Jump to content

John E. Sarno

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John E. Sarno
John Ernest Sarno Jr.

(1923-06-23)June 23, 1923
DiedJune 22, 2017(2017-06-22) (aged 93)
Alma materColumbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Known forTension Myoneural Syndrome (formerly Tension Myositis Syndrome)
Scientific career
FieldsRehabilitation medicine
InstitutionsRusk Institute at New York University Medical Center

John Ernest Sarno Jr. (June 23, 1923 – June 22, 2017)[1][2][3] was Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, and attending physician at the Howard A. Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University Medical Center. He graduated from Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1943,[4] and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1950. In 1965, he was appointed the director of the Outpatient Department at the Rusk Institute.

Sarno originated the term tension myositis syndrome (TMS) to name a claimed psychosomatic condition producing pain, particularly back pain.[5] This syndrome diagnosis and treatment protocol are not accepted by the mainstream medical community.[6][7]


Sarno graduated from Newton High School at age 16. He repeated senior year and graduated again from the private Horace Mann School in the Bronx. In 1943, he joined the army and worked in field hospitals in Europe during World War II.

Dr. Sarno married Penny Patt. They had three children: Lindianne, Lauren and David. They divorced in 1966. He remarried in 1967, this time to Martha Lamarque, a colleague at the Rusk Institute. They had one daughter, Christina.[8]

Tension myositis syndrome[edit]

Sarno's most notable achievement is the development, diagnosis, and treatment of tension myoneural syndrome (TMS), which is currently not accepted by mainstream medicine.[7][9] According to Sarno, TMS is a psychosomatic illness causing chronic back, neck, and limb pain which is not relieved by standard medical treatments. He includes other ailments, such as gastrointestinal problems, dermatological disorders and repetitive-strain injuries as TMS related. Sarno states that he has successfully treated over ten thousand patients at the Rusk Institute by educating them on his beliefs of a psychological and emotional basis to their pain and symptoms.[10] Sarno's theory is, in part, that the pain or GI symptoms are an unconscious "distraction" to aid in the repression of deep unconscious emotional issues. Sarno believes that when patients think about what may be upsetting them in their unconscious, they can defeat their minds' strategy to repress these powerful emotions; when the symptoms are seen for what they are, the symptoms then serve no purpose, and they go away. Supporters of Sarno's work hypothesize an inherent difficulty in performing the clinical trials needed to prove or disprove the diagnosis, since it is difficult to conduct clinical trials on psychosomatic illnesses.[11]


  • Sarno, John E. (1982). Mind Over Back Pain. Berkley Trade. ISBN 0-425-08741-7.
  • Sarno, John E. (1991). Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-39230-8.
  • Sarno, John E. (1998). The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain. Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-67515-6.
  • Sarno, John E. (2006). The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders. Harper Paperbacks. ISBN 0-06-085178-3.


  1. ^ Sarno, John E. "United States Public Records, 1970-2009". Family Search. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  2. ^ Conner-Simons, Adam (June 23, 2017). "John E. Sarno, N.Y.U. Rehabilitation Doctor, Doctor, Dies at 94". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Dolnick, Sam (December 28, 2017). "The Lives They Lived: John Sarno". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Sarno, John E. (2000). "2000 Commencement Address". Kalamazoo College. The webpage contains a brief biography of Sarno, and links to a transcript and a video of Sarno's commencement address at Kalamazoo College.
  5. ^ Neporent, Liz (1999-02-17). "BODY PARTS; Straightening Out Back Pain". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-01.
  6. ^ Neporent, Liz (17 February 1999). "Straightening Out Back Pain". The New York Times.
  7. ^ a b "Dr. Sarno's Cure". 20/20. 1999-07-25. ABC.
  8. ^ Conner-Simons, Adam (2017-06-24). "Dr. John Sarno, 93, Dies; Best-Selling Author Tied Pain to Anxieties". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-02-21.
  9. ^ Neporent, Liz (17 February 1999). "Straightening Out Back Pain". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
  10. ^ "At the Root of Back Pain". WholeHealthMD. Archived from the original on 2006-09-29.
  11. ^ Leonard-Segal, Dr. Andrea (2006). "A Rheumatologist's Experience With Psychosomatic Disorders". The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders. ReganBooks. ISBN 0-06-085178-3.