Does a Herniated Disc Cause Pain?

A herniated disc in your back or neck may not be the cause of your pain. Dr John Sarno states in his book Healing Back Pain that “it has been my experience that herniated disc material is rarely responsible for pain or other neurological symptoms”. If you have back or neck pain and a MRI or CT scan indicates you have a herniated disc according to Doctor Sarno, don’t instantly blame the disc for the pain.


Dr Sarno has helped patients like Howard Stern and John Stossel become free of back pain. One of my best friends had a back spasm so bad he had to call 911 for help. After seeing Dr Sarno he was rid of back pain in a few weeks and it has never come back and it’s been four years. I have other clients and friends that are free of back pain due to Dr Sarno. His approach is contrary to mainstream medicine but he is not alone in his theory. Dr Hubert Rosomoff , a well-known neurosurgeon published an article in Advances in Pain Research and Therapy called Do Herniated Discs Produce Pain? Dr Rosomoff concluded that when a nerve is compressed (possible from a herniated disc) it would stop transmitting pain after a short period of time. Another well-respected doctor from Sweden, Dr Alf Nachemson said in an article called The Lumbar Spine “that the cause of back pain is unknown in the majority of cases and almost all should be treated  nonsurgically”.

What is the cause of back pain?

Dr Sarno would conclude the cause of back and neck pain for a large number of people is Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS}. You really have to read the book Healing Back Pain a couple of times with an open mind to get the full understanding of TMS. In brief, TMS is a harmless but painful condition that causes mild oxygen deprivation to the muscles, which results in pain that has nothing to do with any structural abnormality like a herniated disc. What causes this mild oxygen deprivation are repressed emotions like anger. What happens is your subconscious mind does not want you to feel unpleasant emotions like anger and anxiety so it creates a distraction. Your mind through the autonomic system deprives oxygen and blood flow to muscles and nerves causing pain in response to your repressed emotions. If you focus on your back pain these emotions will stay repressed and the TMS will continue. TMS is protecting you from emotional stress without you knowing about it by producing physical pain as a distraction.

What is the Treatment for Back Pain?

You have to think psychological not physical. You must learn everything about TMS. You have to completely except the diagnosis and believe 100% that TMS is the cause of your pain. When you can completely accept and understand that TMS is there to distract you from your unpleasant emotions your pain will go away. Dr Sarno knows that this is not an easy thing to do. So part of his treatment is in the form of seminars to educate you about TMS and to help you unequivocally accept the diagnosis.

Dr Sarno is one of the greatest medical contrarians when it comes to back, neck and other conditions that cause pain. If you have been suffering from back pain and haven’t found relief, never give up, there are other options out there for you.  I recommend one of Dr Sarnos’ books or you can see him in New York. He is still practicing.

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Best- Mike Cola
Fitness Contrarian.

About Mike Cola

Mike Cola has well over 50,000 hours of hands-on personal training experience. He started his own personal training studio in1989, Mike Cola Fitness, which is located in New York.Connect with Mike @ Google+

4 Responses to “Does a Herniated Disc Cause Pain?”

  1. I have two herniated discs in my lower back. I have experienced some muscle tightening near the injured region but I wouldn’t call it pain. However if you feel some pain or numbness in your limbs – that could be from a herniated disc, scoliosis or spinal pathology.

    If you experience pain, visit a doctor. Don’t be afraid, because a herniated disc isn’t the end of the world. I’m in a better physical form than before the injury. I work out 5 days a week and feel really great.

  2. Shannon Macri-Meriden,Ct August 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I’ve researched Tension Myositis Syndrome and I feel so much cause for back pain is mental. People with back pain don’t want to hear that but it’s so very true in so many cases.
    If you visit your doctor,chiro and PT but none of them find anything major wrong with your back then Tension Myositis Syndrome is most likely the cause.
    We often try to avoid one emotional stress with a painful physical ailment like back pain.
    It’s caused by not dealing with your problems. Why we center the pain to our backs is a medical mystery. If we could only channel our emotions on feeling better. I know I can tell the difference between spine,disk pain and emotional pain.
    Great Article

  3. I wish this were true for me. It’s been 3 3 weeks where I can hardly stand it. It starts in my lower left side of my spine and radiates through my groin. I know it’s physical because I can raise my left foot out in front of me about 3 ft high with zero pain while standing. When I raise my right foot, as soon as its about 2 ft off the ground, the pain shoots straight to my lower left back. I also can’t flex my abs or do a sit up without excruciating pain. When in certain positions I have no pain whatsoever. However, on my feet, I walk with a tightened stomach to keep the pain away.

  4. Hi Brain,

    Sorry you are in so much pain but don’t give up on Dr Sarno read one of his books.

    You should also read one of Dr. Stuart M. McGill’s books. He is a leading authority on back pain. This is the link to his site http://www.backfitpro.com .

    Best – Mike