Dr. Sarno’s Mind Body Medicine for CFS/ME & Fibromyalgia

200px-Sigmund_Freud_LIFE

Straight out of the 1950's when Elvis was king, cars were big and Doctors still wore white coats.

Who is Dr. John Sarno?  Dr. John Sarno is a physician from the U.S who spent a large part of his career treating back pain. He discovered many of his patients problems simply did not match up with their test results. He wanted to find out why and so turned to psychology for some answers. He began to explore the connection between unconscious emotions and physical symptoms and to cut a long story short he found a very direct connection between repressed anger, sadness and his patients level of discomfort or disease.

What is his approach?
He established the notion that it was repressed emotion in the subconscious that was creating these symptoms as a distraction from dealing with challenging thoughts and feelings. A sort of psychological self defense mechanism which involved the body restricting oxygen to certain parts of the body to trigger symptoms. He went on to label this Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) and created a a treatment protocol designed to make his patients aware of their emotions in order to relieve their symptoms.
Does it work for CFS/ME?
Originally he applied his findings to people with back pain, repetitive stress injury and fibromyalgia with great clinical success. But he has since gone on to broaden his scope successfully treating a whole range of conditions including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He believes CFS/ME to be a mind body disorder treatable through his methods.

So in a nutshell what is his treatment protocol? 
‘You are going to change the brains program by thinking about certain things everyday until the symptoms stop’ – Dr. Sarno
After you have been been checked out and referred by himself or another Doctor for his treatment protocol he recommends these 4 steps:
  • First off read one of his books in it’s entirety. Then reread the psychology or treatment section every day paying close attention to what you recognise about yourself. Amazingly for some people this is all that’s needed and having been made aware of the ‘trickery’ of their subconscious minds their chronic pain or illness simply goes away.
  • Make a list of all the things that could potentially be causing painful and threatening feelings in your subconscious. Examples include anger, hurt, sadness, childhood issues or extreme pressure on yourself to be good or achieve.
  • Then set aside 15 to 45 minutes each day to review these feelings and journal on each area until your symptoms begin to clear. Apparently the goal is not to have these feelings burst into your conscious mind like a giant emotional volcano.
  • A small portion of patients (around 20%) may need the help of a specific style of psychotherapist to help to expose the subconscious emotion. The purpose of this psychotherapy is to help you become more aware your emotions, especially any defensive structures that may be holding back subconscious anger.
My Experience (1/12/11)
Just over a month ago I was on facebook and saw an advert out of the corner of my eye for Mind Body Healing method. I thought to myself that’s the last thing I need right now as I already had a whole range of psychological approaches I still haven’t got around to properly exploring. Then that little voice deep inside of me that I’ve been trying to listen to more these days starts chanting ‘do it, do it, do it’.
So I click through to the website and straight away see the picture of a guy I had met at the house of David Holmgren (the man who started Permaculutre) a few months ago. I immediately call him. He remembers me and later that day I’m having a session. There were a few other coincidences that you wouldn’t believe if I told you so I won’t even go into it but let’s just say I was supposed to be meeting this guy.
He went on to share his recovery story from Repetitive Strain Injury as well as chronic tiredness using Dr. Sarno’s methods. He reckoned my psycho-profile very much fit the bill and suggested I give Sarno’s treatment protocol a shot. I borrowed his copy of the book A Divided Mind and read the thing in a week or so taking copious notes. It really rang true.

Hopefully you can't make out what it says.....

Over the last few weeks I have made a list of all the possible areas in my life that could be the cause of repressed emotion and anger. It was pretty long even after all the work I’ve done on myself in the last few years.
And so each night I’ve been slowly plugging away at it writing very intense and confronting journal pieces around each area. I then build up the emotional intensity to a maximum, scream into my pillow, wriggle around like a demented worm and apply the Emotional Freedom Technique to let it all out.
So far I’m not free of symptoms but am feeling it to be a very positive process.Personally I am not 100% convinced methodology is wholly applicable to CFS/ME as some of Sarno’s statements seem to be a tad sweeping. But I am open to the fact (and even hopeful) that I may be wrong. I was drawn to this approach through intense synchronicity, I fit the personality profile to a tee and it’s the first time I’ve been able to directly address issues I knew were contributing to my fatigue.
Plus at the end of the day it can’t hurt to journal. 

More Information

  • And finally the website of the practitioner who introduced me to the work of Dr. Sarno. His name is Hal and he recovered from R.S.I and chronic fatigue using the methods explored in this article. He’s a very nice guy and wealth of information. Be sure to contact him with any questions you might have.

Had any experience with the work of Dr. Sarno?

