Dr. John Sarno was a Professor at New York University School of Medicine and in several studies he repeatedly demonstrated that back and spine problems contain both physical and emotional elements and that addressing both of these improves the potential for recovery.
He demonstrated that the conscious or unconscious repression of certain emotions (he cites anger and fear as being the most usual) leads to, amongst other things, a reduction in blood flow in areas of the body where these feelings are often felt. The reduction in blood flow means that these areas receive fewer nutrients, less oxygen and also have slower removal of waste matter. This effects muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints including those of the back.
Dr Sarno examined several thousand cases where ordinary people have overcome back pain when they have recognised and processed the emotional roots of their disease. He also cited a survey undertaken in 1991 of 109 randomly selected patients who had been referred to the School of Medicine for surgery to remedy a herniated (slipped) disc that was clearly visible on a CT scan. After treatment solely for emotional repression: • 88% were either pain free or had significantly improved • 10% showed a reduction in pain and improved movement. A total of 98% of the patients improved without having surgery, or after having already had unsuccessful surgery, with treatment designed to address only the emotional issues underlying the problem. Dr Sarno also noted that as a by product of undergoing this type of treatment for back problems, tendon problems such as tennis elbow often disappeared as well! Other painful spine problems that he, as a specialist, repeatedly saw that improved with treatment for emotional repression include: o Spinal stenosis o Pinched nerve o Arthritis of the spine o Transitional vertebra o Spondylolysis o Spina Bifida Occulta o Spondylolisthesis o Scoliosis o Osteoarthritis of the Hip o Chondromalacia o Bone Spurs o Soft Tissue Disorders: Fibromyalgia, Fibrositis, Myofibrositis & Myofasciitis o Bursitis o Tendonitis o Coccydnia o Neuroma o Planter Fasciitis o Mononeuritis o Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ) o General Inflammation In addition he lists the following symptoms that can also be associated with emotional repression: o Pre ulcer states o Peptic ulcers o Hiatus hernia o Spastic colon o Irritable Bowel Syndrome o Hay fever o Asthma o Prostatitis o Tension Headache o Migraine o Eczema o Psoriasis o Acne, hives o Dizziness o Ringing in the ears o Frequent urination Dr Sarno believed that we are erroneously conditioned to think of pain and restricted movement as obviously having a physical cause, and whilst there might be physical changes in the body that are inevitable for anyone as they go through life, this in itself is not a sufficient reason to decide that this is the only, or indeed main, cause of the problems.
Lacking in his book is the identification of the childhood patterns that actually cause the emotional repression in the first place.
John, E. Sarno, M.D.(1991) Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection. Warner Books . An easily readable book which gives an explanation of Dr Sarno’s findings, though doesn't go into much detail as to exactly how he does work with repressed emotions.