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Full TMS recovery from back pain and sciatica

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by MindBodyPT, Feb 14, 2018.

  1. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi all,

    I realize it has been over a year since I found Dr. Sarno, TMS and these forums and that I never officially posted my success story! I know i’ve spoken to many of you about it but here it is, fleshed out. Hopefully a little inspiration for those still struggling…though you are never “cured” of TMS since it’s part of the human condition of having an emotional brain, I consider myself fully “in remission” and am pain-free. Happy Valentines Day all!

    I think the first time I ever had back pain was when I was 16, after a particularly difficult dance class, I woke up with my back spasmed out. I didn’t think too much of it, and it took a couple weeks to go away. Periodically my back seemed to spasm out again in the same way- maybe once a year or every other year or so lasting a couple of weeks, but it never really turned into chronic pain until 2016. Throughout PT grad school I always wondered what was going on with my periodically painful back but never had much of an explanation…maybe it was hypermobile, or hypomobile, or I had mild scoliosis, or bad posture, a weak core, or a million other things. It never really seemed clear to me!

    In spring of 2016 I had recently moved back to the city I grew up in, and my husband and I were new homeowners. Work had been stressful for me, with a difficult boss and other issues. I was still getting used to being back in this city and having left the one I lived in for the past 6 years. My husband had recently had some issues with work too and been a bit depressed, and we weren’t feeling settled. One day lifting weights in the gym, I felt something “pop” and my back spasmed out again, this time it felt a little worse than all the preceding instances. I didn’t worry too much the first time but being several years into my career and prone to overthink things, I began to worry what was going on and if something bad had happened this time…and thus the TMS began!

    After a couple weeks the pain didn’t seem to be improving, and this time I had the dreaded “sciatica” that I noticed creeping up! It seemed to move all over my legs, and I felt the panic setting in. All the “worst case” scenarios came to my PT brain and I started to really go down the anxiety wormhole. I scheduled an appointment with a neurologist to get an MRI…and you know how the rest goes. Confirmed I had 2 herniated discs in my lumbar spine, a compressed nerve root etc. I was convinced i’d be sentenced to a life time of back pain and sciatica, thanks to my PT education.

    Thankfully surgery or other intervention was not recommended, and I did some PT, which of course only helped marginally. This had been going on over 6 months and my pain was pretty status quo, not necessarily debilitating but enough to make work really painful depending on what kind of patients I was working with and enough to keep my anxiety pretty high. I tried seeing a therapist to work on the anxiety around the back pain but of course that wasn’t so helpful either since I was thoroughly convinced my body was broken and would never be the same.

    A little after Thanksgiving 2016 I was really having a difficult time with work and trying to accept this new chronic pain reality, when my back took another turn for the worse and spasmed out again. It was so bad this time that I couldn’t go to work and had to take a leave of absence. I felt terrible…between the pain and shame of not being able to do my job, I really started to sink. Some other things came up that were turning into chronic pain too- neck and shoulder pain and arm tingling, amongst other things. (I now recognize all of these as TMS shifting around!)

    I’m not sure why I thought to look at this, but a year or two ago I had done a self-study mindfulness meditation course and I was looking over the readings for it again one day during my leave of absence from work. One of the readings mentioned John Sarno and the idea of the mind causing chronic pain. It was mentioned fairly offhand but it stuck in my mind and I couldn’t get it out! I did a Google search for Sarno and of course, the rest is history. I came across Thank You Doctor Sarno and immediately began reading the stories. They were amazing! I couldn’t believe people had been cured from simply reading his books, had awful looking imaging but were able to live normal lives pain free. This completely blew my mind.

    I devoured all 3 Sarno books and found these forums soon after. The books really spoke to me and my pain immediately starting decreasing as I began embracing the ideas. It took a couple of months on these forums doing the SEP and lots of reading to strengthen my TMS beliefs, but the bottom line is that I really found the ideas very logical and compatible with how I understand the mind and body to work. The journaling helped immensely as well, but I think fully internalizing the belief of TMS was what really cured me. I think that changing the way I view myself and my body were what healed me, as well as having a healthier practice of being mindful of emotions. The practice of self-compassion has also been so important for my naturally “type T” personality that all of us with TMS tend towards.

