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Amber M. Do I have TMS?

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by gregor1, Feb 22, 2015.

  1. gregor1

    gregor1 Newcomer

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    Hi guys. im new here. Writing is somewhat painful for me, so I will try to keep it simple. I originally posted this message on another forum, but recent research has brought me to the subject of TMS. Could someone please tell how plausible it is that I'm a TMS sufferer.

    I am 26, male. As for my problems... Let's say it all started with gradually increasing back pain last summer. It was caused by hard physical labor (moving company) abroad plus bad furniture that I had to use where I stayed (bed, chair, pillows etc.). I have bad posture (deep lower lordosis) and always experienced some degree of low back pain after prolonged standing or walking, so I wasn't too concerned when It started hurting me after work. It never was really painful, just unpleasant. After a while I noticed that this pain would go upwards toward my head, making my spinae erector muscles really hard and stiff - but still not that painful unless I sat in my chair that was not so comfortable. I knew this was not good, but I had to work only one month more (the job itself was not painful at all), so I thought "not a big deal, I will get better home". When I got home it did seem to get better with time, my muscles loosened up a bit, the pain was decreasing.

    But here is where this all gets weird and seemingly unexplainable. I had moderate pain and stiffness only in those two long muscles that run along spine. I didnt have any nerve pain, no acute fits of spasm. Now, as the pain subsided, it began to wonder towards my hips (muscles at the side of my abdomen hurt for two days), then ribs, then I had some pain behind scapula, my shoulder hurt a bit. The pain resembled that when you exercise and feel the tiredness accompanied by weakness. It would go away, if I lie down flat on the ground and then move elsewhere. Every place the pain went to, it seemed lesser and lesser.

    I dont like doctors after being misdiagnosed on many occasions, so I didnt see one that far. I though that this is natural, that muscles re-adjust somehow. What I didnt want to acknowledge up to that point, is that every spot the pain went to - left muscle weakness and stiffness. It just seemed too weird to accept and I decided not to bother. Pain was going away - thats all I cared about.

    I was working out the weaker spots and it all looked as if getting back in track, until one day I woke up with really stiff neck (not painful). I freaked out and made an appointment to get an mri of my spine. In the meantime, just like the other muscles, my neck got really thin, all those tense muscles that I got just disappeared overnight. Not only those - ALL the muscles in my back were much much smaller.

    The mri of my spine showed no significant changes, nothing that could cause those symptoms. Every doctor I saw told me to either get a mri of my little brain or get some PT. Since im my mind all of this was mechanically inflicted, I figured they won't find anything in the brain and I went with physiotherapy. The guy told me I have lower crossed syndrome and made me stretch a ton. Then we continued to strenghtening exercises. But just like before, after some improvement, my muscles get weaker no matter how hard I train. Even if I perform better at the training, I have increasing problems with dailly tasks. Everything just seems getting heavier for me, I can feel the weight of my own body, and its not nice.

    This all lead me to the conclussion that I must indeed have some musco-sceletal or autoimmune disease. It just doesn't make sense. Why would my hands and calfs get so weak after some trauma to a completely distant muscle? I also developed slight sight loss and mild tinnitus.

    If anyone could shed some light on this one, I would be very thankful. Let me just mention that I do have a strong tendency to somatise my mental state, I have a history of re-occurring depression, I grind my teeth at night, and get mild flu nearly every time I get upset.

    thank you in advance
  2. Amber Murphy LCSW

    Amber Murphy LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hi Gregor,

    I am so glad you wrote in. First let's review the types of symptoms that TMS can cause. TMS can cause a host of symptoms including (but not limited to): pain, burning, hot, cold, weakness, heaviness, tightness, spasms, tension, numbness, swelling, fatigue, stiffness... you get the point. TMS is capable of mimicking just about any diagnosis anywhere in our bodies.

