(Finally feeling good enough for long enough to feel confident posting my success story!) Brief Summary: A back injury from weightlifting escalated into debilitating sciatica over a period of several months. At the peak of symptom intensity, I could not sit or stand comfortably for more than a minute or a two at time. My pain on sitting or standing was so bad that I was working from home on my laptop, laying on my belly, propped up on my elbows. I was eating meals in this position as well. Spent months and thousands on chiropractors, meds, massage, etc., none of which helped much at all. Got an MRI which showed disc protrusion and moderate degeneration at L1/S1. Achieved 95% recovery with approximately three months of following TMS methods. I have returned to vigorous exercise and my symptoms continue to fade. Long Version: At age 41, I injured my back lifting weights and had acute pain for a few days. I assumed it was just a sprain since rest and ice seemed to get me past the acute phase pretty in about a week. I took it easy for about a month and felt good enough to return to running on the beach, and even snowboarding (in a back brace) with no ill effects. My back felt better, and I could move pretty well, but I noticed that I had some minor sciatica. I started seeing a chiropractor recommended by a co-worker with back pain. He told me a minor lumbar disc bulge was likely and told me he was very optimistic that I would respond well to conservative approach of PT. Sounded good to me, and I kept at the vigorous workouts, with the exception of not doing any heavy lifts. Meanwhile, life got more stressful: my workload doubled, my son started his terrible twos, and I found out we were going to be moving. After about a month of working out four times a week, I still had some sciatic pain but it actually went away while I exercised with intensity. Then, out of nowhere, I had a flare-up where the pain became acute again and I could barely straighten my back. This time, I could not pinpoint a specific incident. In hindsight, I would probably guess that job and family stress somehow piggybacked on the injury and turned into TMS plus. The Chiropractor gave the standard scare-talk and had me discontinue all weights, sports, and stick to stretching and the pool. This did not help with the sciatica, except while actually in the water. At least I discovered that deep water running (with a floatation belt) is a fantastic no-impact workout. Again, the pain would lessen with exercise, but then always return. An MRI revealed a 6mm disc bulge near the S1 nerve root. After looking at the MRI, the chiropractor sent me to a management/ orthopedic doctor. The pain/ortho doc gave me a 12-day course of oral steroids, saying it was a low-risk option worth a try, before trying anything more invasive. He expressed some concern about my description of the pain moving down my Leg into my Foot, that it could be nerve degeneration, to call him immediately if I lost strength or bladder control, and he would see me again in month. The steroids seemed to help for about 3-4 weeks, reducing pain flare-ups from a 7 to about 4-5, and I felt like the PT was helping me. At the follow-up, the pain doc said my response to the steroid likely indicate my s1 nerve root was not compressed and only inflamed. He recommended I continue stretching and PT, and said that I was not a likely candidate for surgery. I felt encouraged and support to continue a non-invasive approach to healing. I kept the stretching and pool workouts, taking a break from all the running, weights, and high-impact stuff. But the pain came back stronger than ever: sciatic pain, in the right hamstring, hip and glute, sometimes all the way to the foot through the calf! I began spiraling into the anxiety and fear: Do I need surgery? Will I ever return to the activities I love? I spent my nights researching microdiscectomy and epidurals. The pain was getting worse and worse! Then, another friend with back problems gave me Dr. Sarno's "Healing Back Pain." He said that he thought it was nonsense, but that another friend swore by it and recovered. About a week after getting the book, I noticed a big pain flare-up when I got really angry about a minor conflict. I also noticed that I was able to calm down, and the pain settled down as well. I decided to read the book that night. I didn’t put it down until I finished it. The mind-body connection made sense to me and fit with my philosophical approach. Also, I didn’t want to believe my back is structurally injured enough to produce the type of pain I have been feeling. Although I hurt badly at times, I was not physically impaired enough to be seriously injured. I was afraid of pain at this point, but something about it just didn’t make sense. Why was my pain was so variable and always moving around? Discovering TMS offered a logical explanation for many of the puzzling things about back injuries and sciatic pain: why surgery doesn’t help some people, why some people have worse discs but less pain or less severe bulges and have more pain, etc. The first few days after reading the book were the best days I had in months. After reading the book, the level of pain was much lower (level 2-3 instead of 7-8), flare-ups subsided quickly, and the location of pain was jumping around all over, from the low back to the bottom of the foot. I was pretty sure I was going in the right direction, but I had some doubts. Then, the pain came back with intensity. Worse than