    I read all the TMS books I could find, have now taken Howard Schubiner and Alan Gordon’s course in person, and am always trying to keep up with new research that comes out and new ideas for treatment when I can use them. The way I practice PT has changed profoundly, as well as the fundamental way that I view people, their minds and bodies. It was a transformative experience to realize on a deep level that our bodies are not broken, and that minds and emotions have such power over our bodies in a way that most people don’t understand. I feel that I cannot practice just as a PT forever, and would very much like to go back to school to be a psychotherapist one day. Many of my patients are honestly more in need of mental health services than PT, if you ask me! It’s my dream to practice both PT and psychotherapy at some point, and do more explicit TMS work (rather than occasionally work in the concepts, as I try to now).

    I hope my story is helpful to some of you still struggling. The TMS journey is different for everyone for so many reasons, remember to be kind to yourself, tell yourself how strong your body really is, and be curious and accepting of any difficult emotions that come up during your healing process. It’s not an easy journey, but no question a worthwhile one!
    Shirley, Lainey, Ellen and 6 others like this.
  2. birder

    birder Well known member

    Beautiful and inspiring. I love the idea of a combined physical/psychological therapy practice. Do they make emotional Therabands?
    MindBodyPT likes this.
  3. Click#7

    Click#7 Well known member

  4. Click#7

    Click#7 Well known member

    Beautiful....from the time you felt problems with your back till you healed how long was it ?
  5. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Well I first had back pain many years ago like I said. But from the time it really turned into chronic pain from the time I felt I was fully healed from TMS it was about 8 months. I know this is a much shorter timeframe than many so don’t compare yourself. Some folks have chronic pain for many years and still can have TMS healing within months, but everyone is different.
    Click#7 likes this.
  6. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks for posting this my dear, and thank you too for your refreshing and reassuring presence on the forum. I love the clarity you bring to your many answers.

    The dream you hold for your life is both beautiful and powerful. I am glad you are one of the next generation of healers, the world desperately needs such insightful and caring souls.

    Plum x
    Lunarlass66, Ellen and MindBodyPT like this.
  7. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yeah it’s one of those things you have to be ready for! You can’t really tell others about TMS until they are truly ready to hear it, I never bothered telling any conventional doctors about this, for the record. One I realized that I had TMS that was enough, I’d already had the imaging to rule out the scary stuff (basically I told the neurologist I’d had on and off pain for years and that’s why i got the MRI sooner). I don’t even bring TMS up to other conventional practitioners unless I get the feeling they have an interest of some kind but that is unfortunately rare. You have to be ready for the quest, I believe.

    From a logical standpoint there is no real set timeframe to “get over” something so inexact and non traumatic as vague “sciatica” that comes and goes, changes in intensity and location...it makes no sense anatomically as
    all TMS folks know. Ideas about how long it takes to recover from painful conditions are really off in conventional medicine! I try not to get too frustrated about this but I know it’s tough as it always is to go against the grain. Just another reason I know I will go into the more psychological side of treatment one of these days!
    plum and Click#7 like this.
  8. Click#7

    Click#7 Well known member

    PT I think what you do is great.....I was TMSing and I apologize. I thank you for all you do. I had couple great days and yesterday not so good. Back to journaling. I will find my way thru the maze of my monkey chatter that whispers the seeds of doubt from time to time. I deleted that post because...
  9. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Don't be sorry, we all have those days! It's ok to have doubts :) Just part of the process. I also get how hard it is to be in a conventional medical field and navigate this.
    plum and Click#7 like this.
  10. EileenS

    EileenS Well known member

    MindBodyPT, thank you for sharing your story. You were a help to me last year in finally getting rid of all remnants of thinking my pain was caused by what was on my MRI, which is what my doctor had given for the pain explanation.
    I hope you somehow combine pt with psychotherapy. People in pain need people with those skills.

