What is TMS?

TMS stands for Tension Myositis Syndrome or Tension Myoneural Syndrome and refers to chronic pain that results from repressed emotions. The term was coined by Dr. John E. Sarno, MD in the 1980s. Dr. Sarno noticed that his patients with chronic pain were not improving with conventional treatment and that most of his patients also had gastrointestinal issues, allergies, and other illnesses.

 

Upon further investigation, he realized that his patients also had several personality traits in common such as perfectionism, "goodism," legalism, and an intense need to be liked to name just a few. These personality traits can create a tremendous amount of internal rage that we are unaware of, which eventually leads to chronic pain.

This does NOT mean that the pain is all in your head. The pain is very real and as Dr. Sarno stated, TMS pain is some of the worst pain one can experience. It simply means that the brain is generating the pain although there is no structural damage or tissue damage. If at this point you are thinking, "I have a structural diagnosis," so does every patient that came to see Dr. Sarno. Some of the common issues his patients had been diagnosed with are:

  • Herniated Disks

  • Slipped Disks

  • Spinal Stenosis

  • Scoliosis

  • Torn Rotator Cuffs

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Plantar Fasciitis

  • and many others

 

Conventional doctors are not aware of this and when they diagnose people with an "incurable" problem, it causes fear which increases and perpetuates the pain. 

It was also discovered that there are many other common illnesses that are considered TMS equivalents, such as:

 

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

  • Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)

  • Seasonal Allergies

  • Food Intolerances

  • Interstitial Cystitis (IC)

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  • Adrenal Fatigue

  • Migraines

  • Anxiety and/or Depression

  • and many, many more

 

Since there are so many different symptoms that can be a result of repressed emotions or trauma, some other common terms for TMS are The MindBody Syndrome, MBS (Mind Body Syndrome) and PPD (Psychophysiological Disorders).

So how do you get rid of it? Dr. Sarno said knowledge is the penicillin. While repressed emotions caused the symptoms, it's fear that keeps symptoms going. Fear of the symptom itself but also fear of never getting better (often reinforced by non-TMS doctors). Simply learning that there is nothing physically wrong with the body reduces the fear around symptoms drastically, which then reduces or eliminates the symptoms. Some people were "cured" simply by reading one of Dr. Sarno's books. He also encouraged people to make a list of any adversity from childhood, personality traits such as listed above, and current stressors and to think about the items on these lists instead of focusing on the symptoms. He called this thinking psychological instead of physical.

Unfortunately, some people struggle to get better despite reading Dr. Sarno's books and thinking psychologically. This is where I come in. I know first hand how excruciating TMS pain can be and I was also diagnosed with many other illnesses that I overcame with a mind-body approach and my relationship with, and faith in, God. I would love to help you navigate this journey of mind-body healing and help you figure out why you might be stuck.

It is beneficial to get a diagnosis from a TMS doctor as it eliminates doubt in the diagnosis, but it is not required.. You can find a list of TMS doctors here and here. Many of them offer consultations via Skype or Zoom.

TMS/MBS Books:

Books by Dr. John Sarno

The Great Pain Deception - Steve Ozanich

Unlearn Your Pain - Dr. Howard Schubiner

Back in Control - Dr. David Hanscom

Childhood Disrupted - Donna Jackson Nakazawa

A brief video about TMS/MBS by Dr. Howard Schubiner:

Explaining Chronic Pain

A more detailed article on TMS:

An Introduction to Tension Myositis Syndrome

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