You can read his NYT obituary here. And you can read about the controversy. There are a lot of “quacks” out there. And he’s been accused of being one. Medical doctors involved in the field of pain management don’t come off well here in my opinion. From the obit:
“His views are definitely considered on the fringe,” said Dr. Christopher Gharibo, a pain management specialist at the Langone Medical Center at N.Y.U. “His position was that almost all chronic pain is purely psychological and ‘all in the head,’ which I certainly disagree with.”
Eric Sherman, a psychotherapist who worked with Dr. Sarno for many years, recalled how Dr. Sarno’s colleagues would belittle him behind his back in lunchtime conversations at N.Y.U., even as some would visit him privately for their ailments.
“It was him against the world, yet he was never afraid of not fitting in,” Dr. Sherman said. “He had a ‘damn the torpedoes’ perspective on his work, and was notoriously indifferent to others’ opinions of him.”
Look. I am not anti-drug. One of the reasons I would never use opiates recreationally is if I’m physically hurt I want to be able to go in clean if I ever really need them. However, if someone could cure chronic pain without the need for an operation and likewise obviate the need for opiates or other painkillers, that’s something we should be cheering. The folks who aren’t cheering are those who appear to have incentive not to.
I know there is a lot of “woo woo” out there in the field of self help. But Dr. Sarno dealt with something more real than the kind of changes self-help gurus promise to deliver. The pain from depression is in a sense very real and sometimes deadly so. But it still differs from the physical pain that one feels like for instance when on gets stung by a bee or after having dental surgery. In other words, the things you need opiates for.
We are talking about chronic lower back pain. Real physical pain. Cripplingly real. And testimonials that his method cured them. Testimonials of celebrities who have secular and skeptical bona fines. In other words, credible testimonials. Among others we have John Stossel, Howard Stern and Larry David.