TMS: A Mindbody Catastrophe


TMS stands for tension myositis syndrome, sometimes also called tension myoneural syndrome. This is the famously painful condition named by Dr. John Sarno of The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Manhattan, NY.

Tension myositis is not only the topic of Dr. Sarno’s many books, but is also the man’s life work. Although trained in physical medicine, Dr. Sarno has certainly contributed far more to modern psychology than he has to the rehabilitation department at The NYU Medical Center.

The tension myositis diagnosis has provided hope for millions of people who have been ravaged by chronic pain in the back, limbs, joints and in many internal systems of the body.  While classic medical science has failed to help virtually any chronic pain sufferers, the mindbody model of symptomology has provided cures that seem to defy logic, that is unless you enact a paradigm shift in your understanding of health and illness.  

In this guide, we profile tension myositis as part of the larger psychoemotionally-induced health crisis problem that is currently dominating our modern society.

What is TMS?

Tension myositis syndrome is a very real and seemingly physical pain syndrome caused by repressed, suppressed and internalized emotional issues. In this condition, the subconscious mind uses physical symptoms as a distraction from threatening psychological/emotional feelings.

These repressed thoughts and feelings are kept under strict guard by the subconscious mind. Unfortunately, these unpleasant issues are constantly seeking to make themselves known to the conscious mind. The subconscious is trying to defend the consciousness from experiencing the full negative effect of these emotionally-charged issues. The subconscious uses pain as a means to keep the conscious mind focused on the physical body, rather than the threatening emotional issues.

In essence, the underlying goal of the symptoms is to act as a distraction from emotional sensitivities.  The full story on psychological pain syndromes can be found on our page dedicated to psychological back pain.

Mechanics of TMS

Ok, so tension myositis syndrome is caused by repressed psychological issues. But how do those issues cause physical pain? And why?

The subconscious mind has great power over the physical body. One of the systems that it can influence is the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system controls many of the bodily functions that we take for granted. The ANS controls the heart rate, pupil size, perspiration, digestion, salivation, and the diameter of blood vessels, among others.

The last control is what we are concerned with in TMS: The diameter of the blood vessels.

When the subconscious mind chooses to start a pain condition, it simply orders the circulatory vessels to contract in the affected area. This slight contraction of blood vessels decreases the circulation to the affected region. The muscles have a difficult time metabolizing lactic acid and other waste products. The muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments and other tissues, all suffer reduced oxygenation. This oxygen deprivation is what causes the pain in tension myositis syndrome.

This is just one of the theories used to detail the causative processes for TMS symptoms. There are surely more, most likely involving the endocrine system for some expressions and other aspects of the autonomic system for others.

TMS Symptoms

Reduced oxygen in a muscle will cause pain and even spasming. This is the same effect as a leg cramp experienced by a distance runner. Nerve tissue is extremely delicate and is affected almost immediately by the reduced supply of oxygen. Nerve involvement can cause pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.

Tension myositis back pain is only one of many expressions of psychologically-induced syndromes. There are actually many varied types of mindbody symptoms that can affect the patient locally, regionally, systemically, cognitively or emotionally 

TMS back pain is often mistaken for other physically caused chronic conditions. The symptoms may resemble other types of common spine problems. Due to the virtually universal occurrence of conditions such as herniated discs, spinal arthritis and degenerative disc disease, TMS is most often misdiagnosed. It is no surprise that treatments designed to resolve a physically caused problem usually have little or no curative effect on tension myositis pain.

Help for Tension Myositis Pain

I have lots of experience with tension myositis syndrome, since I was under the care of Dr. John Sarno for this very condition. Of course, I suffered with horrible back pain for 18 years, all the while blaming it on my 2 herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. None of my literal horde of doctors, chiropractors and therapists, ever even speculated that my pain might have a psychological cause.

I never would have believed it was possible either.

Well, it is no wonder that all my attempts at treatment were utter failures. I wasted so much time in my life suffering. I spent a fortune trying everything to find relief. Nothing worked for me. I learned the truth of my condition through knowledge therapy. I read about the true cause of my pain and then simply cured myself.

Cured himself? No way! What a joke…

It’s true. No one can cure you of TMS, but you. It is that easy. I reversed my desperate condition in a matter of months. I became pain-free. Tension myositis symptoms are very real. I know. The cure for it is also very real.

Dr. Sarno set a solid groundwork with his life's work on mindbody expressions within the anatomy.  History will surely reveal the value of his contributions more and more with each passing decade. However, the real hope lies with the younger generations of doctors and therapists who have already taken Sarno's work and improved it exponentially.  If these doctors can work diligently to propagate their teachings among other medical professionals and within the general public, a true shift in medical evolution will finally occur.

While the name tension myositis has lost its relevancy, the condition that it represents becomes more valid each day.  Regardless of what mindbody-enacted pain will be called in the future, the innovative work of Dr. Sarno will always be remembered as one of the formative pillars of a whole new system of healthcare that will hopefully finally live up to patient expectations.

Back Pain > Tension Myositis Syndrome > TMS