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from pain to success

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Eric "Herbie" Watson, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    this article was posted by mala on tmshelp recently
    (RSI), this article is by Aaron Iba: How I Cured
    my RSI Pain. Aaron is an MIT alum and successful high-tech entrepreneur, so
    I was fascinated by his story of how he was able to cure his chronic pain using
    only his mind. I then learned that my friend Shaddin, a top graduate from the
    Stanford Computer Science Ph.D. program, had a similar story of pain and
    recovery. I asked Shaddin to share his story on my website, and he agreed. Here
    it is in his own words:
    I'm writing about my long and illustrious experience with upper back pain,
    and the eventual cure, in the hope that others will find it informative. Since
    my story may be hard to believe for anyone with a healthy dose of scientific
    skepticism, I should introduce myself and attempt to convince you, the reader,
    that I have my wits about me.
    I'm currently 29 years of age, and I'm a computer scientist by training. I
    hold a B.S. from Cornell, a Ph.D. from Stanford, and will soon be an assistant
    professor at USC. My work is in the mathematical aspects of computer science, so
    I spend much of my life thinking logically. Like most academics in a technical
    field, I am a strong believer in the scientific process, and I can spot
    "quackery" a mile away. This made it difficult for me to accept the cause of my
    back pain, seeing as the theory behind it appears like a bunch of phooey at
    first glance. I hope that detailing my experience here will help others overcome
    their pain sooner rather than later.
    The Short Version
    Since I'm not trying to sell you anything, let me open with the short version
    of my story: I started getting occasional back pain and spasms, often
    debilitating, in my late teens. This became chronic during graduate school, and
    remained chronic (daily) and almost debilitating for 3 years. I tried every
    therapy and lifestyle modification to no avail, before finally discovering Dr.
    John Sarno's theory of Tension Myositis
    Syndrome (TMS).
    TMS is a mind/body explanation for back pain and some other pain disorders,
    which posits that the physical processes causing the (real, not imagined) pain
    are initiated unconsciously by the brain, and can be halted by the brain.
    There's a lot more to it than that, of course, but this is the short version.
    Once I diagnosed myself with TMS, read some of Sarno's books, and did the mental
    work they suggested, I was cured in a matter of weeks from my years of chronic
    pain. It was the most surreal experience of my life, and it felt as unbelievable
    as it sounds. 16 months later now, I remain cured.
    If you already believe me, you can stop reading now and go order some books
    on TMS by John Sarno or others. Otherwise, you may keep reading.
    The Beginnings
    Now, the long version. One morning in my late teens, 17 if I had to guess, I
    reached for a glass from a cabinet. A muscle in my upper back, probably my left
    trapezius and/or latissimus dorsi, promptly went into an excruciating spasm. I
    was bedridden for a couple of days, barely able to shift in bed without
    reactivating the spasms. For the next 8 years, this scenario recurred once or
    twice a year, with minor variations in the location and intensity of the pain.
    The events triggering the pain varied, though most commonly it would begin
    suddenly the morning after a day of strenuous exercise or after a lot of sitting
    in front of the computer.
    I saw many doctors throughout this period, got X-rays and MRIs, tried
    physical therapy, and went to chiropractors (against my better judgement).
    However, during this period, I made no progress in understanding the cause of my
    back pain or how to stop it from recurring. I got used to it as part of life,
    much like catching a cold. I reconciled myself to the assumption that I had a
    "trigger point" in my back that would act up when misused; since I was pain free
    between episodes, and the episodes were on average many months apart, this
    ailment did not greatly reduce my quality of life. Other than a couple of trips
    to the emergency room in my early twenties, during which I was pumped full of
    muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories, each of these pain episodes would
    resolve gradually over a period of a few days with ice, heat, rest, and
    The Chronic Phase
    But then, it got worse. It was 2007 and I was 25 years old, a little over a
    year into graduate school and in the midst of confronting many personal and
    professional pressures. One morning after a week of strenuous sports, I had the
    worst upper-back spasm attack I had ever experienced. Despite the severity of
    this episode, bed rest and pain medications halted the spasms and put me back on
    my feet as usual. However this time, unlike all previous episodes over the
    years, the pain did not completely resolve with the resolution of the spasms. I
    was left with a lingering ache between my shoulder blades. My back pain had
    finally morphed into a chronic condition.
    This lingering pain persisted for the next 3 years, the bulk of my time as a
    graduate student. I had pain in my upper back, usually between my shoulder
    blades, almost every day. The pain would move around, up to the neck sometimes,
    down to the mid back other times. It was usually on the left side, but often on
    the right side too. The "steady state" was a dull ache, one which occasionally
    evolves to a burning sensation as it gets worse, and then into spasms and
    immobility at its apex.