    I have been considering switching to a different gp because of a quarrel we had almost 2 years ago, but I rarely see her and she is a good 'referologist'. (Let me know if you don't know what that is.)
    We quarreled because I had asked for a new MRI to update the MRI I had from 2 1/2 years prior. A chiropractor I had started seeing had asked me to get a new one because he said, no way did he think I could be as bad as that MRI was indicating I should be. He said he would expect someone coming in asking him to 'end it all' (which is how I had felt 2 1/2 years prior), not someone like me who was happy and coming straight from yoga/pilates. I told her of all the mind body work I had done and I attributed my 85% pain recovery to the mind body work plus the pt and massages I had had. My doctor said there was no way my MRI would improve and that it could only get worse and my pain, no matter what I did, would get worse. I couldn't believe she said this to me because she knew how bad the pain was for me 2 years beofre and she could see I was no longer that way. I suppose 95% of her patients would never consider the power to get over their pain is in their own hands (and minds).

    And that MRI? It showed marked improvements. For example, 2 discs that had shown herniation now had none. I think PT and massage had a part in the MRI changes.
    Shirley, Lunarlass66 and MindBodyPT like this.
  11. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Glad I was able to help you with the MRI stuff! Interesting, isn't it? Many disc herniations spontaneously resolve...and some don't. Imaging only tells you a little piece of the story, that is true with things other than TMS as well. Nice that you had the MRI showing resolved disc herniation to back up your experience, though even if you hadn't had that it would have been ok :) It really can be tough to navigate the conventional medical system, I also don't really go to my doctor much other than checkups and generally do my own research for referrals! Before I knew about TMS I also had someone say to me that the pain wouldn't ever get better...as we know, doctors are such a big contributor to the nocebo effect. Sometimes it's appropriate to tell a patient that something is unlikely to change significantly (some of my patients who have decades-long standing weakness from a stroke, for example) but that's never the case with pain!
    plum, EileenS and Click#7 like this.
  12. Click#7

    Click#7 Well known member

    Have you seen people recovery from years of chronic pain ?
  13. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes of course! I think my specific story is a lot shorter than average for length of time with the pain (though I had it episodically for many years). Most people on here had their pain for a long time, and some I’ve seen in the clinic (though I don’t yet primarily treat TMS at this career stage!) The brain is plastic and those neural pathways can be unlearned no matter how long they’ve existed.
  14. Click#7

    Click#7 Well known member

    So do you suggest what Alan Gordon does..somatic tracking, outcome independence etc,. ? I need to catch a break and so some progress.
  15. EileenS

    EileenS Well known member

    Hi Click#7,
    What have you done so far and when did you start?
    Also, have you ever made any progress?
    What are your issues and how long have you had them?
    Click#7 likes this.
  16. Click#7

    Click#7 Well known member

    My lower hip and bilateral foot pain began in October 2014. In Feb 2015 I had surgery because I spine surgeon told me if I didn't take the pressure off the nerves it would result in nerve damage. Told me I'd be great in 6 weeks. His surgery resulted in a shift in my spine forward. Ended up with a spinal fusion in April 2017. My legs feel stronger, but the pain persists. I started reading and getting into all this about 6 months ago. I did see a TMS doctor after the 1st surgery and he said you have TMS, but I didn't buy into it. It's taking me this long. I've had contact with the TMS doctor and he still believes I have TMS...so I have no options at this point but to work on this. I feel a tad better, but the nerve pain is horrible. Still have hip and foot pain. Some days are better and some aren't. Any suggestions ? A repeat MRI looks good.
  17. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    I definitely suggest Alan Gordon’s program! Have you tried it yet? Also getting your mind off all this stuff with something fun is always good...too much time spent on TMS can fuel the fire.
    EileenS and Click#7 like this.
  18. Click#7

    Click#7 Well known member

    Yes I am working on Alan's program. Reading Unlearn Your Pain. Communicated with a TMS doctor who read my MRI and knows my symptoms and says YOU HAVE MBS. I am a nurse right, so I covered all my bases. If it was anything other than nerve pain I would be dealing with this so much better. I also called the Pain Psych Center and will have a therapist by next week I hope.
    plum and MindBodyPT like this.
  19. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Rest assured you’re doing all the right things...the therapist should be really helpful too! Go easy on yourself and know it can take time. I think distracting yourself with enjoyable things and getting your mind off the TMS will be good, it was for me. You’ll get there :)
    plum likes this.
  20. Click#7

    Click#7 Well known member

    You are such a nice person. The best people I worked with as a nurse were always the PT's. TMS wiki is lucky to have you on line.
    MindBodyPT, iwire, EileenS and 2 others like this.

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