Leave comment and share your insights with the rest of us!

 

Where to Next?

Keen to explore some other psychological approaches to recovering from CFS/ME?

Or even get the down low on GcMAF

28 Responses to Dr. Sarno’s Mind Body Medicine for CFS/ME & Fibromyalgia
  1. […] Dr. Sarno’s Mind Body Medicine for CFS/ME & Fibromyalgia (CFS recoverypath.com, 7 December 201… […]

  2. Maris
    January 9, 2012 | 12:58 am

    Im looking into this now. Thinking of making an appt. with this spring as we both live in NYC. Do you know anyone cured from this? Hoping for a 2012 that’s healthier for all of us

    • Joe
      February 29, 2012 | 11:54 am

      The guy that introduced me to the technique over came depression, fatigue and R.S.I using the method. It seems to hold alot of potential. 2012 has gotten off to a good start for me and using some of Sarnos techniques has played a part in that. Have fun getting to know yourself better and good luck :)

    • Forest
      March 13, 2012 | 7:06 pm

      Hi, Maris, I wasn’t diagnosed with CFS/ME, but I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia by Dr. Don Goldenberg, author of a well known book about FM. I’ve also been diagnosed with Myofascial Pain Syndrome and a host of other conditions.

      Dr. Sarno’s has made a huge difference in my life. It’s helped me overcome the fear that I lived with for many years and now I finally feel like I have my life back. It has taken a long time and I’m 20 years older than I was when symptoms first started appearing, but it feels really good to be free. I’ve posted a longer version of my story at my forum profile, here:
      http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/members/forest.6/
      (CLICK ON WHERE IT SAYS INFORMATION).

      If you’d like to learn more, I’d highly recommend the TMS Wiki’s Structured Educational Program:
      http://tmswiki.org/ppd/Structured_Educational_Program
      It is 100% based on Dr. Sarno’s techniques and is backed by a new nonprofit run by people who have recovered from their pain.

      • Joe
        March 15, 2012 | 6:45 am

        Thanks for the info Forest, the structured program is an awesome resource. I’m sure the whole website will help alot of people.

        For any interested readers personally I reckon it’s still best to read ‘A Divided Mind’ by Dr. Sarno first and then jump into the tools provided on the TMS Wiki, that way you’ll have a framework to put it all into perspective.

        Please do keep us posted on any inspirational stories involving CFS/M.E/Fibro and Dr. Sarnos approach.

        All the Best!

        Joe

  3. Apryl Miller
    March 27, 2012 | 3:25 pm

    Dear Joe,
    I am a big believer in alternative treatments versus pharmaceuticals and feel it’s important to explore the why, instead of merely treating symptoms. I live in NYC and many years ago became aware of Dr. Sarno and his work with back pain. I read his books, attended his lecture and became involved in his group therapy sessions. When I first read his books, I knew the person he was describing was me. There was no question in my mind that my back pain was essentially self induced. After a time I would say I was completely cured of my back pain from which I had suffered for more than 15 years. I had gotten to the point where I could pep talk my way out of my pain.

    Fast forward a decade or so and my elbows began hurting, I gave up yoga. My hips began hurting, I had phantom pains throughout my body, my wrists hurt, I had a flu and my muscles were so painful I began taking narcotics, my back pain resumed, I stopped going to the gym, I was exhausted, I had prolotherapy, Rolfing treatments, my hands and feet burned. And then I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome!! I’m going further and further down the rabbit hole, financially, timewise, supplementwise, injectionwise, etceterawise, and being frightened of the future. I didn’t think it could be TMS because I have actual infections showing up in blood work, low white blood counts, etc. Seeing that Dr. Sarno puts his money on TMS for Fibro and CFS, well, I put my money on Dr. Sarno. I began to have all these physical traumas after enduring intense, unrelenting stress for a protracted period of time, over a 4 or 5 year period. My minds been playing tricks on me and I’ve been asleep at the wheel. I’m going to the next Dr. Sarno lecture and picking up his latest book today. Stick with Dr. Sarno, he’s not trying to get rich off this. He doesn’t even urge you to go into his office, he speaks to you on the phone. He’s the best in old fashioned doctoring that’s left. Common sense, like Dr. Marcus Welby from TV.

    I wish you luck,

    Apryl Miller

    • Joe
      April 14, 2012 | 4:53 pm

      Awesome.

      Thank you kindly for your informative reply Apryl. What a story. Good for you for kicking your early back pains in the ass! Fascinating how our mind/body connection functions isn’t it. There’s so much for us still to learn about all this…

      I know what you’re saying, reading the Divided Mind really got me thinking and there was a voice inside of me that said I should explore this to its maximum. I’m still in the process of doing so but have had many thought provoking evenings journaling away on the ‘deep dark topics’ that are easier to keep under the stairs.

