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25 years of back pain and still going strong (the pain, that is)

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by If 6 was 9, Jan 30, 2017.

  1. If 6 was 9

    If 6 was 9 Peer Supporter

    Hi there,

    I'm on day 2 so I thought I'd give you my story.

    As the title of this post says, I've had lower back pain for about 25 years. I injured my back after doing a lot of sustained work up a ladder doing house painting at the age of 22.

    I'd never had back pain before and suddenly I could barely walk, let alone stand up straight. The first person I saw was an acupuncturist who said he could fix me, and though I wanted to believe he made a difference, there was none.

    Gradually my back got better enough so I could go back to living a normal life until the next flare-up, maybe within a year of the first. This time I saw an osteopath who looked at my stance and said I stood the wrong way, I slouched and should stand more upright with my chest puffed out and shoulders back. But he did give me some good advice, he advised me to do some swimming.

    As I'd done a lot of swimming training when I was younger, this was easy to do and anyway, I had been thinking of doing more exercise. So I started doing lots of swimming and kept seeing the osteo every few weeks. After about three months swimming, he said my back had really improved, which I believe it had, but then I'd noticed that my right shoulder had really started hurting the more I swam.

    "That's really bad," he said, and basically told me there was nothing I could do about it, other than stopping swimming. This gutted me, I didn't want to believe it - but the more I swam, the sorer it became. And it would only improve if I stopped swimming. And then my back would get bad again.

    This has been a recurring pattern in the 20 odd years since. I've pretty much kept the swimming up in fits and starts. Apart from doing it with a view to fixing my back, I like what it does to my brain (endorphins), and as I have a propensity to over-eat, it keeps me relatively slim.

    So every year or so after that original injury I have had acute episodes where I end up putting my back out usually doing something innocuous - one time I picked up my daughter at a wedding, felt a snap in the lower back and I was in bed for the next few days. Another time I was lying on the lounge and I sneezed. To be honest, I can't actually remember the causes of all the other times, I think usually my back is already hurting, I do something 'I shouldn't' like bend the wrong way or spend an afternoon gardening or sweeping, and there's a twinge that soon becomes a debilitating pain.

    I've seen a chiropractor whose treatment not only didn't fix my back but ended up injuring my neck; I've seen 'hands-off' physios who say there's nothing much you can do but live with it and manage it, I've seen hands-on physios who say that it's to do with my nerves being too tightly wound up and then very painfully massaged the pressure points, I've had massage therapists using a Chinese treatment called 'guasha' in which they use a ceramic soup spoon that painfully scrapes away at your back to rid your muscles of 'impurities' that left me so bruised I looked like I'd been run over, I've had suction cupping, I've been prescribed exercises for my glutes and back muscles etc etc etc....I'm sure you've heard it all on this forum.

    Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I decided I'd had enough. I was sick of paying people hundreds to do basically nothing, and sick of doing the exercises and sick of the guilt that goes with not doing them. So I thought damn it, I'm going to cheat. I'm going to get an injection of steroids - I knew it wouldn't cure it, but I was willing to pay for my pain to be sent on a holiday for a few months....

    As it happens, one of my best friends is a radiologist who does those sort of injections. He did a scan of my back and then emailed me saying "there's nought wrong with your back, there's a slight disc bulge at L4/L5 but you've otherwise got the back of a 25 year old" (I'm 47). He said he could still do the injection if I wanted to go ahead with it, but one of the common signs in any person in their middle age, back pain or not, was a bulging or misshapen disc.

    But my mind was set on it, he booked me in and did the injection a few days later. As it was a Friday and I was his last patient, he invited me across the road to the pub to have a beer.

    There I met three of his acquaintances who sell equipment to his business. One of them, after I told them what I'd just done recommended I should have an operation on my spine to fix the problem where they remove the disc and insert a fake one. I was horrified, as my radiologist friend had long ago said to me: "whatever you do, never let anyone operate on your neck or your spine". For me it has always been out of the question, I've heard too many horror stories.

