Nicole Sachs suffered from chronic pain for several years in her 20s before discovering the work of the late Dr. John Sarno, a pioneer in mind-body medicine, which does not use drugs or surgical procedures to cure. Instead, it relies on emotional exercises to eliminate physical symptoms, a treatment alternative that is getting more notice in light of the nationwide opioid epidemic.
After overcoming her own issues with pain, Sachs became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and psychotherapist and worked with Sarno for years, treating the same sort of patients that she was once. Empowered with this knowledge and first hand experience, she now successfully teaches people precisely how to heal themselves of a myriad of chronic pain conditions and symptoms such as fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, back and neck pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and more without surgery or medications of any kind. That said, Sachs is not against traditional medicine per se — she has frequently worked with physicians and other partners when treating patients, but believes more physicians and patients need to be aware of alternatives to drugs or surgery.
Sachs, who left her own practice to travel, speak and teach about her own mind-body treatment called JournalSpeak, wrote a book called “The Meaning of Truth,” recently was featured in Michael Galinsky’s documentary on Sarno entitled “All the Rage” and is coming to the Chicago June 16 to host a one-day event on her treatment. The Chicago Ambassador’s Bob Chiarito recently spoke to Sachs about her treatment protocol.
CA) Does mind-body medicine address both physical and mental pain?
SACHS) I would say yes. Most chronic pain comes through in some sort of physical discomfort like migraines or fibromyalgia, or back, neck, knee pain but often times people use my work for depression and anxiety as well because those are chronic pain equivalents. People hear mind-body work and think it’s like ‘woo-woo.’ It is not, it is scientific. It is so amazing how when we stop using all our energy to hold down feelings that we didn’t even know we were holding down, then that energy becomes available for so many other things and the pain just goes away. That’s what Dr. Sarno taught since 1955, so it’s not new. I’m just trying to be a fresh voice for it.
CA) Maybe someone who doesn’t know anything about it would hear “mind-body” and think it’s a mind over matter type of thing?
SACHS) Exactly, and that is something that I really want to dispel because people hear about my work and say, ‘Are you telling me the pain is in my head?’ The answer is absolutely not. The pain is the same. Let’s say someone has migraine disorder. You have migraines, that’s the end result. But people don’t realize that the genesis, the beginning is an emotional exercise. Something is happening in their mind-body system, their nervous system that’s put them into fight or flight. When they realize that the pain is not in their head, they are experiencing pain, but the solution is not in their body. I give them the tools and they work my program and they don’t have migraines anymore. Isn’t that the only thing that matters?
CA) How did you first become aware of it?
SACHS) I came upon this therapy because I myself was a chronic pain sufferer. I was told at age 19 that I would never have biological children, that I could never play sports or travel because I had something called degenerative spondylolisthesis. It’s a spinal condition. I found Dr. Sarno’s work in my twenties and have three biological children, never had a surgery. My spine still has the disorder but I don’t have any pain.
CA) Obviously, a lot has been in the news lately about prescription drug abuse and addiction, so this may be something that can be good for the public.
SACHS) Absolutely. I closed my practice and started teaching and speaking and traveling because of the opioid crisis. Because opioid pain medications do not help people with chronic pain and opioids and not safe to take for longer than a few days. We need another solution. We need people to be out of chronic pain before they reach for opioids and that’s what I do.
CA) Why do you think traditional medicine is so quick to prescribe opioids and other drugs? Is it a lack of knowledge by the physicians?
SACHS) I don’t think it’s lack of knowledge. To be perfectly honest, I feel a lot of empathy for good doctors that have their hearts in the right places which many do. I have no problem with the medical model. My problem is that we all — doctors, therapists and scientists need to open our minds to the power of mind-body medicine. Doctors are prescribing pills quite frankly because they don’t know what else to do. If you have a person that’s coming to you crying, bed-ridden, on disability and you care, often they think ‘All I can do is try this different med. Let’s try this, let’s see if this will help.’ I don’t think they are doing anything wrong, I think they need to open their minds to the power of this work. That’s one of of the reasons why I’m traveling to Chicago to teach. I want people to understand and they won’t believe it until they see it. Until they spend a day in a room with me and see patients who will give testimony. I have a woman speaking who in all her son’s wedding pictures she is in a wheelchair, and now she swims and plays golf, she travels. She’s fine and her story is commonplace in my practice.
I don’t think doctors know because they are not taught this in medical school but I think we are reaching a critical point in society with the opioid epidemic that we have to start opening our eyes.
CA) Is this something that drug companies are campaigning against or casting doubt upon?
SACHS) I have not personally had any experience with drug companies doing that. I don’t think I’ve gotten enough press where my work is a threat enough but I don’t think pharmaceutical companies would like what I do because I’m not making anyone any money. It frees people. My clients have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars [on traditional medicine] before coming to me.
CA) Have there been any clinical trials to prove any of this?
SACHS) They are just starting. There was one recently done on fibromyalgia by some of my colleagues and it showed a statistically significant improvement among the people who did the mind-body work as opposed to people who were given medication. So it’s starting.
CA) Regarding the event Saturday, if I’m someone with chronic pain who attends, should I expect to be cured after Saturday?
SACHS) I would definitely not promise that. There are cases where when people awaken to what’s going on, their pain decreases dramatically. But I don’t think most will be cured in one day. What people will leave with is the exact tool kit that they will need to do the work and eventually become pain free.
CA) So it’s something they can work on by themselves after attending the event?
SACHS) Yes. Anyone who comes on Saturday will have an absolute understanding of what they need to do and the tools with which to do it.
CA) I think one of the criticisms of traditional medicine is that instead of curing diseases, they just manage them. It sounds like you’re taking the opposite approach which may be better for the patient but not better for your checkbook.
SACHS) Well, yeah. Obviously I’m not in it for the money but it’s such a world-wide crisis. Certain people are very resistant, and this is something I will discuss on Saturday. People hold on to their pain for reasons that they don’t always admit. It helps them to ask for help, they are being cared for. It makes them feel special. We have to get honest. When we look at our lives and want to change our lives we have to be honest. We have to be honest about why we hold on to our bad behaviors.
CA) Some may hear that as victim blaming.
SACHS) The thing is, a victim is a person that has no role in what is being done to them. I help people gently and lovingly see their part in their lives and it is so empowering because the moment they realize that they are not a complete victim, that they are complicit in a lot of the things that go on in their lives they feel empowered.
CA) It sounds like you take some of the theories and practices of The Secret into your treatment.
SACHS) My work doesn’t reference The Secret overtly, but I definitely believe that —here is my problem with The Secret. If you are just going to have abundant thinking about your life but you don’t do the first step, which is to come to your personal truths and to clean out your side of the street, than no matter how much abundance you think you’re inviting in, you don’t have space for it. One of the ways I explain this to people I work with is if you had a room in your house and you had an unlimited budget for it, it would be be amazing but if it’s full of boxes that are rotting and full of dust, no matter how much money you spend on that room, if you don’t spend time cleaning it out, it’s not going to be the room of your dreams. The Secret is amazing but I have people who so often want the quick fix, which is why we are a society that is quick to take pills, and I help them understand exactly how, without fear, how to clean out their room first. There are things we are carrying around that we need to let go of.
Nicole Sachs’ event will take place Saturday, June 10am-4pm at the Sheraton Chicago Northbrook Hotel and will include a video presentation, Q and A, demonstrations of the JournalSpeak practice, experiential learning exercises, and patient testimonials. For more information, go to www.thecureforchronicpain.com