      I’ve met people that have used similar techniques to Sarno and completely kicked long term CFS/ME so I take much faith from this.

      Good luck putting it all into action. Let us know when you recover :)

      Joe

  4. Maris
    April 21, 2012 | 11:15 pm

    April, when I called dr. sarno’s office the receptionist said he doesn’t lecture anymore, when is the next lecture? Thanks

    Joe, I’ve been reading mind body prescription. Do you think divided mind s better? I’m glad 2012 is better for you & I hope that continues to be he case. :)

    Forest, sorry it has taken me this long to check back here. I’m going to check out that link now. SO happy you ate well. I have THER conditions too: IBS, pelvic floor dysfunction & such. I believe it’s really all one thing now. Mind body.

    I finally have hope after finding this in January. Ive been 10% better since starting this bit im still home most of the time but im up & about cooking, enjoying time with my husband. For 8 months I felt like a patient. May all of us get we’l. :)

  5. Maris
    April 21, 2012 | 11:16 pm

    Please ignore all the typos. Jeeze. Damn autocorrect on my iPad. I cannot get used to it. I’m horrible on here. :)

  6. Vickygilpin
    May 15, 2012 | 7:33 pm

    Just over a year ago, I was completely healed of chronic back Pain after reading one of Dr Sarnos books. Now experiencing symproms of CFS, I am over the moon to hear that this is attributed to TMS also! I will be purchasing divided minds!

    • Joe
      July 22, 2012 | 2:07 pm

      Fantastic to hear Vicky!
      I hope it proves to be the missing piece in your particular puzzle, it has for many others it appears.
      All the best :)
      Joe

  7. Maureen
    June 4, 2012 | 8:45 pm

    Hi again … (This is the 3rd comment I’ve left on your site today — I am having a hard time pulling myself away from all of this excellent information!).

    I am SO glad I found this post. Just recently I began working with a doctor who uses a similar mind-body-spirit approach as you mentioned in this post. He uses hypnotherapy, NLP and time-patterning in order to access and heal subconscious emotions and patterns that can lead to illness and disease. The doctor’s name is Friedmann Schaub — he is an M.D.(cardiology), and he has a Ph.D. in molecular biology.

    I’ve had two sessions with him, but unfortunately I can’t continue for financial reasons. He’s been wonderful and keeps in touch via email which is very kind. I feel I was meant to discover this post about Dr. Sarno so I can continue to pursue healing through these mind-body methods.

    Dr. Schaub would give me “homework” assignments, and one of them was to write down everything in my life that causes me to feel anger at myself, or to feel sadness or pain. This was one whopper of an assignment!! I had 8 pages full of events and situations in my life that still cause me to feel sadness or pain. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with this list, so I was glad to learn from this post that you journal about each situation every night — thank you so much for sharing that! I will try it.

    I have heard of Dr. Sarno in the past, and I will definitely read one of his books. Thanks to all of the commenters here, and the helpful information you provided!

    I know there are many people who are offended at the thought of CFS or any other illness being caused by emotional issues. But to me it makes perfect sense. As April shared, I was also under tremendous stress for about 5 years before I first contracted CMV — the virus that never went away and led to CFS. Over the past 8 years I have done a lot of soul searching, and I’ve grown in many ways emotionally and spiritually. Now I just need the physical part to catch up!

    • Joe
      July 25, 2012 | 11:40 am

      Awesome thanks Maureen!
      Very cool to hear you’ve had some experience working with your pain, sadness and anger. Dr. Schaub sounds like a most gracious character.
      Processing your emotions through journaling and EFT go a long long way to creating the conditions for health.
      Let us know how you fare once you’ve worked through your giant list :)
      Best
      Joe