    I have never heard of lower crossed syndrome, so I emailed a TMS doctor for information. He also has never heard of it. I did a brief google search and found that it shows up mostly on physical therapy pages and seems to only explain the symptomatology without providing any structural explanation or cause. As your MRI was clear and did not show any damage or injury to your back, it seems likely that "lower crossed syndrome" is just another name for a TMS symptom.

    That being said, it is always important to rule out all other structural possibilities so that you can move forward in your TMS treatment with confidence. I would recommend following your doctors advice and pursuing a brain MRI and ruling out autoimmune disorders. If these come back clean, you can affirm with complete confidence that this is merely a TMS symptom and treat it accordingly (along with the other TMS symptoms you are exhibiting - sight loss, tinnitus, depression, TMJ).

    Sometimes when you're hyperfocused on something, it can become difficult to see it clearly. I had a client who swore he could see the muscle tension on one side of his back, supporting his fear that something was wrong in that area and providing a visible explanation for his pain.

    Typically, either it's your fear-induced eyes seeing things that are not reflective of reality, or the back has always been more developed on one side (we're not perfectly symmetrical) and you've just never noticed it before. For my client, it ended up being the former. Nobody else (including me) was able to see a difference between either side of his back nor could we spot any sort of muscle tension.

    Could that be what is going on with your muscles? It is hard to say. Ask your friends, PT or family members whether they see what you are seeing or if they notice any visible changes to your muscle tone. If there are differences, are they to the degree that you report?

    I know you are new to the TMS journey but it definitely sounds like there is some good work for you to do. You may want to check out our online recovery program to start learning how you can get rid of your TMS symptoms.



    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

    Last edited: Feb 25, 2015
  3. Amber Murphy LCSW

    Amber Murphy LCSW TMS Therapist

    I just received this input from Dr. Schubiner regarding Lower Cross Syndrome:

    "This is a diagnosis made only by physical therapists. From my point of view, there certainly may be muscle imbalance of some kind, but it is probably not the actual cause of the symptoms. It may be a result of the symptoms, i.e., the brain is causing muscle tension, which results in some mild imbalances. This is probably similar to the situation when patients get knots in their muscles or very tight muscles caused by TMS".

    Ruling out other structural diagnoses (autoimmune etc.) is still important, however, it does seem that this diagnosis is most likely TMS. I hope this is helpful!
  4. gregor1

    gregor1 Newcomer

    Thank you and Dr. Schubiner for taking the time to analyze my problem! As for the muscle wasting - it is not only me who has noticed it and, as posted above, it most certainly is not from disuse either. Luckily, my bloodwork and EMG test rule out most of the scariest stuff, so hopefully it is something minor, preferably psychogenic.

    This makes me ask: how often do you see people with true muscle shrinkage as primary symptom of TMS? From what I've seen it always secondary to disuse,which is not the case here.

    Thank you and take care,

  5. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Gregor,

    I'm afraid I don't know of any cases off of the top of my head where pronounced ongoing muscle wasting was caused by TMS. You may want to look through our search engine, putting in phrases like "muscle wastage," or "atrophy" to see what you find. I looked and was able to find a couple of possible leads. Here's the link:

    From your other posts, you've suggested that the perceived wastage couldn't simply be due to attention. I feel like my symptoms were amplified by the attention that I paid to them and that my muscles atrophied because I didn't use them enough. To this day, I'm very sensitive to feelings in my body, and I suspect that that is due to all of the attention that I spent on my pain levels, trying to see if it was safe to use a computer. ("Do the pain levels really go up if I type just a little??")

    It sounds like you've thought about this and ruled it out, though. Taking the possibility seriously is very important, though, because I think that it would be very much inline with what happens to many people with TMS.

    What do you think would happen if you went to one of your physical therapists and asked, is there any possibility that this could be due to not using the muscles enough and thinking about them too much? Sometimes physical therapists will have a clear sense of this. I think that several of my physical therapists had a better sense of what my limits were than I did.

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