ever. I was too busy, stressed, and freaked out to follow the SEP. I made an appointment with Dr. Schecter and received a “mixed TMS/structural” diagnosis. I was disappointed, of course, because I wanted my doubts erased. I can’t fault him for being honest, but it was hardly the external validation and solution I was so desperately seeking. Meanwhile, I had ordered a bunch of TMS books. I decide to try to follow the recovery program in Dr. Schubiner’s Unlearn Your Pain and use the others as supplemental reading. I had trouble sticking with the SEP and I liked the structure of the book. It took me more like 9 or 10 weeks to get through the 4-week program. This was the pace that worked for me. Using Schubiner's book, in conjunction with reading Sarno and Ozanich, I was about 80% recovered in about 3 months. After 6 months of horrible sciatica, with 2 months so debilitating that I could not sit or stand for more than a few minutes at time and with pain so intense I was often in tears, this was a miracle! I also supplemented Schubiner’s program with affirmations (see ‘additional resources’ below). This seemed to help push me from 80% to more like 95% recovered. It took longer than I wanted, and I doubted plenty, but I kept journaling, believing, and exercising when I could. My symptoms slowly faded, and began to disappear for hours, then days at a time. Now, my symptoms are now much less frequent, much less intense, and much less important. I got my life back! I run, lift, and live, free from pain and fear. TMS Overview: TMS is not imaginary pain. TMS is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system. The brain is creating real physical pain by restricting blood flow to certain muscles, tendons, and nerves. The subconscious has become overloaded; the brain is creating pain as a warning or a distraction. This results from subconscious rage, aka surplus emotional energy. This 'rage' can come from past trauma, personality traits such as goodism (people pleasing) and perfectionism (driven by low self-esteem), and life stressors (usually work, money, and/or relationships), or a combination of these factors.) Belief in a structural cause of your pain can be a hard thing to overcome. This problem is complicated by the fact that TMS often occurs at the site of an injury or structural abnormality, and can delay healing, and take on a life of its own. But TMS methods can help, even when there is an injury or structural issues. Keys of TMS healing: (in my opinion, based on my own experience and all that I have read) 1) fully embracing the diagnosis (easier said than done) 2) releasing stored 'rage' (not just anger but sadness/worry/guilt/shame/emotional energy- usually achieved through journaling or therapy) 3) reprogramming the brain (changing our reactions to our past, our personality, and stressors- we don't have to change these things, only our reactions) 4) accept the pain and stop fighting it (what you resist, persists) 5) believe you will heal (and fake it till you make it) Be patient and go easy on yourself. Approach gently- pushing too hard and trying to force it will only delay or prevent healing. Putting too much pressure on ourselves and pushing too hard is what got us here; it isn't going to help us heal. Good luck and don’t give it up! Even with doubts, even with a structural injury, you can overcome chronic pain! My Main Resources for TMS healing: 1) Healing Back Pain and The Divided Mind by John Sarno, MD 2) tmswiki.org: a user run website, which includes a practitioner directory, a support forum, a structured self help program, and other resources. 3) The Great Pain Deception by Steve Ozanich: takes Sarno's work to the next level from the perspective of a long-time sufferer. Probably the best book on this topic, but maybe not the best introduction to this material. 4) Unlearn Your Pain by Howard Schubiner, MD: A detailed self-help manual for chronic pain sufferers willing to try a psychological approach. Comes with meditation CD. (This is a 4-week program. but take your time, I really needed more like 8-10 weeks) Additional resources for TMS healing: 1) Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now/ A New Earth - (freedom from ego can help with detaching from pain; I also recommend googling his talks on "Transforming Pain into Enlightenment" and "Dissolving the Pain-Body") 2) John Kehoe: Mindpower into the 21st Century (see Ch.5 for good info on using affirmations) 3) Louise Hay: You Can Heal Your Life (based on self-love affirmations and personal accountability for suffering; has some overlap with TMS methods) 4) Ace's Keys to Healing: Doctor and former TMS sufferer has some tips for those who get stuck or are struggling to decondition the mind's response to stressors. http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/threads/key-to-healing.3577/ (Ace's keys helped sort out my lingering symptoms. I think the affirmations really work!) 5) Kirk D. Strosahl, PhD & Patricia J. Robinson, PhD: In This Moment: Five Steps to Transcending Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroscience (step by step mindfulness skills) 6) Dr. Joe Dispenza: You are the Placebo (how and why the mind can heal anything) Thanks!: 1) Dr. Sarno! for changing the paradigm. 2) Dr. Schubiner! Your book provided the structure and encouragement that I needed. 3) Everyone on the TMS wiki. 4) Dan, who gave me Healing Back Pain (even though he doesn’t believe in TMS) and started me on the journey to freedom from pain.