  8. Nancy Allen
    December 11, 2012 | 7:19 pm

    I’ve led a FM/CFS support group for 11 years. Several years ago a person came to the group and told his story of severe pain and neuro symptoms after pushing a refrigerator during a move. He eventually got well using Sarno’s techniques. Many of us starting reading Sarno, and amazingly one person got totally well. Her symptoms had begun ‘mysteriously’ 13 years earlier. Several of us have worked very hard to apply the Sarno ideas ( did the DVD program, etc.) but with no success. Many people in group see neurological issues/ major illness scattered in first/second degree relatives.
    Of interest, in 2009 neurosurgeon Robert Bray reported a ‘new’ disorder which he is calling ‘thoracic epidural arteriovenous malformation.’ This is a vascular malformation found mostly in women. It reduces blood supply to the spinal cord. It does not show on regular MRI, but requires special MRI procedures. Symptoms include a variety of neuro issues/weaknesses very similar to the ones we experience. Surgery has been successful in helping these people. Dr. Bray also diagnosed and treated Olympian Lolo Jones for tethered cord syndrome. This disorder also results in symptoms overlapping with Fm/CFS.
    I guess my point is: it is not reasonable to immediately assign our symptoms to complex emotional disorder when neuroscience is still in its ‘infancy’ in understanding the structure and function of the central nervous system.
    As well, it is appreciated that all of us that received polio vaccines up until 1999 (?) got hit with wild primate viruses. SV 40 is just one of them.
    We need massive research efforts to sort this all out.

    • Joe
      January 13, 2013 | 9:44 am

      Hey Nancy,
      Thanks for the post! Sarno is always controversial. Really appreciate your point of view.
      I couldn’t agree with you more than further research is paramount.
      Hope you’re making positive steps towards recovery.
      Best,
      Joe

  9. ALlan
    January 3, 2013 | 5:55 pm

    Thanks to Dr Sarno, my back pain is very little. The book really did help.

    Unfort, Chronic Fatigue has now taken the place of the bakc pian (Notice how they done exist at the same time!)

    Back to the book!!!!!

  10. Nancy Allen
    March 3, 2013 | 8:57 pm

    Since my comment in December I have become even more immersed in mind- body. Joe, you might want to check out: Cay Randall-May( medical intuitive); Adam McLeod (Dreamhealer), and Chi gong grand master Effie Chow. We can never give up on this.

  11. Laura
    March 15, 2013 | 1:43 pm

    Hey Joe,

    Really like the site have been following it for awhile. Have you done other therapies such as Reverse, etc? Was curious to know how you feel Sarno’s stuff fits into all of that. (I don’t have a complete accurate picture of RT because my dr uses it with EFT, NLP, gestalt, inner child, etc, etc so I may think it is more comprehensive then it really is) I have really shifted my focus onto the mind body stuff as I feel I have plateaued with the physical treatments and the more I dive into the mind-body stuff, the more and more sense it seems to make. I also really reccommend Faster EFT, I stumbled across it on the Planet Thrive site and really like it. I still use EFT but there are a lot of times I think Faster EFT can be more effective. I do want to explore Sarno’s ideas but it seems like a lot of this all comes back to similar concepts. Are you still using his stuff?

    • Joe
      March 20, 2013 | 5:32 am

      Hey Laura,

      Great to hear from you and happy to hear you’re finding fruits through Mind Body explorations. As you say there is a lot out there and they all do boil down to similar principles, but they also each seem to have a particular flavour. I think people like you and I and others with Chronic illness are the ones that are pushing the boundaries and attempting to create a map of how they fit together. It’s interesting stuff.

      I have experimented with Reverse Therapy, quite a while back now and found it beneficial. Particulary in noticing that certain people triggered certain feelings and often certain symptoms.
      Sarnos work however is a little different. For me it all came back to acknowledging sadness and anger inside and actively delving into this through journaling. I do this every now and again and find its helpful, then also channeling those feelings into an action like screaming or hitting stuff (not people…) is even better.

      Thanks for the heads up on Faster EFT. I will check it out.

      Ultimately I think it all comes back to being in a Healing State. Feeling connected, peaceful and stable. Then the physical healing has room to happen I reckon.
      Stay in touch,
      Joe

      • Brian
        March 29, 2013 | 1:36 am

        (Next time, I’ll read the main post and responses more thoroughly before I make my own post. I failed to see that EFT had already been discussed in some detail.)

        Joe, Faster EFT is pure gold. That is the “creative refinement” I made by deciding to use it in conjunction with Sarno’s concepts to finally rid myself of the physical problems I wrote about in my main post. Sarno’s book completely convinced me that my physical issues were emotionally-caused, but I could only get about halfway to eliminating my Crohn’s symptoms with the methods in his book. I later found regular EFT and used it to further eliminate some additional emotional issues, but I hit a “plateau” with it, too, and couldn’t progress farther beyond that point.

        Then I found Faster EFT, and it’s substantially more powerful (and much simpler) than regular EFT. You can learn it fairly well within a couple hours. It uses a couple new accu-points, but fewer points overall. It’s slightly different than regular EFT in that you mentally focus on your tapping while you tap, whereas Gary Craig’s EFT encourages you to focus on the issue while tapping. But overall, it’s quite similar. The founder even lets you subscribe to his newsletter, and then he gives you a free list of starter videos from YouTube that get you up-and-running. (He sells more advanced videos, as well.)

