John E. Sarno, M.D.    June 23, 1923 – June 22, 2017

In late 2011 I felt totally lost and discouraged.  It was one year after back surgery, and my agonizing pain and sciatica were raging out of control.  My neurosurgeon prescribed physical therapy for pain of “unknown origin.” After all, the surgery had corrected the structural issues that had “caused” my symptoms.  The physical therapy helped me build strength, but did not help relieve my symptoms. So WHY was I STILL in pain?

I spent a lot of time googling for an answer to my dilemma.  Most of what I discovered online only led to more confusion and right into victimhood – the plague of post laminectomy syndrome – or failed back syndrome.  I would NOT accept that this was my fate and finally found the work of John Sarno, M.D.

Dr. Sarno was Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University School of Medicine, and attending physician at the Howard A. Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation MedicineNew York University Medical Center.

He authored four books: Mind Over Back Pain, Healing Back Pain, The Mindbody Prescription and The Divided Mind. Hundreds of thousands of individuals claimed that his books were responsible for eliminating or greatly reducing pain that had not responded to medical treatment.

Dr. Sarno’s words filled me with hope and liberated me from the unrelenting fear that had consumed my life. My fear subsided while reading about his theory that these physical symptoms are initiated by emotional factors that are almost universal in Western society.


Dr. Sarno’s career spanned over 50 years.  He found that many patients had severe back pain with mild or no abnormalities on X-rays or MRIs. And he noted that many people with significant or severe imaging abnormalities had little or no pain.  For more on this, click here.

He also observed connections between emotional distress, adverse childhood experiences, and his patient’s personality traits (such as people pleasing and perfectionism) and the presence of back pain and other syndromes (IBS, tension headaches, etc.)

Through his clinical practice, Dr. Sarno came to the conclusion that tension induced reactions in the body create oxygen deprivation to areas of the body causing intense pain.  He believed that the syndrome originates in the brain rather than in a structural abnormality.

The pain is perpetuated and amplified by overly sensitized nerve connections between the brain and the body. This distressing cycle of pain may continue for months, years, or decades.  Brain imaging studies show that physical and emotional pain both impact the same areas of the brain.

From Dr. Sarno in The Mindbody Prescription:  “I told my patients there was really nothing wrong with their backs.  I explained that they had a harmless condition that must be treated through the mind, not the body.  Awareness, insight, knowledge and information were the magic medicine that would cure this disorder – and nothing else could do it.

…mindbody physical symptoms…do not imply mental or emotional illness or abnormailityWe are much stronger than we know, and have the capacity to influence what is going on in our bodies.”

 Dr. John Sarno’s legacy is a powerful testimonial and inspiration. The day after his death a new documentary opened in New York City:  All the Rage – Saved by Sarno.  I hope you will have the opportunity to see this profound and potentially life changing film.

“The awareness of the power of the mind body connection- AND our innate ability to activate that power- is rising at an exponential rate in science and medicine.  It is no longer a fringe idea. The system is flipping. It is an exciting time.” Michael Galinsky, Director & Filmmaker, All the Rage.

And remember, (as Sarno teaches) YOU hold the key!