Tension Myositis Syndrome

Tension Myositis Syndrome

Tension Myositis Syndrome or TMS is a term used to describe pain in the physical body that is generated from within one’s own Mind. This pain primarily presents as back pain but can also be experienced in other areas of the body. The term TMS was coined by the late great Dr John E. Sarno. Dr Sarno invented this term to describe psychosomatic/psychogenic pain that is felt physically as real pain. Psychogenic means generated by the Mind. The Mind consists of both the conscious and subconscious and is not located “in the head”. The ‘Mind’ is not encased within the brain. It is within and throughout the whole energetic field of a person. The brain is a powerful controlling organ but is not the Mind. The Mind controls the brain, which in turn controls the various functions of the body.

Dr Sarno was a professor and a back-pain specialist. In his initial years of practice, he followed the routine treatment strategy of drugs and/or surgery for treating back pain. Over several years he observed many inconsistencies in his patients’ symptoms and reactions to treatments. The most significant inconsistencies were:

  • Pain randomly moving from one area of the body to another,
  • Pain without any injury, and
  • Pain becoming more intense when the person was under stress.


None of these inconsistencies correlate with localised structural or tissue damage. This led Dr Sarno to investigate the connection between the Mind and the physical body. This was the starting point of his journey into mind-body medicine.

When reviewing already available research, Dr. Sarno found that roughly half of the people with herniated, compressed or prolapsed discs had pain and the other half did not. The same was true for other (normal) changes of the discs and spinal bones that occur with aging.  These disc abnormalities can be detected through scans and x-rays.  These abnormalities are often visible in the bodies of people who are not experiencing any pain. Yet, when these features are identified in a person with back pain, they are often assumed to be the source of the pain.  This may be the case, if there is real structural damage.  However, if the pain moves and changes, reacts to stress, and comes without injury, it does suggest the mind-body connection is at play. In most of the cases presented to Dr Sarno, patients were suffering from TMS.

Dr. Sarno began his treatment by ruling out any structural anomalies.  He then screened his patients. The aim of the screening process was to eliminate any patients that he felt would not be accepting of the idea that the pain was being generated from their own subconscious Mind. The treatment, which was basically an educational programme, would then commence. Dr Sarno treated his patients by informing them about TMS and explaining how and why it happens.

In my experience, most people are unaware of the difference between the conscious and the sub-conscious Mind.

The conscious Mind is only a small part of our Being. When we wake up in the morning, our conscious Mind switches on, as we start to plan our day and make decisions. We decide what to wear, what to have for breakfast, or not to have breakfast! We start thinking about the day ahead, where we are going, who we are going to meet and what we might say. Through our conscious Mind we can think about the past and speculate on the future. We engage with people around us consciously and consciously react to stimulation. Many people live life through the conscious Mind and pay little attention to or are completely unaware of the significance of their subconscious.

The subconscious Mind controls many of the automatic processes of the body, through the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls our “fight or flight” response. The subconscious Mind reacts to any perceived threat by preparing the body to fight or to run. It does this by stimulating stress hormone production, primarily adrenaline. This can occur instantly in the body, like when you get a fright. For example, when a car pulls out in front of you, you have practically no conscious input into your reaction. At that instance, your subconscious registers a threat and responds by producing stress hormones, leading to increased heart rate and quicker breathing. However, if you are consciously aware that this is going to happen, then you do not get the same hormonal response and your body remains in a mostly calm and relaxed state. Automatic processes such as sweating, digestion and even breathing are controlled by the subconscious Mind. We can consciously control our breath, but as soon as we stop thinking about it, or focus on something else, our subconscious Mind takes over. The subconscious can be viewed as the internal software programming of the body; just like the software that runs our computers, phones and vehicles. The subconscious Mind records all information regarding our experiences.

As we grow older and experience more and more of life, we put layers onto our personality and over time, we become distant from the child we once were. This can be likened to a fresh coat of paint. The newer paint adds another layer. However, the original colour and layer remains beneath the newer paint.  The original paint can be uncovered at any time with a bit of scrapping! Thus, the person we were as a small child is still within us. We only need to scrap beneath the surface to reveal this hidden child.  This is referred to as the child primitive or the inner child. This aspect of us has very basic needs – the need to be looked after, the need to be loved and the need to be cared for. The child primitive does not like responsibility and is quite selfish.

When we have repressed emotions within us, the subconscious Mind seeks to create a distraction from these emotions, as a protective mechanism. This is to protect us from overwhelming or even potentially dangerous emotions. When there is pressure exerted on us, from internal(self) or external(others), it enrages the child primitive and creates a well of rage and anger within us. Repressed and suppressed emotions also contribute to this internal reservoir of rage. This rage is too raw and too dangerous to be fully expressed. In our present society and throughout the societies that our ancestors lived in, people typically feel/felt safe because we are and were protected by our family, friends and fellow tribe members. However, if we were to lash out at someone because they angered or hurt us, then we may not be considered a valuable part of the tribe. We may even be considered a danger and could potentially lose the protection of the tribe. Therefore, instead of expressing our rage or other repressed emotions, we create a distraction. The distraction comes mainly in the form of pain, but can present as a myriad of other symptoms. We will focus on pain for now.

