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Day 3 and wondering how hard to push myself

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by If 6 was 9, Jan 30, 2017.

  1. If 6 was 9

    If 6 was 9 Peer Supporter

    My particular pain is lower back pain mostly on the left side which radiates to the point behind my hip. When it's bad, like now, it goes to both sides. I've had varying degrees of this trouble for 25 years and only recently discovered John Sarno's book. While I was inspired by it, I wasn't one of the lucky ones whose pain disappeared. If my pain was a 6 or 7 out of 10 to begin with, it may have gone down to about 5 upon reading it.

    Anyway, there are a few concerns I have and maybe someone can advise me. Sarno basically tells you to start challenging your pain and consciously unattributing it (I almost said uncoupling!) to the causes. In my case I associate it with sitting at a desk for eight hours each work day, driving a car, doing any physical labour that involves lifting or bending at the waist (e.g.. gardening, sweeping) or doing any activity that involves twisting such as tennis or golf.

    So since reading his book I've been telling my pain and my brain to go to hell and telling myself each time I'm aware of it "sitting at a desk has nothing to do with my pain" or "driving a car has nothing to do with my pain". I think it may have been a bit effective, sometimes the pain would diminish almost instantly on thinking this, at other times I'd noticed that I hadn't been reminded of the pain for a while.

    But I think I may have been a bit too aggressive with it. In an effort to try and disassociate my trigger activities from the pain I've been deliberately slouching when sitting at a desk or when lounging around on the comfy sofa watching the TV. And I've stopped doing the boring exercises and stretches to break the link between them and fixing my back. Has this antagonised my back?

    I do a lot of swimming, partly because it was recommended to help my back, and partly because I like the exercise and what it does for me physically and mentally (it's always nice to be fit and trim, and I love the endorphin rush after getting out of the pool).

    On Saturday I entered a 2.8km ocean swim race on the spur of the moment. It was for the next day and I'd barely done any swimming in the last few weeks. In a panic, I rushed to the pool with a view to doing an ambitious 2km freestyle. However, in the last few swims I had done, I'd only been doing backstroke because my back was so painful and the tumble turns seemed to aggravate it. So I just thought, screw it, I'll do the tumble turns anyway and tell the pain to go to hell.

    The trouble was, the pain didn't go away and I think I may have made it worse. I got out of the water at the 1.2km mark and felt like a failure. For the next 18 hours I was terrified about the race. My back pain was awful and didn't let up, but I refused to back out (pun alert). Maybe the sensible thing to do would be just to not do it? I would have avoided a lot of stress and anxiety, and possibly pain according to TMS theory.

    Anyway, as you probably guessed, the race wasn't so bad. I met some swimming buddies who talked me down out of my anxiety (verging on panic) and who convinced me to take it slowly which is what I did.

    But while the back pain didn't stop me from swimming (no tumble turns required in the ocean which is a big plus), I'm still, two days later, left with pretty bad back pain (though to be honest, it's a not as bad now after reading http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/Breaking_the_Pain_Cycle,_by_Alan_Gordon,_LCSW (Breaking the Pain Cycle, by Alan Gordon, LCSW) this morning). I'm not really attributing all my pain to this swim, I've also been sitting at this desk and working on the TMS site, and for some reason this desk of mine at home with the crappy office chair has always given my back grief after short periods.

    I'm just wondering whether you can overdo it and actually injure yourself by being too gung-ho about your limitations due to the pain. Last night I was lying on the lounge typing my first post on this site and I noticed that each time I raised my left leg without bending it, incredible pain and tightness would occur in my lower back - it actually felt like there was something physically restricting the movement. And because I'm trying to believe that the pain is something that is caused by my brain, I kept repeating this action to test it - sort of like when you have a mouth ulcer that you can't leave alone with your tongue - and I think I may have made the pain worse. I found it really hard to get up from the lounge and all last night it was difficult to turn in bed without being really careful.

    So is it possible to go too hard, or should I keep being aggressive about it?

    I didn't go swimming this morning because I thought the tumble turns might make the pain worse. Or is that just good old TMS bullying me into staying in this marriage with pain?

    PS. One of my tasks on Day 2 was to plan some fun activity that I hadn't because of pain so I organised to do tennis this weekend with my family which I haven't for years because of how it would affect my back. So I haven't completely backed away from challenging the pain, pardon the pun.
  2. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi 6,

    Probably this has nothing to do with back pain, except you are thinking about it when you are slouching on purpose. The general guidelines are think about it less. If you're pushing it on purpose, this may not help.

    About your swim:
    I think that yes, you can possibly strain something if you "over do it." But that won't last more than a few weeks. Each person seems to have their own approach as far as how fast to come back to normal activity. In my recovery, I gently added more activity, so that the mind-body would not latch onto an idea that I strained something. I did this intentionally. There is no hurry. When we hear Dr. Sarno say "Resume normal activity," this does not have a time meter on it.:) By the way, it seems you really saw the stress and fear about the swim, and handled this by witnessing, and not getting completely bowled over.

    Andy B
    If 6 was 9 likes this.
  3. If 6 was 9

    If 6 was 9 Peer Supporter

    Hi Andy B, thanks for your advice.

    I think I might be a bit more gentle on myself - I just realised I can at least still swim and not do tumble turns - I think I was seeing 'not doing tumble turns' for people who aren't 'real swimmers', this thought must go back to when I used to swim train as a teenager.

    However, there is this nagging doubt that this injury is real - eg. when I put my chin on my chest, it hurts at my lower back, same as if I do the straight leg lift if lying on my back. No one has told me "it's bad to put your chin on your chest or to raise a straight leg while lying on your back' and I've never really associated this with sore back in the past. So could it be that my back is truly injured? And if so, how? Is that the result of a spasm? Should I be stretching everything (I've stopped this to break the association)?

    Having said all that, yesterday after sitting here working on Day 3 stuff and posting in this forum, I went off to work (I work nights) feeling really happy and positive. But my back was really painful, every step I took with my left leg I felt in my lower back and buttocks and hips. In other words, it was a lot worse than usual. But I kept the good mood, refused to take any pain medication and enjoyed being at work chained to my desk, despite the pain. I read somewhere on this wiki that it's not so much that the pain goes away, but that you're not thinking of the pain or being consumed by it. Maybe that's the first step towards eliminating it?

    BTW, I laughed when I saw that you called me 6. It's a good abbreviation.
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, 6. I agree with Andy. When I had severe back pain and journaled in this SEProgram, I focused not on the pain but on positive thoughts that I was not only GOING to heal, but I was ALREADY healed. If we spend a lot of time thinking about the pain, it stays with us. If we tell ourselves we are well, we will get well. I believe in pleasant distractions... keep busy, keep active. Do things you enjoy.
    If 6 was 9 likes this.
  5. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, this is key. And as Walt says, if you do have some pain, approach it with a positive attitude. If you see yourself obsessing about it, move your mind to something else, including pleasurable things.
    If 6 was 9 likes this.
  6. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    I'm enjoying your posts.
    These kind of insights can prove helpful when challenging how certain beliefs make us rigid and uncompromising and how these mental restraints often translate into physical constraints.

    I swim because I enjoy being in the water and I love how my body and mind feel afterwards. I'm not much of a 'real swimmer' but can hold my own in the fast lane :)


    Plum x

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