Book Review: The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain

Rating: 💊

The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain is a book by John Sarno, a doctor and author who was known for coining Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS), a condition that manifests as many different forms of chronic pain.

I had heard the name Sarno in internet conversations around back pain, but he came up again when I was talking with a friend about my typing pain and he mentioned that he had read a kind of wacky book (this one) about pain treatment when he was experiencing the same thing and his pain went away after reading it and he never thinks about it anymore.

TMS as a diagnosis and Sarno’s treatment is NOT widely accepted in the Medical community. That being said, treatment consists of 1) reading and learning about TMS and 2) maybe some psychotherapy if you feel you need it, but therapy is not needed for the vast majority of people. So there’s not really much to lose other than some reading time, and no obvious financial scam going on here as far as I can tell.

I’m very glad that I gave fair shot and read book, because for whatever mental/physical reason, I don’t have pain anymore. It worked, I think? Here was the rough order of events in my life:

  1. Day 0: Feel some punctuated stress and frustration over an ineffective manager and general disorganization at work
  2. Day ~1: Start experiencing some soreness, tingling, and pain in my wrists, thumbs, forearms
  3. Day ~4: Talk to my doctor, who recommends a break from typing and 7-10 days of Ibuprofen and says “yea, that stuff can be tricky”
  4. Days ~4-14: Basically stop typing, just attending meetings at work and handwriting/voice noting things. Take Ibuprofen. No improvement in discomfort
  5. Days ~14-80: Work at ~50% capacity. Take measured typing breaks using Time Out App every 10-15 minutes. Become obsessed with typing comfort and ergonomics. Spend ~$1k finding the right ergo keyboard (and recoup most of that reselling the ones I passed on). Read about stories of programmers who lost their ability to type without extreme measures like surgery or voice software. Constant medium-high stress about the future of my career and passion, nightmares, etc.
  6. Days ~80-120: Resign from my job, take 2 months between work, and shoot to take another extended typing break as things have only slightly improved with ergo keyboard usage. Fail to stop typing – too tempting to work on personal projects
  7. Day ~115: Friend tells me about this book
  8. Days ~120-130: Read this book and follow its advice (99% of it was just read the whole book and think about what it’s saying)
  9. Days ~125-140: Pain starts going away steadily
  10. Days ~140-160: Start new job that I’m very excited about, typing a lot daily. Despite that, pain is still going away.
  11. Days ~160-180: Pain is basically gone (I don’t think about it anymore). Don’t use break timers anymore, although I’m still using my programmable ergo keyboard, mostly because I like it a lot

So while it’s not true that reading the book is the only thing that I changed in my life, my recovery definitely coincided with me reading the book. I’m not a fanatic, and I agree with Sarno when he says to only consider TMS as cause when there’s no diagnosis and treatment that has worked for you from within conventional medicine. But if the “normal” stuff hasn’t worked for you after some time and effort, I would highly recommend Sarno. I think this might be the most woo-woo thing that I believe in, but it worked for me and for at least one other person I know, and many thousands of others on the internet. I don’t think there’s much risk in reading one of his books, so I say go for it.