Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) is a diagnosis for back pain given by Dr. John Sarno.

According to Sarno, TMS is a condition in which unconscious emotional issues (primarily rage) initiate a process that causes physical pain and other symptoms. His theory suggests that the unconscious mind uses the autonomic nervous system to decrease blood flow to muscles, nerves or tendons, resulting in oxygen deprivation (temporary micro-ischemia) and metabolite accumulation, experienced as pain in the affected tissues

This theory is popular but not widely accepted by the scientific community.

Is there evidence that this diagnosis (and related treatment) works?

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    Welcome to Skeptics! This question needs some work to make it answerable. 1) Let's focus the question on the claim, not the people who make it. 2) You poison the well by rejecting mainstream science, so we can't answer it with science. 3) You have turned a specific question "Is backpain often a psychosomatic sign of untreated rage?" into an opinion piece on whether science works. – Oddthinking Aug 31 at 1:42
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    @Oddthinking Thank you for the welcome and refining the question. Yes, I realize I had made the question too broad. It's much more focused now. – shivams Aug 31 at 2:14
  • sounds way too broad as stated. As stated, ALL back pain is caused by "unconscious emotional issues". This is certainly not the case, as anyone with spinal injuries can attest. – jwenting Sep 2 at 6:06
  • @jwenting No. He does not say that ALL back pain is caused by "unconscious emotional issues". He says that 95% cases are; and that is based on his own survey data. Further, the Wikipedia page on back pain says that it has been found that 90% of cases have no specific cause. So, John Sarno may be right in that. – shivams Sep 2 at 10:33

There is an article (not peer-reviewed though) that I personally like that goes into science behind our current understanding of biopsychosocial model and cites a lot of primary literature (peer-reviewed).

Answering your question will require citing this article or similar work, but to assist in understanding this problem, consider that currently we don't have good double-blind studies. Ideally you want an experiment, where one group has been made angry, and another control group that has been left at peace. Then we compare rate of back pain.

We don't have that experiment, but we know that people with depression will show greater probability of developing chronic pain or just be more sensitive to pain. Generally speaking, emotional state and pain are linked. However, I can't find studies that connect specifically rage and development of pain. It has been discussed that rage and depression can correlate (more recent paper).

  • Your ideal experiment is unlikely to pass an Ethics Review Board. It would probably sufficient to show that treating rage reduces back pain in people diagnosed with TMS (assuming treating rage isn't done through rest, exercise, massage and/or surgery!) – Oddthinking Aug 31 at 6:41
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    Consider that chronic pain causes depression. This has been fairly well established. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 31 at 11:53

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