    I saw many doctors during this three-year period, in an attempt to understand
    what was happening. Spinal specialists, chiropractors, physical therapists—you
    name it, I tried it. An MRI showed some mildly herniated disks in my back; but
    according to my doctor (a spinal surgeon) such bulging in the discs is quite
    common (in fact, ordinary) and did not explain the pain I was in.
    Some activities and situations made my pain worse: sitting, hunching over,
    stress, laying in bed in the morning, sleeping on my stomach, a period of
    unproductivity at work, or—strangely enough—spending a day at home. Others made
    my pain temporarily better: exercise, ice, heat, massage, chiropractic
    manipulation, and productivity at work. In particular, exercise became a focus
    of my life out of fear of the alternative. Lack of exercise would allow my pain
    to progressively get worse so as to culminate in an episode of spasms, whereas
    regular exercise (the more vigorous the better) decreased the pain to a mild
    ache more often than not.
    I made many drastic, and somewhat comical, modifications to my life to keep
    my back healthy enough so that I could live a semi-normal life. The main
    component was exercise. Towards the end of the three-year period during which I
    suffered from this condition, I would exercise and stretch my back for two to five hours every single morning just to stave off the
    pain. I would follow this up with foam rollers, ice, heat, massage, etc. I
    carried tennis balls in my backpack everywhere I went, in case I needed to roll
    on top of them on the floor to relieve my back pain. I kept ice packs both at
    home and at work, and packed one with me any time I traveled.
    I spent thousands of dollars on fancy beds, ergonomic chairs, and exercise
    devices. I thought that sleeping on my stomach was aggravating the pain, so for
    several years I used a rope to restrain myself during my sleep—in addition to
    driving my girlfriend at the time crazy, this prevented me from sleeping on my
    stomach and consequently seemed to improve my pain... kind of... maybe. I also
    stopped sitting at my computer, as that reliably aggravated the pain within
    minutes and set in motion a chain reaction of pain that would last for days or
    weeks. Instead, I installed an HD video projector at the foot of my bed, pointed
    at the ceiling, and hooked it up to my computer so I could use my computer while
    lying in bed. To work on my laptop or scribble math in my notebook, I used a
    reclining beach chair in lieu of regular sitting.
    But even with all these changes to my life and expensive equipment designed
    to accommodate my back, the pain always returned. In fact, each
    time I made a lifestyle change to cater to my back, the pain would improve
    temporarily, and then return ... only now, the lifestyle change had become
    necessary to stave off even more severe pain! In general, trying to find
    patterns in the pain, or trying to deduce its causes or remedies, proved a
    futile effort. The pain simply evolved to counter every move I made.
    The Cure
    At some point during my three years of chronic pain, I had stumbled on a book
    by Dr. John Sarno on Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS). I bought the book, read
    the first couple of pages, and then tossed it aside as quackery. There it sat on
    a bookshelf for over a year, until one December morning in 2010 I reached a
    state of desperation—I had tried everything, I was going to a physical therapist
    weekly, I was spending hours on my back each day, and my pain was as bad as it
    ever was. So I finally dusted off the Sarno book and started reading. I was in a
    desperate hurry to understand my pain, so after a few pages I went to my
    computer and looked for videos online that would deliver a large dose of
    "convincing" in a short period of time. I watched a video of a 20/20 segment on
    TMS by ABC News anchor John Stossel, where he examines the condition through
    his own personal experience with back pain. The segment was excellent, and I
    found that it helped me overcome much of my skepticism. I then went back to the
    book and read some more, with an open mind and a willingness to take it
    I wasn't very far into the book before I had to get to work that morning.
    Between the Stossel segment and what I had read of Sarno's book, I had acquired
    a new sense of hope and a nascent belief that I finally understood what was
    going on with my back. As I walked to work, I put into practice some of what I
    had learned that morning: I simply talked to my mind. "Stop it!" I said to my
    subconscious. "I know what you're doing! You are trying to distract me from
    something else! I'm onto you!" Within hours, and despite what started as a "bad
    pain day," the pain promptly melted away for the rest of that day!
