Tag Archives: back pain

Modern Medicine’s Blind Spot

#5—Modern Medicine’s Blind Spot


The rapidity of advances in medicine has been staggering over the past 50 years.  It has been amazing to see the proliferation of research that has helped us understand how individual cells work, how DNA is translated into proteins that recognize other cells, that repair damaged cells, that create new cells to fight infections, and that communicate with all the cells in the body.  We have learned a tremendous amount about how smoking, high cholesterol, and diabetes cause heart disease and about how cancer cells replicate and spread.  These advances have created new technologies and medications to fight heart disease, stroke, and cancer by looking at the minute details of cells and proteins.  This view of how medicine will advance is now universal; we will find the answers to how the body works and can be healed by looking at the individual areas where the disease is presumed to be.  This has worked well so far.


But the problem lies in applying this theory to disorders like Mind Body Syndrome (MBS).  In MBS, there is no tissue breakdown in the body, so by looking closer and closer at the “problem area”, we are actually missing the problem.  In this case, the problem is in the relationship between the mind and the body.  Phantom limb syndrome is a situation where real and severe pain can be caused by the connections between the mind and body, yet there is no “disease” in the area where the pain is felt (i.e. the missing arm or leg).  In people with back pain, if there is a fracture, an infection or a tumor, we are best served by applying the techniques of modern medicine; i.e. find the source of the pain in the painful area and treat it with medications or surgery or physical therapy.  However, for those with chronic back pain and no fracture, infection or tumor, trying to treat the source of the pain in the painful area can lead to more harm.  Why have back surgery for a problem in the nerve connections between the brain and body?  Actually, this has been tried in phantom limb syndrome.  They tried amputating the limb at a higher spot to try to decrease the pain, but this didn’t work.

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Hello world…

Hello world.


That’s how the blog website begins.  It’s also how Tiger Woods introduced himself at the press conference when he turned pro.  My son informs me that “hello world” is the standard text used in computer programming whenever some text is needed to work with, similar to “testing 1,2,3” was used when testing a microphone before a presentation.


I guess “hello world” is appropriate for this blog.  I am introducing myself to whoever is “out there” and I have some things to say that I think are important for the health and well being of everyday people.  My name is Howard Schubiner and I’m a physician in the Detroit area.  I have done a variety of things within medicine in the past 30 years since I became a doctor, including getting board certifications in Internal Medicine, Adolescent Medicine, and Pediatrics, studying acupuncture in China, teaching and doing research at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine for 18 years, becoming a specialist in Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, and teaching mindfulness meditation for the past 14 years. 


I would never have considered writing a blog however, if it weren’t for what I’ve learned in the past 3 years.  It started with a friend telling me a story about someone who had severe back and hip pain, which miraculously disappeared after reading a book by Dr. Sarno and investigating some issues in her life.  I then started reading about Dr. John Sarno (of whom I will speak at length in future blogs) and his views on chronic pain, particularly back and neck pain.  I got so engrossed and fascinated that I decided to devote the rest of my career in medicine (for the foreseeable future anyway) to working with people to help them alleviate their pain and other chronic symptoms. 


What I have learned over the past few years is nothing short of phenomenal.  I have learned that most of the people with chronic back and neck pain can be cured; and they can be cured by simple methods, the most important of which is a new understanding of what is causing their pain.  I have learned that the traditional biomedical approaches to many chronic conditions do not work.  And I have seen many people take control over their health and improve their lives dramatically.  In fact, the one comment that I hear over and over is “you have helped me save my life.”  Few things are sweeter than these words.

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