Dr Sarno and TMS (Tension Myositis/Myoneural Syndrome)

What is TMS?

TMS refers to pain and other symptoms which are caused by nerve pathways. A doctor called John Sarno in the USA came up with the term “Tension Myositis Syndrome” in the 1970s to describe this condition, which he later changed to “Tension Myoneural Syndrome” after his understanding of the condition had evolved. Myositis means “inflammation of the muscles”, whereas myoneural means “relating to muscles or nerves”.

Dr Sarno is famous for his work in developing an approach to treat TMS, and it is Dr Sarno’s methods which the SIRPA approach has developed from. Scientific progress means that we are continually learning more about nerve pathway pain and how to treat it. Nonetheless, the term TMS is still used by a lot of people to describe nerve pathway pain, although at ACACIA Freedom from Pain we tend to prefer the terms “stress illness” and “mind body syndrome” because we think they are easier to understand. One very useful website which uses the term TMS is TMS Wiki, a website developed and run by people who have recovered or are recovering from chronic pain and other symptoms.

In addition to the work done by Dr Sarno and the term TMS, you may have heard or read about people using different terms to refer to nerve pathway pain, which can be confusing at times. Here are some of the most common terms you might hear.

Chronic pain

The term “chronic” just means “long-term”. Chronic pain is pain which has gone on for more than 12 weeks. Sometimes, pain is caused by illness such as infections or cancer, and the pain will continue until the person gets better. In most cases though, chronic pain has no obvious physical cause. It might be pain which sticks around after an injury has healed, or pain which “just started” one day for no apparent reason, then never went away. Chronic pain happens when nerve pathways “get used” to producing pain over a period of time.

PPD (Psychophysiologic Disorder)

Psychophysiologic Disorder (PPD) is a term which is often used by doctors and medical professionals who have an interest in the role of the mind and the body in pain and medically unexplained symptoms. Psychophysiologic = Psycho (of the mind or mental processes) + Physiologic (related to how the body works).

The Psychophysiologic Disorders Association brings together practitioners who are involved in researching and using mind body approaches to treat pain.

Stress illness

Stress illness is one way SIRPA describes chronic pain and other symptoms (SIRPA stands for Stress Illness Recovery Practitioners’ Association). Most people are familiar with the idea of stress and what it feels like, so the idea of stress illness can make a lot of sense to people.

Mind body syndrome

Mind body syndrome (or mindbody syndrome) is simply another way of describing the link between mind and body in chronic pain and symptoms. Many practitioners like this term because it is more straightforward and less medical-sounding than terms like TMS or PPD.