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The Treatment Approach

The Mind Body Syndrome (TMS) Treatment Approach for Migraines

The Mind Body Syndrome is a new evidence-based treatment model which has helped countless migraine sufferers around the world for whom traditional biomedical model interventions have not been effective. 


The forefather of the mind-body approach to treating chronic pain conditions like migraines was Dr. John Sarno MD., a Medical Professor at New York University. He theorized that illnesses such as migraines are caused by what is going on in the brain and nervous system rather than by a chronic illness.

The medical science around mind-body treatments for illnesses such as migraines has advanced dramatically in recent years, validating some of Sarno’s theories and expanding upon his initial efforts. 


Among the key concepts of this model that I found most useful to understand were the following:

  • Anatomical changes in the brain can take place in individuals experiencing emotional neglect or abuse, physical or sexual abuse, or a whole host of other stressors. These changes result in one becoming reactive to stress. 

  • As astounding as it sounds, the physiological impact of such stress can increase the probability of developing physical conditions including anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic pain disorders, and, the biggest eye opener for me, migraines. 

  • In addition, there are several other factors that increase one’s level of stress which can contribute to developing migraine symptoms: 

    • First is childhood stress or trauma which can increase the probability of getting migraines;

    • Second is a genetic factor called “hypersensitivity to stress” or what is known in literature as highly sensitive people who are genetically more sensitive to stressful stimuli;

    • Third is one’s personality characteristics, particularly individuals who tend to put high levels of stress on themselves, such as perfectionists, highly self-critical people, and people pleasers; and

    • Fourth is an inability to express negative feelings, anger, sadness, disappointment etc. as keeping in feelings is another stress builder.

  • A cornerstone of the approach is the fact that even though the migraine symptoms can be the result of the impact of stress on the brain, they are still REAL and do not mean one has emotional issues or is “crazy.”

  • Of greatest importance is the fact that the brain is adaptive. Just as it can be “harmed” by past stressors or learn to “overreact” to stress, there are TMS treatment strategies that can “soothe and heal” the brain. By using such strategies, individuals can reduce the frequency and severity of their migraines and even cure them once and for all. 

It must be stated that many of the recent medical science findings this approach is based upon “fly in the face” of the theories of the biomedical model, the treatment approach that I had been steeped in throughout my life. As such, it meant I had to take off my blinders to see the light of a new reality of treatment.


Breakthrough medical advances like the TMS approach are typically faced with ridicule, skepticism, and then “finally accepted as common sense” by the medical establishment. For example, germs causing illness, immunotherapy as a viable cure for cancer, and the fact that antiseptic hand washing reduces infection were all once thought to be absurd!

My Migraine Breakthrough

Who can Benefit from the TMS Treatment Approach?

The migraine sufferers who got the most positive results in using the TMS treatment approach had many, if not all, of these characteristics:

  • A physician has ruled out any physical issue they might have had that would explain migraine symptoms;

  • They were raised in an emotionally or physically stressful environment;

  • They meet the criteria for being identified as highly sensitive;

  • They have personality traits including being a perfectionist, highly self-critical, people pleaser, and/or worrier; and

  • They have difficulty expressing negative feelings such as anger, sadness, disappointment.

The Approach: Steps to Recovery

My recovery was made up of three fundamental steps.


I spent nearly a year researching and reading about the TMS treatment approach, interviewing fellow migraine sufferers who had recovered using this approach, and conducting discussions with TMS medical experts. Through my efforts, I came to understand three key topics that were vital to my understanding of the TMS treatment approach: 

  • The medical evidence that underpins the TMS treatment approach for migraines,

  • How chronic migraines can develop, and

  • The new neuroscience of migraine pain.


What I learned about the TMS treatment approach helped set the path of my recovery in the direction that led to a cure.


The next step in my recovery was to recognize and accept that TMS was the right treatment approach for me. In order to do so I needed to:

  • Recognize and accept that I met the diagnostic criteria for TMS, and

  • Accept that the TMS treatment approach would work for me.

My Migraine Breakthrough


The final step in my recovery was to learn and utilize the TMS treatment strategies that were documented as effective in soothing and healing the stress level of the brain. By doing so, I was able to reduce the frequency and severity of my migraine symptoms and eventually cure them. 


Among the treatment strategies I used:

  • Expressive writing,

  • Meditation,

  • Self-compassion,

  • Thinking psychologically not physically, and

  • TMS based psychotherapy.


“After years of study and training about organs and structures, I was surprised to learn that symptoms in the body (including migraines) could also be generated by the brain.  The good news for patients (and their physicians), is that this form of illness can be diagnosed and treated as successfully as any other by understanding the range of psychosocial stresses that are responsible.”

- David D. Clarke MD is the president of the Psychophysiologic Disorders Association. Assistant director at the Center for Ethics and clinical assistant professor of gastroenterology emeritus both at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland

Healing Resources

Every migraine sufferer's journey is unique. and I hope you keep exploring the resources available in my book and on the website throughout your healing path to enable you to live a migraine-free life.

Websites and Apps

Curable Health

Psychophysiological Disorder Association



This Might Hurt

All the Rage: Saved by Sarno

Pain Brain


They Can’t Find Anything Wrong

The Way Out

Back in Control

The Body Keeps Score

Childhood Disrupted

The Mind Body Prescription

Healing Back Pain

Think Away Your Pain

Unlearn Your Pain


Like Mind Like Body with Curable

Tell Me about your Pain with Alan Gordon

The Cure for Chronic Pain with Nicole Sachs

Facebook Groups


Curable Community

Tell Me About Your Pain Community

TMS The Mind Body Syndrome

John Sarno Support Group

“If migraine patients have a common and legitimate second complaint besides their migraines, it is that they have not been listened to by physicians. Looked at, investigated, drugged, charged, but not listened to.”

- Oliver Sacks, M.D.
Author of Migraine

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