Category Archives: Miscellaneous

MBS Blog #30–Long time, no hear: Recent events regarding MBS

It has been a very long time since I posted on this blog site.  I apologize to anyone who has been missing these posts.

A number of amazing things have happened so far this year in our corner of medical practice that I tend to refer to as Mind Body Syndrome.

One momentous event in my life was that my book, Unlearn Your Pain, was published.  After two years of work, I was thrilled to see the book in print.  You can read the first chapter on my website or on the website, where it is available for purchase.  Since I published it myself, it will not be available in stores unless it gets picked up by a distributor.  To date, the reviews have been pretty positive.  I tried very hard to create a book that would explain the scientific validation of Mind Body Syndrome in terms that anyone could understand, but would also be convincing to the discerning physician or therapist.  This journey through the neurology and the psychology of pain make up the first 4 chapters.  The fifth chapter contains the complete version of the interview process that I have developed over the past several years.  I attempted to duplicate the experience of seeing me for an extended office visit.  I hope it will allow people who suffer from MBS to recognize the connections between their life events and the onset of MBS symptoms.  Chapters 6-10 consist of the whole intervention program that I’ve developed and that I teach in small group settings at Providence Hospital, in the Detroit area.  Finally, there is a concluding chapter and a set of frequently asked questions.

I would deeply appreciate feedback on any aspect of the book.  Please feel free to email me if you have comments, suggestions, or criticisms!! Continue reading

MBS Blog #29: Cause and effect: The controversy about vaso-constriction and persistent soft tissue injury in Mind Body Syndrome

One of the great books of the twentieth century is Victor Frankel’s, Man’s Search for Meaning.  In the book, he describes the need we have to understand why things happen.  When someone gets sick, one of the first questions asked is, “Why did this happen?”  One of the more frustrating aspects of being a physician is trying to answer this question for people with cancer and other serious physical diseases.  For most people, we are forced to say, “I don’t know.”  No one is ever happy with this answer.

Fortunately for Mind Body Syndrome, we do know what is causing the symptoms: stress and emotional reactions that were typically primed in childhood and emerge later in life in response to new stressors which are linked to the earlier emotions (“emotional speed dial”), which is coupled with limited awareness or suppression of emotions and body reactions which alert us to a perceived danger.  I am currently finishing a book, entitled Unlearn Your Pain, which attempts to detail these processes from a psychological and neurological perspective.  It is axiomatic that the greater awareness and understanding of the cause of Mind Body Syndrome, the better we will be able to resolve the underlying emotional conflicts and eliminate the resulting physical or psychological symptoms. Continue reading

Blog #28: Report on a Mind Body Syndrome retreat at Kripalu Institute

About a year ago, the New York Times ran an article about the Kripalu yoga and health retreat center in Lenox, MA. The article’s theme was that Kripalu took chances and tried new ideas for health and healing. Those of us who are working with people with Mind Body Syndrome (MBS, or Tension Myositis Syndrome, as named by Dr. Sarno) are continually trying to find better ways to help our patients. I developed a comprehensive and structured 4-week program designed to uncover and address hidden emotional reactions that are linked to a variety of chronic painful and associated psycho-physiological symptoms. Maybe there would be some benefit from an intensive retreat format for getting people started on this work or to help them get unstuck in their progress.

I submitted a proposal to Kripalu, thinking that it would be a long shot. To my knowledge, no one has ever conducted such a seminar based upon the particular model initially proposed by Dr. Sarno. I didn’t hear from Kripalu for several months. One day, I mentioned the proposal to a close friend. Serendipitously, his sister, Annie Price, had just started working there and he called her to see if my proposal was being reviewed. She pulled it out of the pile and within a few weeks, I got an email asking if I could arrange to spend a week at Kripalu leading this retreat. Continue reading

MBS Blog #27: Joe’s story: A journey towards wisdom

Everyone has a unique story to tell and often the paths that lead to healing are also quite different.  I received the following email the other day, and I was very touched by the authenticity and depth of what Joe had to say. He describes a journey that he has taken and continues to take.  This journey is slow, but steady and it has lead him towards a self-acceptance that is a powerful step towards health, both in mind and in body.  Everyone with MBS should read his story as it will inspire many to persevere despite continued pain.  Through having MBS and by dealing with it over time, Joe has learned to see his pain as a teacher; something that teaches him all he needs to know in this life and all he needs to understand. 

Here’s his story as told in an email to me:

“As far as my pain goes, I cannot report any miraculous change in symptoms; however, I continue to experience a very subtle phenomenon that I have dubbed an “erosion of tension.” Like the tide coming in and out, eroding the beach, it seems like my tight muscles are very, very slowly beginning to loosen. Then they contract again (or feel contracted), but when each time this happens (each time being like one back and forth of the tide), the tension in the muscles seems just the slightest bit less than before – so slight a difference, however, as to seem non-existent for the first few months that this was happening. Now, it has been long enough and steady enough that I believe it is happening, but doubt still lingers because of how subtle it all seems. Nonetheless, I am convinced of the MBS diagnosis. I do think that I am a particularly tough case, though. When I read about people who are totally healed by reading Dr. Sarno’s book one time through, I can get very envious, and also, sometimes, filled with doubt about whether I have MBS at all. But I am beginning to settle into the knowledge that I do. Continue reading

MBS Blog #26–Update on social contagion and Mind Body syndrome

More on the “contagiousness” of Mind Body syndrome:

Over the past couple of years, a new line of research has been developed which documents that certain disorders are socially contagious.  Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler have published articles in the New England Journal of Medicine and in the British Medical Journal documenting that smoking, obesity and happiness all share the ability to be affected by those around us.  The more people you know who are smokers, the more likely it is that you will be a smoker.  The same is true for having contacts who are overweight.  And if you have more friends and relatives who are happy, you are more likely to be happy!  It seems obvious that these issues can be affected by being in close contact because these issues are generally thought to be caused by our values, our thoughts and our behaviors.  That is, we can choose whether we smoke, how much we eat and exercise, and how to respond to the stresses in our lives.

Reading these articles made me think once again about the contagiousness of mind body syndrome.  I wrote a blog about this last year (Blog #6, June 20, 2008), but we now have some data and a way to measure this construct that we call social contagion.  Can physical symptoms be contagious?  We know that the flu or the common cold are contagious, i.e. you can catch it by being in close contact with someone who has it due to being exposed to the virus which causes it.  We would never think that you can catch cancer or heart disease because these are diseases caused by something that goes wrong inside your body, not something you catch from someone else. Continue reading