Hi, I’m new here. I’ve struggled with a variety of chronic pain conditions for the last 7 years and it has dictated most of my life, leaving me incapable of any activity on bad days and often only able to achieve minimal essential tasks on good ones. My Story (apologies for the length) I trace my problems back to when I was 19 and had started my first year at a private music college. The course was great, but there was a lot of material and I pushed myself hard to make the most of all of it, practising all day and taking copious written notes in lectures. About halfway through the year, I developed severe tendinitis in my right forearm from using a pen to take notes, and soon after that I developed severe pain/swelling/tenderness in my left thumb/palm from playing guitar. I can’t be sure, but I believe that the initial injury was genuine (based on how much I was playing/I wasn’t warming up/ It was winter). I didn’t see a doctor or have any tests done, but went straight to a private physio who said I had torn tissue in the thumb. It was a devastating time for me, but the physio was excellent and I got better quickly. Around this same time I started having repeated bladder infections, as well as symptoms of kidney pain. Tests showed nothing wrong with my kidneys, but the bladder infections appeared to be genuine. I had had one a year earlier which was almost certainly caused by not drinking enough, but ever since then I’ve made sure to drink plenty of water every day, so I didn’t understand why was getting one again. These infections became very frequent and I was constantly being put on antibiotics - it seemed like barely a month would pass before I started getting symptoms again. Not long after my recovery from my hands I wrote a song with a friend and the college decided to enter it into a competition. A band was put around me to help develop the song and we got into the finals. Following this, the band and I decided to stay together and pursue music seriously. Of course, my hand pains returned and severely impacted both my studies and my reliability within the band. At the start of my second year, I bought myself a Stratocaster (previously I used a Les Paul) and the thinner neck reduced my symptoms significantly. However, by the end of the year things became a lot worse and I basically gave up playing guitar completely. When it came to the time to decide whether or not I would do a third year I decided against it - gigs were being cancelled, I wasn’t playing, and I couldn’t see myself physically capable of properly interacting with the course. Looking back now, it makes perfect sense that I got more ill. Around this time, I was not only in my band playing gigs, but I was also in a function band as well, playing music that wasn’t really my thing. I had been encouraged by my tutor to take up private teaching, which was the last thing I wanted to do. However, I knew it would grow me since I wasn’t much of a people person, so I dove straight in. My band were also recording their first EP - meaning there was pressure to be playing A LOT of guitar AND be well enough for it. I was also moving church, and struggling to find where was right for me – oh, and I there was relationship AND friendship trouble (classic). The following year I stayed in the city and lived with my bandmates. Despite my ill-health, they didn’t want me to leave and they stuck by me. We did however recruit another guitarist to fill in for me while I couldn’t play, and I took on more of a managerial/producer role. During this time it was my mind at work - I wasn’t cooking, cleaning, using the computer or anything like that for a long time. Though, eventually I built up the confidence to do these things in moderation and was encouraged to volunteer at a bookstore in town - the idea being that voluntary work would take off the pressure of performing to full capacity. This actually turned out to be really good for me - the staff understood my limitations and allowed me to dictate my hours and level of activity. Customers were very infrequent, so most of the time I was just waiting around (or reading). It also developed into a paid role. Year four was when it all went to pot. It started off well, with me replacing music with writing, of which I did mostly using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Meanwhile, band continued and I continued seeing endless doctors, specialists, having endless scans, tests to no avail. Hand and arm pain persisted, infections persisted, kidney pain persisted, testicular pain started, prostatitis started. Meanwhile at work, another branch in the chain of bookstores I worked at were low on staff and I ended up working 9-5, 6 days a week, commuting to another city, working for people who didn’t know me and were less understanding of my physical limitations, at a much busier branch. I pushed myself and worked through pain every day, came home, went straight into a bath filled with anti-inflammatory stuff, my housemate cooked and fed me and I fell straight asleep – then I would wake up and the cycle would start again. Following this my siblings and I went on a much needed holiday together, much to my relief. But, day 2 into the holiday my brother (also a musician, also recently having developed RSI) started getting pain and weakness all over his body. This induced anxiety and strange tremors in his body and we had to rush him to hospital. Tons of tests – no results. “There’s nothing wrong with him” they said. We cut the holiday short and on the way home we had to do everything for him (wash, feed etc.) – he was virtually paralysed. I was dropped off where I live on the way and my siblings drove him home (6 hours away). Shortly after this I reduced my hours significantly at work. I saw someone and finally received a diagnosis (for some things) – Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome and Irritable Bladder. I was put on tablets for pain, which helped temporarily. Next – I got a call and found out my brother had attempted suicide 3 times off the back of what happened on holiday (and not getting any better). Following this I suddenly developed the same symptoms as my brother (violent shaking limbs, weakness, unable to walk, burning and tingling). At the time, I was wondering why I didn’t really feel anything in response to what happened to my