To create real pain, the subconscious Mind instructs the brain to reduce blood flow to muscles, nerves or tendons. This results in a lack of oxygen in these areas; also known as an ischemia. When there is a lack of oxygen in tissue, pain is felt. Less oxygen equals more pain. Anyone who has got a stitch in their side while exercising or a cramp has experienced an ischemia!

The pain or equivalent symptom is a message of internal turbulence. To be aware of this turbulence, we must know ourselves. Knowledge of self is usually gained through introspection and by tuning into our true feelings. As human Beings, we can be very skilled at deceiving ourselves. We may not acknowledge how we truly feel about certain situations. The emotions we feel may be deemed unacceptable to society around us, or unacceptable to our conscious Mind.

We may construct a certain version of reality and maintain an impression of who we are and what kind of person we are. If there are emotions felt internally that contradict this consciously constructed persona/image of our self, then there will be a conflict between the conscious and subconscious Mind.

According to Dr. Sarno, there are two personality types that are affected by TMS more than others - the “perfectionist” and the “goodist”.

The Perfectionist:

Perfectionists consciously construct a version of reality that they perceive to be perfect and they themselves must be perfect. When anything starts to disrupt this perfectness, it causes an internal conflict. Those who try to control everything can find it hard to adapt when life does not unfold as they planned. This is when the subconscious creates pain in the physical body, as a distraction from the Truth that everything and everyone cannot be controlled.  Facing this Truth is enraging to the internal self and the child primitive within us all.

Our inner child is also enraged by all the pressure that is exerted upon it - pressure to achieve and to be deemed successful. This is regularly experienced in real-life when we consciously push ourselves to do things that we really do not like doing, or even to do things that we hate. We are often put into situations, where we feel we have to do things we do not really want to do. Parents sometimes instil this belief system in children by telling them “sometimes you must do things, you do not like, that is a part of life”. This is infuriating for a child to hear. In this scenario, the conscious Mind is represented by the parent and the child is the child primitive within us.

The “goodist”:

The “goodist” is a person, who needs to please everyone around them, often to his/her own detriment. Often referred to as people pleasers, the “goodist” will do everything he/she can, to keep others happy, even if this means sacrificing their own time, health or happiness. This is enraging to the inner self. The inner self only desires to be loved, cared for and have its own needs met.

Howard Stern, the American talk radio host and patient of Dr. Sarno referred to this visionary medical scientist as a living Saint. Dr. Sarno was certainly ahead of his time. Dr Sarno dedicated his life to researching and inventing a cure for Tension Myositis Syndrome and millions of people, who have read his books, followed his treatment strategy, or were personally treated by him, have experienced miraculous improvements in their health and quality of life. 

In my own experience as a Bio-Energy therapist and HiddenMind Practitioner, I have witnessed miracles after applying the treatment strategies formulated by Dr Sarno to my clients. One such miraculous change was with a client suffering with severe back pain. My first clear example of how quickly a person’s level of pain and mobility could change, once the core emotions that underpinned the TMS had been identified, occurred in 2015.

In 2015, Ann (pseudonym) presented to our clinic, with severe back pain and sciatica. When she walked in, she was visibly suffering. Her level of mobility was clearly impaired.  This was more obvious when I asked her to take her shoes off, so I could work around her feet. She could not bend over to untie her shoes, or take them off and needed assistance from her husband. The first day, I treated her with Bio-Energy therapy only, which is standard practice on the first day of the four consecutive day treatment that we do in our clinic.

On the second day, I did some dowsing with my pendulum, which is part of the HiddenMind Investigative and Corrective Sound Protocol. We use dowsing to communicate directly with a person’s subconscious Mind and to reveal information that is relevant to the person’s overall health. The subconscious has all the information about our experiences “filed” away, just like we file pictures and documents on the hard drive in our computers. There is a comprehensive protocol of statements that we use in the HiddenMind Protocol to check through a person’s physical structure, energy systems and hormone/neurotransmitter production. If there is an abnormality, deviation or malfunction, we investigate the root cause of it. The cause of the deviation usually stems from a shock or trauma and can often be categorised as a physical, mental, emotional, chemical or environmental shock.

In Ann’s case, I identified a physical shock that occurred five years earlier. After thinking about it, she acknowledged that she was knocked down by a dog around that time and had the sciatic pain thereafter. I thought there was a possibility that she was suffering from TMS, as her injury should have healed up within a few weeks and this pain was persistent for years. However, I still could not rule out the possibility that the pain was due to structural damage. The incident with the dog did not account for the lower back pain though, as the pain was there before her encounter with the dog. On the third day of the therapy, I did some more dowsing with Ann, as I felt I needed to go a bit further with the investigation, to get to the core elements of her problem. The dowsing revealed emotional shock that occurred nine years earlier and repressed anger.