        Faster EFT allowed me to finally break through some really stubborn painful memories and belief systems, and that’s how I finally succeeded in overcoming my issues in the way that I had always hoped.

        • Joe
          April 15, 2013 | 1:27 am

          Brian thank you so much for your insights.
          Great to hear that you have used these tools with such success.
          You are the 2nd person in the last few weeks to point me in the direction of Faster EFT so I’ll be sure to look it up now.
          All the best,
          Joe

    • Kelly
      November 10, 2013 | 8:03 am

      I’ve been reading this page and was wondering if or when someone would mention ‘Faster EFT’. There are over 700 free Faster EFT videos on youtube…and personally I find them far more effective than regular EFT. Just as one example: EFT has you start out by saying “Even though such and such happened (or whatever), “I completely love and forgive myself”.

      Well, what if one doesn’t love or even like themselves? That gets in the way a lot of the time, and keeps people from proceeding further. Faster EFT skips all of that, and focuses on going back to these traumas or memories, and then helps you change them so that they no longer have the same meaning. Highly recommended. I think Sarno would agree as well…

  12. Brian
    March 28, 2013 | 11:39 pm

    I’m not trying to intrude, but I was doing a search on something else regarding John Sarno and stumbled on this site. Since I’m here, I’d like to offer my point of view.

    Over 20 years ago, I was diagnosed by MRI with a severely herniated disc, which I was told caused my chronic back pain (a cause-and-effect that some mainstream doctors are now questioning). In 2002, I also was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an auto-immune disorder which doctors told me was genetic and incurable.

    I no longer suffer from either, thanks to Dr. John Sarno, and I’d like to explain how that came to be the case.

    By 2006, I was doing really badly, with my back pain stabilized just enough to keep employment. My Crohn’s disease was progressing steadily, and my three doctors told me that the only realistic goal was to slow the progression of my symptoms, as they said there was no way to stop my Crohn’s from getting worse. This, despite Remicade IV’s that cost my insurance company about $5000 every eight weeks. Curing it, they told me, was impossible. It goes without saying that this was very depressing news.

    By pure luck, I stumbled upon Sarno’s “The Divided Mind”, and it immediately made sense to me. I remembered that when my father died the previous year, for several weeks I experienced severe neck pain, as well as symptoms eerily like acid reflux and carpal tunnel, conditions that Sarno said were emotionally-caused. They all went away within weeks as I began to cope with his death.

    I dove into Sarno’s treatment regimen very strongly, and less than a year later, became back pain-free and virtually symptom-free from the Crohn’s. The Crohn’s was much more stubborn, and I had to develop creative refinements of his treatment methods on my own, as the book techniques weren’t quite enough (I would have fit in his “20% who need psychotherapy” category). But everything I did was ultimately based on his concepts AND IT WORKED! I can never hope to express in words how wonderful it is to no longer suffer like I did for so long.

    I should also mention that Sarno is one of the very few out there with a plausible explanation for why many of these difficult-to-explain conditions (cfs, fibromyalgia, pain conditions, etc.) are increasing dramatically in frequency. I completely believe Dr. Sarno when he says that numerous chronic conditions are being incorrectly treated by an otherwise well-intentioned medical community, at a staggering cost both financially and otherwise.

    Peace.

  13. Irene
    October 5, 2013 | 3:25 am

    Dr Sarno’s method cured me of 15 years of terrible sciatica and lower back pain. I tried everything. Recently I thought about trying in for acne that I had developed in the past 3 years. I had tried mostly natural methods and eat well, but nothing worked. I reviewed Dr Sarno’s work again and took a little time each day to tap into anger and my acne literally stopped showing up. I’m blown away by it all. And I’m forever grateful.

    • Joe
      November 5, 2013 | 8:03 am

      That’s great to hear Irene!

  14. Nick Othen
    November 18, 2013 | 12:16 pm

    Fantastic website and article, just found it and have learnt so much. Very pleased that EFT has been mentioned and an open mind is used for alternative therapies.

  15. Carl Michael
    February 28, 2014 | 10:01 am

    Amazing how the mind/body connection can heal almost everything using Faster eft. Thank You Robert Smith for All that you do.

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About
Welcome! I'm Joe and my vision is to empower people with the knowledge they need to take control of their health. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME) in 2003 and recently added Lyme disease to that diagnosis in 2012. I'm on a path to recovery and I invite you to join me..... P.S. It's best to never take anything I say too seriously. In fact I reckon it's best to never take anything too seriously!