brother. I felt guilty for feeling numb, and thought there must be something wrong with me, because I knew I cared - I just didn’t feel it. It wasn’t until later that I realised this was because my emotions were too intense, and all the physical symptoms that “coincidentally” came upon me were my mind’s way of protecting me (some weeks later I broke down over the situation). Naturally, I stopped work for a while. The symptoms escalated very quickly and I ended up being submitted to hospital, where I was unable to move for a large portion of the nine days I stayed there. Many tests were done, nothing showed anything wrong (except a benign cyst at the base of my skull). Funny thing is, during this entire period I felt so incredibly calm – I wasn’t worried at all – in fact, I was in the best mood I’d been in ages. Once again, I later attributed this to my negative emotions being voiced physically. Now, here comes the funny part - It was during December 2015 that I was in hospital, and there were three things going through my mind (“this is ridiculous”, “I don’t want to be here over Christmas”, and “I DEFINITELY don’t want to miss the first showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens!”). The doctor said it was unlikely I was going to be out in time, but I wouldn’t have it. Gradually, day by day, I managed to move a little more, walk a little further. Eventually, I was walking back and forth the hospital room without too much trouble (often with crutches), though I definitely felt I was pushing it and my legs would occasionally give way. When the day came that I was meant to see Star Wars, I said to the doctor – “I’m okay (I wasn’t), I can leave.” The doctor wasn’t so sure, but I insisted. They said “if you can walk this distance down the hallway and back, without crutches – you can leave.”. So I did, and at the end of it, I felt like I had completely depleted the capacity I had to move. But I put on a brave face, and they dismissed me. Guess what happened straight after? Burning, weakness and a new symptom - extreme anxiety. But it was too late, they dismissed me and they wouldn’t take me back. My housemate came and picked me up, took me to the car in a wheelchair, then took me to my bandmates house (whom I would be seeing the film with). Being with them calmed me down, and when the time came, I was carried to the car, driven to the cinema, carried into the theatre and placed into my seat, ready to watch Star Wars. Not long after this, I was diagnosed with “functional movement disorder”, and was told that my shakes and weakness were from anxiety and stress. Knowing this allowed me to slowly overcome those particular symptoms completely. Not long after that I was told (still) that there was nothing wrong with my arms EXCEPT a trapped nerve in my elbow (Ulnar). Of course, the problem in my left hand was chiefly my thumb which is normally linked to the carpal tunnel - so this made no sense whatsoever. However, it was all I had to go on, so I had the recommended surgery. The operation itself went fine, but after healing I felt zero difference in any of my symptoms. I found this extremely discouraging and along came my first bout of heavy depression. Later I moved house, and the new and better environment helped my mental health a great deal. I also began to recognise that my “chronic pelvic pain” and “Irritable Bladder” were most likely anxiety based and so I slowly managed to overcome them completely. I still get “threats” from time to time, but I just calm myself and pray away the pain. Over the years I continued to try many different treatments for my arms/hands - some of which produced great results, only to then stop working later down the line. The most significant and recent of these was the technique of self-massage, particularly “fascia release”. I.E. take a ball, find the painful spot and make the muscle move beneath it. Like magic, this seemed to completely cure me for a time. Of course, the symptoms kept coming back, but each time they did I massaged them away hands-free and managed to get into doing normal activity again. The problem with this though, was that I literally had to spend hours on self-massage every day just to get myself to function for an activity - and even then there were some activities I still had great difficulty with (like guitar). Later, I came across Sarno’s book “The Mind Body Problem” (about 2 years ago) and found it helpful, but ultimately found it difficult to apply practically and still attributed part of my problems to a physical cause. The relief I found from simply reading the book enabled me to pick up guitar again for the first time in years, but my symptoms never completely went away and still limited me greatly. I practiced guitar for around five minutes a day when I could, sometimes as much as half an hour on good days, but I found little joy in it - it was always an uncomfortable activity and I always felt like I should be using my limited capacity to prepare for gigs rather than playing for leisure or writing new material. For a while, I felt like I had the perfect balance of managing my symptoms. I did not feel capable of work, but I managed to find a way of getting through the everyday. Enabling myself to get washed, dressed and prepare simple meals. Eventually, I found myself able to use the computer for quite long stints and was starting to get confident that I could go to work again. Low and behold, right around the time I started looking for jobs (and when I was particularly stressed about something else computer related!) I had one of the biggest flare-ups I have ever had. One touch of the mouse and I had shooting pain going up both my arms, and what felt like severe inflammation. Pain and throbbing went right down my arms and into my knuckles -this lasted for a very long time and my “self-massage” techniques did nothing bar some very slight relief. I put it down to not being able to find “the spot”, and so I hired a sports therapist to come to my house every few weeks and give me massage. He told me my problems were my neck, my shoulders and my back - so when he wasn’t around I focused my self-massage there. All this helped, but I could never shake this vague tingly pain in my arms that I had ever since the flare-up. Around this time, I also started to have pain bouncing around all over my