    That uncharacteristically warm December morning in northern California saw
    the beginning of the end of my years of back pain. Over the next few weeks, the
    pain would come back regularly, often severely. But each time it came back, I
    used the strategies I was learning from several books on TMS to beat it down
    (more on these strategies in the next section). The pain did not want to go:
    when I conquered it in my upper back, it would come back in my lower back,
    pretending to be something new and unrelated. When I conquered it there, it
    would move to my neck, or even morph into a headache. During those few weeks,
    the pain often became particularly severe, as if it knew that it was losing the
    battle and was trying to fight back. But I stuck with the treatment, as I
    believed deeply that I knew what my condition was: my subconscious mind
    restricting blood supply to specific muscles in an attempt to cause pain—pain
    that would distract me from worries which were uncomfortable to tackle directly.
    That is TMS, and the key to defeating it is knowing thy enemy, and appreciating
    that it is as intelligent and cunning as you are.
    After a battle that lasted perhaps a month or two, I had won. I was pain
    free, day in and day out. I could sit at my computer, I could hunch over, and I
    could do anything I pleased like a normal person. I no longer spent hours each
    day tending to my back. This was more than a year ago, and I remain victorious.
    Sure, every once in a while after months of pain-free living, the condition
    would attempt to rear its ugly head. But all I have to do is remind myself of
    what I was dealing with and it would promptly melt away, often in a matter of
    minutes. My experience with this condition was surreal, and it changed my
    perspective on the human body and mind.
    What I learned about TMS and the Mind/Body Interface
    Given this experience, I naturally spent many hours analyzing my condition.
    There is much I want to share, but in reality the best resources are those
    written by the experts. I highly recommend John Sarno's book "Healing
    Back Pain", as that was the book that helped me the most. I hear that
    Sarno's later books are also good, in particular for similar pain conditions
    such as RSI that are not localized to the back, but I never got around to
    reading those since my condition resolved relatively quickly. Other medical
    doctors have also written on TMS and the family of "mind/body disorders." A
    quick search online should reveal much in the way of reading material. For those
    readers anxious to know more, I recommend watching the 20/20 ABC News segment on
    TMS as a teaser.
    That being said, I will share my personal thoughts on my condition. I stress
    that I am not a medical doctor, and I am certainly not an expert on back
    pain or TMS. You should not apply any of my recommendations before having more
    serious diagnoses ruled out by a qualified physician, or without the supervision
    and approval of such a physician. Anything I say below should be taken
    as my own personal interpretation of the literature on TMS and of my experience,
    rather than an established scientific fact or a credible medical recommendation.
    Specifically, I will detail my understanding of how the mind/body pain disorder
    works, using some analogies which were useful in my own healing process.
    The first thing to understand is that the physical pain in TMS is real, not
    imagined, but is caused by processes in the brain. Specifically, the
    subconscious mind, in an attempt to distract the conscious mind from worries and
    thoughts that are uncomfortable, directs the autonomic nervous system to
    withhold blood supply to specific muscles. This causes mild ischemia (oxygen
    deprivation of the muscles), and hence pain. Oxygen deprivation has been
    documented in laboratory studies conducted on muscle tissues of people with back
    pain, so there is some scientific evidence of this. This phenomenon is an
    adaptive mechanism gone awry: your subconscious is trying to protect your
    conscious mind from thoughts it perceives to be too stressful or painful to
    tackle directly, and it does so by creating this pain as a distraction. If you
    spend your time preoccupied with your pain, and adjusting your life and
    activities to accommodate the pain, these problematic thoughts are prevented
    from moving from the subconscious mind to the conscious mind.
    I found it helpful to understand that this condition is self-reinforcing for
    two reasons:
    1. Once you become worried that there might be something inherently and
    structurally wrong with your back, it becomes easier for your subconscious to
    get you stressing about your pain (instead of whatever your conscious mind might
    otherwise stress about). Your subconscious' distraction strategy is now more
    effective, and therefore it will use this strategy more frequently and with
    greater intensity, which in turn makes you worry even more about your body, and
    so on and so forth.
    2. The more your subconscious applies this strategy, the better it gets at doing
    so, and the more accustomed your nervous system becomes to inflicting this
    pattern of pain. The pain becomes habitual, often associated with specific
    events or activities. In my case, this explains why sitting at a chair in my
    bedroom would inflict pain almost immediately, whereas a chair at a coffee shop
    would take a while.
    In some cases, as in mine, as a result of both reasons, the pain becomes
    constant, rather than episodic. By habit, there is almost always a basic level
    of "background pain," which occasionally escalates due to triggering events or
    To combat this condition, I used three strategies that I gleaned from books
    on TMS:
    1. The first and most important strategy is to convince yourself, at
    least for the most part, that the cause of your pain is TMS rather than a
    structural problem with the back. Absent that belief, your subconscious will
    play on your uncertainty in order to preserve the cycle of tension and pain.