She began to think back and then confirmed that there was a lot of anger within her from that time. One of her son’s had become very ill then and was in desperate need of a liver transplant. This was a tumultuous time in the family’s lives that lasted more than a year.  Her son was fortunate enough to eventually be matched with a donor and undergo a successful transplant. At this time, Ann was an emotional wreck, as her son was dying in front of her eyes - he barely held onto life long enough to receive his transplant surgery. The anger came from the interactions she had with the specialist that oversaw the care of her son. She felt that the interactions were very cold, and she had several arguments with this man. It is important to note that we do not know what these interactions were truly like. It is likely that the specialist was giving the information that needed to be given. The specialist may or may not have delivered the information in a caring manner. The specialist’s delivery of the information is irrelevant. What is important is how Ann felt after the interactions. At the time, Ann was in a highly emotional state. Her interpretation of the delivery of the information being cold was based on her perception of reality at the time. These interactions, or rather her interpretation of these interactions, made her feel intense anger. This anger was not expressed. It could not be directed back to the specialist, by whom she felt ill-treated, as he was the man in charge of saving her son’s life. As it could not be expressed, it was repressed. During this traumatic time, Ann started to repress all kinds of emotions. As there was so much happening in a short space of time, she could not process everything. I often find that when people experience several traumas together, or within a short timeframe, they are much more likely to repress emotions. This is because there is not enough time to process one trauma before the next occurs. Anyone who has had several bereavements in a short timeframe may be able to resonate with this. Those consistently suffering from ongoing abuse at home, school or work are also at risk of repressing emotions and having a reservoir of internal rage build up within them.

While chatting about those events and everything that Ann experienced, I could visibly see her body relax. She began sitting straighter. Her voice became louder and brighter. Towards the end of the session, when I asked her to stand up,  she nearly jumped out of the chair. She then bent over to tie her shoes unassisted! This showed me how profound the mind-body connection is and how quickly a person could experience relief from crippling psychosomatic/psychogenic pain. The next day Ann was feeling much better, than she had been in years. Her pain had eased and she had far more mobility.

I haven’t heard from Ann recently, but I know that she would have gained a lot from reading Dr Sarno’s books along with the therapy received in our clinic. I routinely recommend clients to get his books and absorb the information within, thus giving them powerful knowledge and valuable tools for self-care. Dr. Sarno encouraged people to do their homework. He prescribed meditation for mental hygiene and referred to it as “part of the therapeutic strategy”.

Really, healing is about gaining more self-awareness, understanding our own psyche, our physical body and the different aspects of ourselves and our own Minds. More and more people are gaining understanding of, and appreciation of the mind-body connection. The potential that lies within us to heal our own bodies is truly amazing. Dr Sarno’s life’s ambition was to share this information with as many people as possible. He wanted people to gain an understanding of TMS and to use that understanding to become the most instrumental person in the maintenance of their own health.

The old adage goes “Knowledge is Power”. I firmly believe. the more knowledge we have about ourselves and the internal workings of our Minds and bodies, the more power we possess, to keep ourselves healthy and well.

In this article, I focused on pain that is generated from one’s own Mind. However, all kinds of symptoms appear to have a mind-body aspect. For example, anxiety and depression are often due to excess or insufficient hormone and neurotransmitter production within the body.  Hormone and neurotransmitter production are determined by the brain, which is influenced by the subconscious Mind. Inefficient hormone and neurotransmitter production is often referred to as a chemical imbalance. Bio-chemical changes within the body are most often due to our emotions.

Dr. Sarno believed that if a person with TMS did not accept that the pain was being generated by the Mind, that this person would not be able to fully transcend the TMS. In our experience, this acceptance may not be completely necessary. Unlike Dr. Sarno, I believe that if people are sufficiently educated, they do not need to be screened and we do not screen anyone in our clinic.

Dr. Sarno equivocated energy healing and other alternative therapies as working as a placebo only. In my view, as the core cause of pain or dis-ease is often held as an energetic imprint/signature within the energy field of the person, energy therapy is often the most effective treatment system. In our clinic, we uncover shocks and traumas through dowsing and often help to shed light on deviations that otherwise could take a long time to identify. In our experience, Bio-Energy and HiddenMind Therapy are effective methods of treating many mind-body symptoms, such as, pain due to TMS. When we repress emotions, they become part of our energetic field. Our energetic field permeates and surrounds the body. Repressed emotions create their own electrical fields, which can prevent the proper transmission of energy through the body and therefore lead to symptoms, like pain and dis-ease. Check out lectures by Dr. Jerry Tenant on youtube for more enlightening information on that aspect of this subject.

Treating pain is a major industry. I hope that this article sheds some light on a way to deal with pain that is based simply on having a greater level of knowledge and self-awareness. I believe that children and young people should be introduced to this kind of information from an early age. I also believe that doctors and physicians should be trained in how to apply these treatment strategies wherever possible. Rather than assuming, that all physical pain or symptoms are due solely to physical causes, I believe that like Dr Sarno, doctors and physicians should ask patients:

  • What is going on in your life?
  • What pressures are there in your life?

These are questions that we can easily ask ourselves at any time.  You may find it enlightening to do so. Do not be surprised if pain, headaches, bowel problems, mood problems or any other symptoms start to disappear as you connect to the answers to these questions. Best of luck with the inward journey!

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