The Great Pain Deception By Steve Ozanich: A Review

The Great Pain Deception by Steve Ozanich
The Great Pain Deception. Source:

It is hard to describe what kind of book The Great Pain Deception by Steve Ozanich is.

Is it a well researched journalistic exposé of medical negligence?

A help guide?

A personal reflection?

Is he trying to convert the masses, or just preaching to the choir?

It took me six months to read this book from start to finish (I will explain why later). Ultimately, I am left asking more questions than answers. 

And not in a good way.

Lets Start With The Cover

Steve Ozanich’s work has been recommended to me by countless others, friends and strangers alike (not to mention the Amazon algorithm).

Plus he has an active online presence and genuinely seems like a passionate and helpful guy, devoting his time to help total strangers battle chronic pain.

So the Great Pain Deception just has to be good, right?

Expectations = high.

I know that you should not judge a book by its cover but in this case it is nearly impossible not to do. Why?

It’s so, so jarring. 

A Yin and Yang. Interposed with back x-rays and a person trapped under what appears to be a plastic sheet.

A skeletonized ouroboros (I had to google that one myself because it was misspelled in the acknowledgement sections). 

Even the cover text is subject to changes in sentence case.

What is going on here?

Immediately my alarm bells were ringing. I’m getting weird conspiracy theory vibes. Is this the work of a tin-foil-hat wearer? Is this whole thing pseudoscience? He’s not going to talk about homeopathy right?


First impressions: is this book the work of pseudoscience?
First impressions count. So is this the work of a tin-foil-hat wearing conspiracy theorist?

The Title: The Great Pain Deception

You’ll be relieved to know that he does not talk about homeopathy.


But what the cover does mention, is something that for many people may be just as strange as homeopathy: TMS.

The largest and most conspicuously placed text on the cover reads “TMS”.

A quick google reveals that TMS is “Transcranial magnetic stimulation”, instead of “Tension myositis syndrome” or “tensionalgia” intended by Steve Ozanich.

So what the heck is TMS and why should I care? (Remembering that I haven’t even cracked the cover yet).

Tension myositis syndrome is a term coined by Dr John Sarno to explain the mechanism of chronic pain. This is highly specialized medical knowledge outside that of the everyday layperson.

Side note: I’ve got a full explainer here.

Fortunately the ever helpful TMS Wiki was also in my Google search results. Time for a browse.

The TMS wiki forum has no shortage of stories on how people came to understand what TMS was. The average person would need months, if not years of first hand experience.

For chronic pain sufferers (myself included), it can take many doctors appointments, failed tests and scans, and extensive research to come across John Sarno’s work and the concept of TMS.

So why put such a specific acronym on the cover of a book?

Who Is The Intended Reader?

My only conclusion is that the intended reader is someone who is highly familiar with Sarno’s work on chronic pain. Do not start this book before reading Dr John Sarno’s material!

Ok. Intended reader = ✔️

Now what is the book about?

There must be some more information on the back cover right? Like a blurb or summary of what is covered in the book.

Nope. I am none the wiser.

If “faulty medical advice is making us worse”, how is this book going to challenge or address that?

The cover isn’t giving me any answers or explaination of what is going on. Surely the contents page will, right?

So lets journey…

Inside The Cover

Skimming the contents page it is easy to get overwhelmed by the 40 chapters with no particular rhyme or reason. (Despite the fact that “40” evokes the idea of wandering a desert for forty years…)

Many of the chapter titles are pun related which don’t help convey what they are about.

The chapters are organized into three main sections.

An introduction, in which Steve details every single TMS symptom he has ever experienced (and then some) through his life. It was interesting a first to get a personal perspective, but quickly became tedious to read.

Some personal background is good, but how does it help me, the reader?

The second section is all about laying the background knowledge to heal. There is some useful information here on Sarno’s method of treating tension myositis syndrome. While this is helpful, I’m a big fan of going straight to the source itself.

The third section was a “philosophy on life” and was focused on healing. But more than healing, it is about creating new habits, different ways of thinking, and focusing on success.

If I had to guess where most people fall down in their recovery, this would be it. Making habits stick is a lifetimes work.

The use of puns and play on words was a sign of things to come…

I Tried To Get Something Out Of It, I Really Did

I said earlier that it took me six months to get through The Great Pain Deception.

This was because I really don’t know who Steve Ozanich was writing for. Was it himself?

It was too hard to tell because it was so muddled. Let me explain.

The first time I picked it up I could barely get through a chapter at a time. The layout was confusing, the narrative confused, and too much was assumed by the author. 

And don’t even get me started on the structure. Judging by the credits, it appears self-published under Silver Chord Records. I would bet that an editor was not employed – but this is unclear.

Editorial work is like the conductor of a professional orchestra. If all the instruments are in harmony and the sound is perfect, no one notices. If the sound is confused, or you can’t hear the first chair, or a mic has feedback issues; you notice big time. Believe me.

A conductor helps channel the orchestra’s musical energy for the audience.

Ozanich has lot’s of energy. You could feel it seeping through every page. There were endless quotes, puns, footnotes, and ambiguous diagrams.

For this lack of clarity and direction it was a tough book to get through. I put it down for six whole months. It just felt too disordered to pick up.

But it’s not all bad news.

Instead of a beautiful orchestral piece, it sounded like a rag-tag school band. Everything just felt a bit off.

So What Kept Me Coming Back?

It’s clear he is a man who has suffered much. And this is truly tragic. It is hard to read about how much one man can bear. 

A wife who was left handicapped during a routine childbirth. The ensuring lawsuit with the hospital. A subsequent marriage breakdown. All while being afflicted with chronic pain from the relatively young age of 26.

This is horrible.

It’s a tragedy four times over.

But dammit Steve O, you have some serious mettle! God only knows how you made it through the other side.

It’s this grit, determination, and enthusiasm that solidified my commitment to finishing what otherwise would be a challenging read.

This personal narrative is the magic of The Great Pain Deception. Sadly, it’s not enough to redeem the book in my opinion.

So Who Is Deceiving Me?

The book asks many questions which are left unanswered.

Who is actually deceiving me? Who is to blame for all this? Surely it is the fault of modern peer reviewed medical science?

The reality is that no one is being nasty. Sure there are a mix of bad doctors, but what profession doesn’t have a bad apple or sour grape.

There is no denying that modern medicine is only scratching the surface of mind-body disorders. But it’s not an intentional, malicious deception.

Or is the “deception” the fact that our back pain isnt always caused by slipped discs or bad posture? But rather suppressed emotional issues that our own mind deceptively tells us is physical pain.

Are we (the sufferers) the ones doing the deceiving?

I think this is closer to the truth.

What You Need To Takeaway

In summary this book is the outworking of the TMS approach to healing in one persons life.

This is no small feat.

But if I had to rate The Great Pain Deception, it would be 2/5. The confused narrative and order of the book just made it too hard to digest.

I’ve already mentioned that the intended audience is someone who has experience with John Sarno’s work. His works such as “The Divided Mind” and “The Mindbody Prescription” we personally much more helpful to me (by a long shot).

Seeing as you are interested in hearing about what did (and didn’t) work for me during my chronic pain recovery, sign up for me to email you my tips directly. You’ll get the specific actionable steps (with no muddle).

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