In Hidden Art + Reminders on a Medicine Cabinet Door, I showed the INSIDE of my sliver of a steel medicine cabinet door and its ever-changing mashup of tiny artworks and reminders fastened with magnets. The one constant is a summary I made over a decade ago of Dr. John Sarno’s approach to dealing with back (and other) pain, compiled from his book Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection. It is a practice that changed my life. Some readers asked if I would post it as a pdf.

Healing Back Pain cover

I am happy to. But first a bit of the back story:

I discovered Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection after years of chronic back pain and a doctor telling me I might need surgery. Sarno, a practicing orthopedic doctor, had discovered that 95% of his patient’s pain was due to repressed emotions, like anger, hurt, and grief. Keeping emotions from consciousness caused mild physiological changes the resulted in pain. If you even just RECOGNIZE that this is what is going on, you begin to ease the tension that causes the pain. It can take a few weeks but it works.

I went through Sarno’s book and compiled all the steps to dealing with back pain (and unearthing the emotions behind them). I keep the list in my bathroom so I can look at it daily.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

Over the years I have applied his practice to numerous ailments, including a shoulder that, in an MRI, showed arthritis and tears. Nervous about it, I called Sarno and he listened to the results. Then he said: Arthritis and tears are completely normal. Try my method for a few weeks. If it doesn’t clear up, call me.

So I did, at first just acknowledging that there were emotions I was not aware of, and gradually coming to understand what they were. The pain gradually went away.

Recently, I learned another technique that has proven an effective next step in Sarno’s practice. In Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain, Dr. David Hanscom posits that key to overcoming pain, stress and a host of other difficulties is to write down all our dark “taboo” thoughts, by hand on paper, without editing or analyzing them: no matter what they may be, or how ugly, or how “not what you believe” they are. (It is a technique he used to heal himself from a host of ailments and nervous disorders.)

In the morning and/or before bed, I take a big pad and just write, without editing, all the dark stuff that can be part of my thinking. It’s a simple way to bring into the open the emotions that, when kept locked inside, can cause physical ailments.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

Then I tear it up and throw it away.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

I’ve found these practices are an effective way of healing various ailments. I sometimes use them in conjunction with Western or Eastern medicine.

They are NOT meant to judge, or to say that all illness is caused by the person suffering them. Blame has no place in healing. Nor are they meant to replace prudent medical care. 

These are two practices that have worked for me in my very improvised path to healing.

Here, as promised is a printable pdf of Sarno’s Back Meditation. I recommend reading  Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection to get a full understanding of how emotions can lead to physical pain.


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3 replies on “2 Practices to Help Heal Aching Backs + Other Illnesses

  1. It was so interesting to read this today. Yesterday, I resolved two issues that have been hanging over my head for awhile. As I read this today, I remembered that this morning, for the first time in weeks, I woke up with no back pain. At the time, I wondered if I had somehow slept differently last night. Now I’m wondering if it has less to do with my physical position and more to do with my greater mental ease. Looking forward to reading this book.

  2. It IS interesting. Many people are skeptical but Sarno was a really “straight” orthopedic doctor from NYU who came to realize this. I’ve found if you practice his method (and understand it), and give it a few weeks, often amazing changes take place. I’ve been testing it out for years.

  3. I have progressively have increasing pain in my lower abdomen hip and back area. An orthopaedic surgeon wants to operate on my lower lumbars to decompress the nerves that are causing a lot of pain in my back thighs and legs. I can hardly walk I live with excruciating pain 24/7 I cannot bare the pain anymore. I don,t have a life anymore. Cannot sleep. I need help.

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