How do you know if you have Mind Body Syndrome (MBS) or Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS)?

First, you should take a look at a list of symptoms and diagnoses that are likely to be caused by MBS/TMS. Of course, not all people with these symptoms or diagnoses have MBS/TMS, but I would certainly consider that MBS/TMS might be the underlying cause of some of these problems. Most people who join this program have seen doctors for many months or years before considering that there might be a different reason for their symptoms. If you have had full and complete testing for a serious medical or physical disorder and none was found, then it is possible that you have MBS/TMS. If your diagnosis is fibromyalgia, whiplash, tension headaches or migraine headaches, then you are likely to have MBS/TMS. If you have irritable bowel syndrome or interstitial cystitis, then you are likely to have MBS/TMS. If you have chronic fatigue or insomnia, then you are likely to have MBS/TMS. If you have anxiety or depression, then this program might help you as well.

If you have back pain or neck pain and the MRI doesn't show any serious abnormality, then you are likely to have MBS/TMS. If you have back pain or neck pain and the MRI shows some bulging discs, some spinal stenosis, some degenerated discs or other minor abnormalities, then you may have MBS/TMS. Several research studies have shown that most people have evidence of mild to moderate changes on MRI such as these and have no back or neck pain. In addition, neither baseline MRI's nor follow up MRI's are useful predictors of low back pain. In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine from May 5, 2005, Dr. Carragee of the Stanford University School of Medicine noted that MRI's should be used to rule out infections, cancer or fractures; but patients (and doctors) should expect to find common degenerative changes. He added that "ill-considered attempts to make a diagnosis on the basis of imaging studies may reinforce the suspicion of serious disease, magnify the importance of nonspecific findings, and label patients with spurious diagnoses."

If there is no clear evidence of nerve damage or a change in muscle strength or sensation in the arms or legs, then you may have MBS/TMS. Surgeons often recommend surgery for back or neck pain if conservative measures (rest, heat or ice, physical therapy, massage, etc.) have not worked. If your surgeon has recommended conservative measures then you might want to take this educational program in order to see if you can improve your pain and avoid surgery. The SPORT trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December, 2006 showed that people with sciatic pain that was thought to be due to bulging discs did just as well after 2 years with conservative therapy as did the group who had surgery.

I recommend reading Dr. Sarno's book, The Mindbody Prescription, as a good place to start learning about MBS/TMS. Dr. Sarno has a great deal of experience in this area and this book is a compilation of his work. It describes how the MBS/TMS begins and becomes chronic. Often, people begin to see themselves in the pages of this book.

No matter what diagnosis you have received in the past, you will need to speak with your doctors to see if they think this program is acceptable for you to try.

*The personal stories are from actual course participants and are used with permission. The names and photos have been changed to protect confidentiality.