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Part 1: It’s Not About Pain Management

Picture this: Carol bends over to pick up the bag of groceries she is taking to her mother.  She feels a sharp twinge in her lower back. She straightens with difficulty. She has too much to do to pay attention to the pain. After working at the office all day, she stops at the supermarket for the groceries, picks up the kids from soccer practice, drops them off at home and makes her way to her Mom’s. Later that evening she will fix dinner for the family, go over homework assignments, pay some bills, balance the checkbook, fold the clothes she left in the dryer that morning, and fall into bed exhausted but unable to sleep.  The pain in her back that began as a twinge has now escalated to near-agony.  She takes some over the counter pain pills and makes a mental note to call the doctor.

What Carol doesn’t realize, is that she may be having a physiological reaction to emotional distress. Although it is more readily accepted that stress can cause ulcers and other gastrointestinal ills, it is less accepted by patients and doctors alike, that chronic back pain often shares the same etiology. Our bodies are not immune to stress, and often times diagnoses such as degenerative disk disease, stenosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tears, plantar fascitis, GERD, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), tinnitis, dizziness, fibromyalgia, and temporal mandibular jaw malfunction (TMJ) exhibit physical symptoms of stress.

Dr. John Sarno, author of Healing Back Pain:  The Mind Body Connection, suggests that 98% of the people in the United States who have chronic back and neck pain actually have Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS), also commonly referred to a psychophysiological disorder (PPD). Symptoms of PPD are caused by psychological stress. He believes that physical pain, along with other symptoms, can be the mind’s way of distracting us from emotional pain that is too difficult to express.

Don’t miss our next post, when we’ll explore the role video counseling plays in addressing physical pain.


Barbara KlineBarbara Kline is a licensed, certified, clinical social worker (LCSW-C) in the state of Maryland. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Shepherd University and a master’s of social work degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore. Barbara has participated in several national training seminars on mind/body therapies, and utilize an eclectic approach including cognitive-behavioral therapy, as well as relational, behavioral, psychodynamic, and insight-oriented therapies. She has a strong interest in mind/body medicine and specialize in working with clients suffering from chronic (non-cancerous) pain syndromes including back, neck, & shoulder pain; fibromyalgia, and other musculoskeletal disorders. In addition to chronic pain, she also treats anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.

Schedule a video session with Barbara today!