When I first came across this quote in 2012, it provided me with the much needed answer to a question that I had been struggling for more than a decade. “Why haven’t we accepted a treatment for pain that has been proven to be successful for over 30 years when it is so simple and inexpensive?” The profoundness of this quote only seems to grow on me as years go by. We seem to be completely unaware of the magnitude of the influence of this phenomenon. Our rationalizing minds tend to find ways for us to make up some alternative justification to avoid dealing with this conflict.
About 15 years ago, I bent down to pick up a measly toothbrush and I developed a catch in my lower back and simply could not stand up. I was in tremendous pain, so we called the doctor.
The first question the doctor asked was, “Did you pick up something heavy?” I said no, “Just a toothbrush.” Then came the second question, “What else did you do?” I replied, “Yesterday, I scrubbed the garage floor.” Many questions followed and the doctor was trying to connect some physical activity to my back pain. Finally, the best match seemed to be the ‘scrubbing of the garage floor.’
I was sent to get a MRI and see a neurosurgeon. While the preliminary diagnosis was disc degeneration, the neurosurgeon who asked me to walk back and forth while he peered at my MRI said, “What’s showing in the MRI does not seem to effect the way you are walking. You don’t need any surgery, but since you are having pain, let me refer you to a Back Rehab Specialist.”
So I visited the Back Rehab doctor, who made me walk and repeated the same statement as the neurosurgeon and referred me to physiotherapy. I enjoyed the massages — the heat and the ice, and getting a break from work. The only problem was that the pain came back a few hours later. After months of physiotherapy and large doses of anti-inflammatory drugs and pain-killers, I recalled listening to Wayne Dyer on PBS share a story about his grandmother and how she had severe back pain that no one could cure. Finally, she read a book called “Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection” by Dr. John E. Sarno from NYU’s Rusk Institute and the pain was gone in a few days. In fact, I had suggested this same book to a colleague at work, who was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. While nothing seemed to help him, he too overcame his pain after reading this book.
So, I ordered the book on CD and miraculously the pain went down in a few days after listening to the book. Dr. Sarno calls his treatment plan knowledge therapy. Since knowledge can be a cure for pain and many other chronic ailments, I thought of outlining the three culprits that seem to cause, instigate, and promote the pain and feed the epidemic that we now now in our country along while making these ailments chronic. Merely acknowledging this possibility seems to help many people overcome their chronic ailments. In my opinion, the three culprits that contribute to our chronic pain epidemic are the patients themselves, their emotions and the mindset of most physicians.
In a nutshell, what I grasped from his treatment was that our brain tends to distract us from dealing with painful emotional issues and repressed anger by creating real pain. This mind trick works really well when coupled with the modern physician’s approach to find a physical cause for the pain. Once a physical cause such as an injury or structural abnormality is linked to the pain, it will never leave you. Recently, my mother-in-law was vehemently defending her diagnosis saying, “He showed it to me on the X-ray.” Patients play a critical role in propagating this epidemic by wanting quick and clear diagnoses for their symptoms. When they don’t hear a confident diagnosis, they tend to question the competence of the physician and go elsewhere for treatment.
Last I heard, Dr. Sarno, who is in his nineties, has cured over 10,000 patients. Unfortunately, even after curing so many patients, his treatment approach is not accepted by most doctors. While most physicians will dislike my comment, their conditioning also gets in the way of accepting Dr. Sarno’s approach. In fact, after seeing my miraculous recovery from my lower back pain with no drugs, exercise or surgery, a close friend who happens to be a physician himself, started sending his friends who complained of back pain to talk to me. I simply would suggest that they read Dr. Sarno’s book and most got rid of their pain.
After a few years, the same physician friend developed lower back pain and I suggested that he read Dr. Sarno’s book. One day, while we were together, the topic of the book came up and I said, “All that he is asking is to consider that there may be other causes for the pain unrelated to the structural abnormality,” to which he responded emphatically, “My medical training will not let me accept that possibility.”
When I contacted another physician who endorses Dr. Sarno’s treatment approach, one who experienced it personally as his patient to see if I could become his patient, he shared the sad truth, “My Health System would not allow me to practice this medicine since there is no money in this.” So, we only have a handful of doctors today who practice his groundbreaking work in healing people from pain.
I hope you will watch the documentary ‘All The Rage’ to be released on June 23, 2017 and join the movement to finally cure millions of people suffering from chronic pain and enhance their quality of life.