    Another of the sales reps was a young American guy (I live in Sydney, Australia) who had the complete opposite response to his colleague who advocated surgery. He asked me for my phone and he opened the browser and put a link to Healing Back Pain by John Sarno and on another page a link to this wiki. This guy had been through it all and said this was the only thing that had helped him.

    So, two weeks later, here I am (the cortisone injection lasted about a week, just until it was time I went back to work, which is a bit of a red flag for TMS, as I've always associated my back pain with sitting at my desk at work.)

    I read the book and felt on one level that the TMS theory rings true - it certainly explains why all conventional treatment has failed in my experience. And as many people have said in these pages, I saw myself in there. I should note that I've also suffered from depression for pretty much the same time as my back - funny that! I tend to be a pessimist, a cynic, perfectionist with things that I care about, and have had a lot of trouble finding meaning and purpose in the world of work.

    I'm approaching this new way of thinking with optimism, but at the back of my mind there's a nagging doubt that's saying, 'even though this has worked for so many people, it's not going to work for you, because that's the way things go'.

    The other worry I have is that the TMS theory talks a lot about repressed anger, and I'm someone who lets fly with a lot of anger, at least with the people closest to me (ie. my family). They see me as a bit of a grouch, with a short fuse, sensitive to criticism yet is happy to dish it out - I'm not proud of any of that. But then at work I keep a lot of this hidden, which sometimes causes me a great deal of anxiety. Is that the repressed anger? Because I'm very much aware of it when it's going on.

    I'll end it there, sorry it's a bit long. But it has been a very long time.
  2. Gigalos

    Gigalos Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi if6was9, welcome here.

    The conscious anger you talk about is not the repressed anger Sarno mentions, although it can be a reflection of what is brewing in your unconsciousness. I know what you mean by feeling not proud of outing your anger. You criticize yourself for behaving that way, you get angry about the anger, feel guilty about it.
    If you think you are the exception that won't heal this way, see that as just another symptom of TMS... everything that distracts you can be a symptom, pain, depression, doubt....
    good luck to you
  3. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi if 6 was 9,

    Welcome to this community. I love Gigalos' response.

    You might use this outline/summary by Forest to read all of Dr. Sarno's work, and read it again looking for re-assurance.

    http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/threads/section-1-introduction.4628/#post-28646 (Official Thread - Section 1 Introduction)

    I strongly recommend using the TMS Recovery Program to observe your patterns more closely, and develop skills related to the the "Dr. Sarno Approach."

    Be patient, inquire into your inner tension moment-to-moment, and know that this is a path of awareness and education, not one of "self-improvement." It is your awareness of the actual functioning of TMS in you which undermines the activity.

    This is a common thought, yet not to be believed. Here I am skiing after being in debilitating foot pain for years... When I first approached Dr. Sarno's work, I didn't believe it could work for me either.

    http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/threads/skiing-two-years-after.14222/ (Skiing Two Years After)

    Andy B
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, If 6 was 9. Stay away from surgery or medication and I also urge you to follow Andy's advice and start the Structured Educational Program, free in the subforum of this web site. It will help you to discover emotions or personality traits that cause your pains. If you maintain any doubt that TMS will help you, it won't. You need to convince yourself, and your subconscious, that TMS belief will heal you. Practice deep breathing, meditation, positive thinking, and living in the present.

    Here's an inspiring post to give you confidence:

    "I often get pain in my stomach as a TMS symptom. Last night I felt it coming on after I laid down to sleep. I asked myself what emotions I was feeling, then took several breaths directed at the spot that hurt, and it was gone in minutes! I slept peacefully all night and woke up without any pain. – wife and mother of two young children."
  5. If 6 was 9

    If 6 was 9 Peer Supporter

    Thanks for all your comments and encouragement. It's great to see what an active and thriving community this is.

    I have already started the Structured Educational Program and am about to start Day 3, I should have made that clearer.

    So I take it I should be making comments and asking questions in that sub-forum rather than this one?
  6. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, If 6 was 9, Make comments and ask questions in the SEProgram subforum. You are going to be pain-free.
    Believe it!

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