the Howard A. Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, at the New York University Medical Center. In his practice he was able to cure thousands of people without surgery or medication.

In trying to heal people of joint pain with conventional means and not getting the desired results, he decided to observe more than what the X-rays were showing. He noticed that where people said that were experiencing pain did not coincide with any structure abnormality. Dr. Sarno also noticed that many of these patients had a history of irritable bowl syndrome and other disorders that were believed to be related to tension. He believed that the muscle pain his patients were experiencing could be tension related.

Dr. Sarno started asking his patients not just their medical history but of their emotional  history. He found over and over that many of his patients experienced emotional trauma. He started to see a pattern of personality traits that they all had in common.

Dr. Sarno explains that the mind is protecting us from emotional overload and will direct a mild oxygen deprivation to the muscles. He said don’t misunderstand, the pain is real, but it’s not life threatening. We are so indoctrinated into believing that all pain must be structural, Dr. Sarno disagrees. He’s seen many structural abnormalities but he said that is also regular wear and tear on the body.

Dr. Sarno also noticed that many of his patients would return a few months later complaining of pain in another area. Dr. Sarno called this phenomena the Symptom Imperative. He would explain that the mind does not give up that easy. Even though you are now aware how your emotions affect your health, the mind still wants to distract you.

Now, when my back, neck or knees start to hurt, I take the time to evaluate what I’m thinking and feeling. Practicing self-care is an ongoing process, but one that has helped me live a more pain free life.

Check out Dr. John E. Sarno’s “Healing Back Pain” or his other books related to the Mind-Body Connection.

Celeste DeCamps is a motivational speaker. She shares a lifetime experience of stage- dance and movement through stories and audience interaction. For more information, visit