I spent the entire evening at a music rehearsal studio playing the drums. Amateur musicians gather every Saturday night to jam in an assortment of rooms designated by musical style. I showed up tonight and went right to the “Funk” room. That’s my favorite style of music to play.

When I arrived, the only other person in the room was another drummer, Rob.

Rob is really good!

So good, if fact, that after the first time I saw him play, which was several months ago, I asked him to give me lessons. You see, I’ve played drums for many years in school. I recently got back to playing and I want to get REALLY good!

Anyway, Rob turned me down. “Too busy” he told me. I was fine with that, but now, here we were alone in the studio and I had a chance to talk with him. I asked him how he got so good and he answered with a question.

“Do you practice every day?” he asked.

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What could possibly be wrong with having an X-ray or MRI of your spine?

In the case of any pain, we must be throughly checked out by our doctor to rule out serious disease. And in the case of back pain this would include an X-ray or MRI.


Well, doing so may be necessary but not without a “psychological” price to pay.

In her blog for The New York Times,  Tara Parker-Pope recently reported about new research that show that scanning to find the source of back pain may do more harm than good.

Be sure to check out studies that she quotes!

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When Oscar from San Diego read  ”Healing Back Pain”,  it completely changed his life. Like many, Oscar realized that he’s a “typical candidate” for what Dr. Sarno is talking about.

Reading Dr. Sarno’s book was enough and indeed, the pain had gone away. But now it was coming back and, as he noticed, reocurrances were usually during high-stress times in his life.

“The pain is making him feel old!”, he told me.  Living with chronic pain does take a lot of energy!

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Dr. Sarno uses big words.

I suppose after working with him for over a decade, I’ve gotten used to it. He still uses words that I don’t know and I really don’t mind admitting that to him. I’d rather learn than pretend so I come right out with a matter-of-fact: ”Dr. Sarno, I don’t know what that word means.” Being the great teacher that his is, he’s always ready to explain.

Repudiate was one of those words. It’s a great word that means “to deny the truth or validity of”. And, it fits perfectly with one of the key steps in learning what Dr. Sarno is teaching, as in:

Repudiate the Structural Diagnosis

This means that if you were told that there is a structural cause for your pain, and you’ve been examined by your doctor who has ruled out serious disease, then you must come to see that there is no structural basis for your pain. This is critical for Dr. Sarno’s program to work.

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The nature of TMS is that it is often excruciating and yet the pain from TMS is totally harmless.

And, this is the most challenging aspect of the disorder!

We’ve been conditioned to believe that serious pain MUST mean that something is physically wrong. Of course, in the case of any pain, we must be thoroughly checked out by our doctor to rule out serious disease. Pain is often our bodies mechanism to tell us that there may be a physical problem.

But not in the case of TMS.

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The Power of the Placebo

by Ken Malloy

When I hear the word “placebo,” I always think of the sugar pill.

The image of a doctor handing a patient a bottle of capsules with a great flourish, “Take these, they are very powerful and they will do the trick!” The patients takes the sugar pills, believes it’s powerful medicine and the pain goes away.

The notion that symptoms can disappear simply by the power of suggestion is a compelling one. However, it is widely accepted that a placebo is never a cure and use of a placebo as treatment is bad medicine.

So, why is surgery for TMS a placebo?

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I spoke with a nurse today, who has actually witnessed spine surgery. “I’ve done a few backs”, he told me, casually.

Brian, a 42 year old male nurse from Missouri called me with questions about Dr. Sarno’s program. He circulates throughout the operating rooms at a major medical center, running the OR’s from the background.

“Spinal surgery always makes me uneasy”, he explained. “Other abdominal procedures not so much. It’s watching the surgeon working so close to the spinal cord that freaks me out.”

Of course, I had to ask why.

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Life before pain

by Ken Malloy

As a child, I was blessed with good health. When the occasional common cold would take its hold, my Mother would snap into action. Exiled to my bedroom, I became the recipient of all items meant to comfort and heal: extra blankets and pillows, hot soup and toast, liquids every hour on the hour. Aspirin as recommended.

If my aches and pains, sore throat and runny nose lasted for more than a day or two, Mom and Dad would confer and agree: “Time to call the doctor.”

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Just like my childhood, my adult life has been, for the most part, disease, injury and pain- free. A few sports related broken bones healed quickly. Colds came and went with no particular fanfare. Good health and feeling good were constant companions. I was quick to repeat the common wisdom: “If you have your health, you have everything,” and I meant it.

I’ve always been an athletic guy. I played starting left wing on my high school varsity soccer team. I had a regular running regime in college. After graduating and joining the full-time working world, I still made time for regular visits to the gym. I worked out hard and ate healthily.

Some days we remember well. The day my back pain started is one of those days for me.

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A year of agony

by Ken Malloy

The swelling to my lower back did subside, however the pain remained – sometimes a low grade burn, other times a stinging, sharp and deep. Over the next year, I suffered and searched for answers. It was a long a difficult year of grinding lower back pain as well as profound fear, anger, frustration and sadness. Despite the creeping doubt that I would every find my way out of the pain, I never gave up hope. I read. I asked questions. I visited health care professionals who provided every possible treatment I could find. Each had a different diagnosis of my condition and, coincidentally, a different treatment strategy that would treat that exact cause.

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