Dr John Sarno
The TMS (Tension Myoneural Syndrome and previously Tension Myositis Syndrome) concept was developed from the early 1970’s by Dr John Sarno, Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. Unfortunately due to existing medical beliefs, despite continually demonstrating the highly successful outcomes of his patients, he faced great resistance and even ostracised by many of his colleagues.
Changing widely accepted beliefs is always going to be challenging though. e.g. something that faced great resistance even after the evidence was found was the fact that washing hands could dramatically reduce mortality rates of new Mothers after delivery and of soldiers with wounds that needed dressing.
Dr Sarno’s early work
In the 1970’s Dr Sarno began asking himself the type of questions I had been asking myself for years, such as why conventional approaches for chronic pain were not more successful. While taking patients’ medical histories he found that 88% of his patients already had symptoms that many people recognized were caused by stress, in other words, emotionally-induced. These included conditions such as ulcers, heartburn, IBS and tension headaches. Dr Sarno began to recognize that chronic pain had the same underlying cause and over the years developed his own unique approach to chronic pain, demonstrating exceptional results for conditions that many people believed to be incurable. He coined the term Tension Myositis Syndrome initially, which he shortened to TMS, but over time he then changed this to Tension Myoneural Syndrome to encompass the involvement of nerves in the process.
John Sarno MD sadly passed away in June 2017, the day before his 94th birthday, but he has left a wonderful legacy for followers, like myself, to continue to develop for the future benefit of people suffering from TMS. His work with TMS over more than 4 decades provided the basis for my own work, from which SIRPA continues to evolve, and thankfully the pain science evidence has now begun to support the fact that chronic pain is not due to physical abnormalities and is a result of neural pathways that have become learned and sensitised. The SIRPA Recovery Programme is a result of my own work since my visit to Dr Sarno in 2007 and now includes a large amount of information, evidence, advice, strategies and other self-help exercises that are helping people accept and recover from stress-induced symptoms, or TMS.