Symptom Imperative

Dec 09, 2022

Greetings Friends - Laura Thornton here.

Yes, I know – you’ve had back pain or neck pain or right knee pain for months or years...and now you’re having shoulder pain or it’s your left knee that’s become bothersome. Or your chronic physical pain has disappeared, but “suddenly”, you can’t shake a constant undercurrent of anxiety. What is going on?

Well, let’s turn to the master himself. Dr. John Sarno defined this very common occurrence - of pain and other symptoms moving around - as: the Symptom Imperative and he says this in his book, Healing Back Pain:

"TMS can manifest itself in a variety of locations and it tends to move around, particularly if something is being done to combat the disorder. Patients often report pain in a new location as the old one gets better. It is as though the brain is unwilling to give up this strategy for diverting attention away from negative emotions." - Dr. John Sarno

Bingo! If you’re reading this right now, then you’re a Pain Cure Clinic email subscriber and you are intending to or you are currently actively doing something to combat your (chronic) condition/disorder. And Tension Myositis Syndrome doesn’t like that you’re “onto it”. TMS is on the run, fighting to stay alive in your body and/or your mind. Folks – this is not cause for dismay, but cause for celebration! The symptom imperative is a clear indication that the scales are now tipping in your favor.


I’ve been in your shoes. For many years after my (“pre-Sarno”) rotator cuff repair surgery, I was afraid to put any weight on that right shoulder. Finally, (once I knew about TMS), I overcame the fear and started lifting my right arm with just a 1-pound weight at the gym. Then I went up to 3 pounds and so on. Today I regularly lift a 15-pound dumbbell - with no pain!  


But what do you think happened early on in this process? My left shoulder started hurting - for no reason whatsoever. But this time I knew about TMS and I was ready for the symptom imperative. I ignored it and went about my business and this new pain went away quickly. And I was not tempted to get an MRI…much less surgery. This lack of fear is a powerful feeling…and YOU can experience it too. When the symptom imperative rears its ugly head (this happens to almost every TMS’er during the recovery period), just take these three actions:


One: Spend some time really thinking about your new pain, anxiety, or other symptom logicallyUnless you’ve truly had an acute injury or a NEW (not previously investigated  and/or treated medically) and potentially life-threatening symptom like chest pain, shortness of breath or a stabbing pain in your head, assume it's TMS. Recommit to TMS as your diagnosis and carry on with your recovery Action Plan and your life.


Two: Remember that the symptom imperative goes hand in hand with (and is proof of) something we say so often: “your specific medical diagnosis doesn’t matter.” If you have TMS, then you can stop thinking about and focusing on your “slipped or bulging disc” or your “fibromyalgia” or your “irritable bowel syndrome” among many others. And not only CAN you turn your attention to TMS only, but you MUST do this. You need to detach from the bogus chronic condition you’ve been told that you have. Stop identifying with it and working around it. For more help with this critical concept, visit this webpage and watch (or rewatch) this video: “Your Diagnosis Doesn’t Matter” here.


Three: Then do what I did with my shoulder and test it out. Start slowly:

• Putting a little weight on your knee

• Putting your shoulder through its entire range of motion

• Eating a little of the food that you think is triggering the IBS

• Calming your anxiety with some daily meditation

 You get the idea….


“Why are my chronic symptoms (ramping up) or moving around?” is one of our most frequently asked questions. You’re not alone. And you can get past this hurdle. Strike back against the symptom imperative quickly and definitively and there will be no place left for TMS to hide. Game over…YOU win!


For more help: check out the Master Class


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