    Once I overcame my skepticism, I found that my average pain levels decreased,
    and I was almost immediately having more good days than bad days. Believing in
    the diagnosis is best put into practice by not allowing the condition to scare
    you, make you panic about your pain, prevent you from doing any activity you
    would otherwise want to do, or force you into activities that you wouldn't
    otherwise normally do. If there is no structural problem with your back, then
    there certainly is no reason to validate the condition by cowing to its demands
    of special exercises or stretches, icing or massaging the back, not hunching
    over, not lifting heavy objects, or whatever those demands may be. In the
    absence of validation, this condition weakens almost immediately, as its
    strategy of getting you to focus on your pain becomes less effective.
    Nevertheless, in my case believing the diagnosis alone was not sufficient for a
    complete cure.
    2. The second strategy I used was to always think psychological. When
    faced with an escalation of pain, instead of worrying about a physical cause I
    would instead respond by rummaging around in my mind for those thoughts or
    worries that my subconscious was trying to keep under wraps. In some cases the
    answer was clear, and once I would dig up those thoughts and examine them with
    my conscious mind, the pain would promptly melt away in a few hours, if not
    minutes. In other cases there was no clear answer, but nevertheless the mere act
    of rummaging around seemed to help the pain gradually resolve; perhaps the fact
    that I was not falling for the distraction strategy was sufficient to invalidate
    3. The third strategy is to communicate with your subconscious. Any
    time I was facing pain, I would consciously think to myself something along the
    lines of: "Hey you, unconscious mind, I know what you're doing. I know full well
    that this is not a physical condition, but merely trickery designed to distract
    me from something else. You are not fooling anyone, and it's not going to work.
    Stop it now!" Whether this actually sent a signal to my subconscious is
    something I can't know, but I do know that the mere act of trying to talk my
    subconscious down in this manner was extremely effective at resolving many pain
    episodes quite rapidly.
    Closing Thoughts
    I will close with a note on the main challenge that I faced during my
    recovery. Specifically, I found it difficult to come to terms with, and adjust
    to, the cunning and sophisticated nature of my subconscious. It knew before I
    did that there were troubling thoughts or concerns brewing in my mind, and would
    deliberately inflict pain in order to prevent those thoughts from becoming
    conscious. Additionally, during my recovery process, the pain moved from place
    to place, escalated in intensity, and changed in nature, in what felt like an
    intelligent attempt at fighting back. How can this be? How can such complex
    reasoning and behavior be occurring in my own mind unbeknownst to me?
    I found that demystifying this phenomenon was key to truly understanding and
    defeating this condition. Consider this: What happens to your body when you get
    embarrassed? Your cheeks redden and you get a distinct "flushed" physical
    feeling. What about after a breakup or the loss of a loved one? The pain of loss
    often manifests as a distinct physical pain in the pit of one's stomach. Both of
    these are physical responses produced by the subconscious through the autonomic
    nervous system, in response to an emotionally and intellectually complex
    situation. The processes in the brain producing these responses are for the most
    part hidden from the conscious mind, and can't easily be "turned off." The same
    is true for the pain of TMS. Only in TMS, the subconscious can be particularly
    cunning and sophisticated, as it is as intelligent and adaptive as its
    I have found it helpful to think of my mind as two different people, in fact
    two copies of myself. I am aware and in direct control of one (the conscious
    mind), but the other is equally sophisticated and operating unbeknownst to me in
    the background. There are, however, two things I can do to control my
    subconscious. First, I can foil its plots by refusing to fall for its
    distraction-by-pain strategy. Second, I can send it disparaging signals through
    a one-way communication channel, signals such as "I know what you're doing and
    why you are doing it, and it's not going to work."
    In conclusion, after accepting that my pain was a manifestation of Tension Myositis
    Syndrome, coming to terms with the nature of this condition, and applying
    the tactics I described in this article, my subconscious gave up its old ways,
    and I was cured of years of pain. Sure, once every few months my subconscious
    tries to pull the same old crap again—almost testing me to see if it can
    reestablish the old order, but when that happens I know how to quickly put it
    back in its place.
    sarah2254 and Jilly like this.
  2. Jilly

    Jilly Well known member

    This is really good !
  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks, Eric and Mala, for sharing this article from Shaddin.
    It is a terrific reaffirmation of TMS healing.
    His healing follows the traditional Sarno formula also found in
    other books and sure encourages those of us still healing to
    keep at it.
  4. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    thanks guys-ill let mala know-
    yes it is an exciting story-im excited about everything
    that concerns a healing-healing is living
    fredb likes this.

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