lone tree in Singapore with sun shining behind it. Photo credit: Terry Tan De Hao (@terrytandehao) on

Engaging the Power of the Mind to Heal Back Pain

In the late '90s, I experienced debilitating back pain. I successfully overcame it, though, in the simplest, most incredible way possible.

For more than four years I suffered from chronic neck, upper back, and shoulder pain. It got to the point where I was in excruciating pain upon waking in the morning. I had repeated episodes of my entire upper back and neck "freezing up" on me with such intense suffering that I was unable to function properly. I sought massage therapy on a regular basis but this became intolerable as the pain only increased.

X-rays showed a lack of curvature of my cervical spine upon bending my head either forward or backward. I was diagnosed with hypolordosis, which was possibly caused by some previous trauma, maybe whiplash from a head-on automobile accident I experienced in my teenage years.

My choices were limited. I was told I would eventually need to undergo surgery for unavoidable bone spur growth in the affected cervical vertebrae. Exercise to strengthen the surrounding muscles would postpone the inevitable for a little while.

I refused to accept such a hopeless diagnosis and instead set about researching alternative possibilities for effective treatment. 

My search finally led me to an article on ABC's "20/20" web site describing John Stossel's apparently miraculous cure of his chronic back pain. He sought the advice of Dr. John Sarno, author of "Healing Back Pain," who provided him with simple suggestions for lifestyle changes, and Mr. Stossel was subsequently free of back pain. Many of the reviews on Amazon for Dr. Sarno's book indicate that just reading it brought about complete recovery from symptoms.

Once I got through most of the book's material and started implementing the changes, I experienced an incredible and complete recovery in a short period of time, and after 20 years, I have not had another episode.

What is even more amazing is that Dr. Sarno's theory and implementation is so incredibly easy, yet it is unorthodox and controversial to those who embrace traditional medicine.

The methods for effective recovery include reflecting on your feelings and utilizing self-talk; that is, commanding that part of you or your brain that is in control of the pain.

Dr. Sarno believes the cause of back pain stems from the mind and its attempts to repress disturbing emotions, causing you to avert your focus on your body (instead of your emotions) through pain. This can be boiled down to realizing that stress and conflict created within oneself regarding one's unresolved emotional issues is the actual cause of pain.

Once you have "caught on" to your mind's attempt to divert your attention, the strategy doesn't work anymore and there is no more need for the pain.

Reading "Healing Back Pain" and the subsequent cure I experienced both served as revelations in helping me to recognize the incredible power the mind has over the body, and the ability it has not only to create disease but also to heal it. 

Whenever my symptoms started to creep up on me again, I firmly but lovingly commanded my mind to stop making my neck, back, and shoulders hurt and told it that I would rather feel (and deal with) the emotions than the physical pain. I then resolved to take more time for myself to fulfill my needs, eliminate stress and anxiety through relaxation and simple breathing techniques, and eliminate resentment through forgiveness.   

Going through such severe chronic pain and learning how I can be in control of my healing process, I realized how important it is to work through what's going on in my life by evaluating my feelings toward current or unresolved issues: am I feeling lingering resentment, hate, fear, anxiety, or guilt over any of my circumstances? What can I do to alleviate these feelings to bring about healing? How can I prevent myself from creating these illnesses again? Using Dr. Sarno's self-talk method has been the way to keep me from re-experiencing those painful episodes, especially ever since I have "caught onto" my mind's ability to keep me from feeling emotional pain.