body, particularly around the neck and shoulders (surprise, surprise). During one of my sessions with massage, the guy told me he couldn’t find anything wrong with the muscles in my body, which puzzled me to no end, and I once again felt deflated. Eventually, I gave up using my hands and started using my feet. I used my feet to use the TV remote, a mouse and keyboard, my phone, flushing the toilet and many other things - only using my hands when absolutely necessary. A combination of my feet and Dragon dictation software worked well for a time, but guess what? I developed RSI in my feet and, for fear of not being able to walk, stopped using my feet as well. I became housebound most days, doing very little and often having to get others to do things for me. This side of Christmas, I was diagnosed with mild scoliosis at the base of my neck. I also had another bad flareup and was pretty much at the end of myself (again). In desperation, I decided to ignore the pain in my feet and use them to Google random things like “overcoming RSI” etc, in the hope of stumbling across some kind of miracle cure in a blog somewhere. Much to my surprise - I did. The blog I clicked on was a success story of someone who suffered from severe RSI, among other things, and how they overcame it via the mind-body theory. I recognised the name Sarno and was like “oh yeah, that guy”. I also saw them mention the SERPA approach and there was a link to Georgie Oldfield’s website. I clicked on it and read through it and noticed that as I did, my feet stopped hurting and my arms hurt less. Feeling brave, picked up my phone and started using my hands instead (first time in ages) - they still tingled, but there was no pain. That evening, I played poker with my housemates, drank whiskey (sensibly – and not through a straw!), ate cake and helped clear up afterwards. A Positive Spin Despite this struggle, it’s been a journey, and one which I continue to learn from. I am a Christian and I truly believe that these last 7 years have been a process by which God has been refining me. Through the periods of sickness I’ve had to learn new skills; I’ve discovered new talents, like creative writing; it’s caused me to rely on community more, meaning stronger relationships being developed with my family, friends, band and church; and it’s caused me to come face to face with insecurities and start a process of conquering them. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, I’ve had my doubts, and it’s been very frustrating, but ultimately I know there has been and IS purpose in it. I’m pleased to be here, I’m looking forward to getting to know you all and I’m excited for the journey ahead. Application and Result (thus far) Since poker night, I’ve stopped self-massage and stretches, I’ve been reading free material online, I’ve ordered Georgie Oldfield’s book, I’ve read a free sample of The Great Pain Deception and have signed up here. I’ve spent the last week typing (combined with dictation software), playing guitar, tidying and other things. The symptoms have not vanished, but I’d say I’ve had a 70% reduction and activity has felt much less daunting. I still don’t feel a hundred percent confident in the diagnosis (for all my symptoms), but I feel like I’m on the right track. I have a million questions (some are below) and my activities are still in short stints. My biggest concern is of my left hand symptoms when playing guitar and not knowing whether there is danger of me re-injuring it or not – this is due to the fact that I probably am weak from not using my hands for so long, I play fast and complicated guitar parts, and I don’t know whether my initial injury was an actual injury or not (an intermittent throbbing pain did come on gradually before the injury, but I foolishly ignored it). Diagnosis Overview Mild Scoliosis Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome Irritable Bladder “Bilateral Hand Pain” Tendonitis "Torn Tissue" (left thumb) Functional Movement Disorder Anxiety Depression TMS in the Family? I've already said about my brother. My younger sister also has trouble with anxiety, stress levels and is on tablets of thyroid trouble. My older sister has IBS and RSI. My mum has recently developed thumb pain, but she has a history of anxiety, chronic migraines, M.E. and neck pain. She also has some really bizarre dietary requirements in order to avoid stomach problems (apparently she's allergic to wheat, but not gluten). My dad has depression, different types of artheritus, chronic back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, kidney and bladder trouble, glucoma, diabetes, heart trouble and a botched op on his knee has put him on crutches. ( I've probably missed some). Some of these are side effects from medication he was put on. Questions I have are: Am I right? Are/were all my symptoms a result of TMS? Is RSI a real thing? Or is it always TMS? Is guitar so strenuous an exercise that I actually tore tissue? Is it possible to do genuine damage playing an instrument? Or is it always a result of TMS? My activities have been so minimal over the years that I’ve almost certainly had a lot of muscle wastage - is there any chance that I could injure myself by diving straight back into activity (especially guitar!)? Is it possible to do genuine damage from using a computer? How do you discern between muscle fatigue and TMS? Is there any benefit to stretching/warming up before/after activities like an instrument/computer? I understand that TMS can actually CAUSE physical symptoms such as inflammation and tightness of muscles – Have I got that right? If that’s the case, how can one push through symptoms knowing they aren’t causing physical damage? Surely, even if your brain is responsible for the symptom, if you’re continuing activity with tight muscles, there must be danger of injury? To be more specific in regards to my left hand pain (most frequently provoked by guitar), the symptoms are: Tightness, aching, and vague discomfort on the chunky bit of the thumb/palm, as well as (sometimes) slight tingling around the area and at the tip of thumb. When pushed too far, it typically becomes inflamed and tender and the thumb joint becomes weak and trembly. If I push beyond that: pulsating pain and burning. It’s been a while since I’ve allowed it to get that bad, but when it has been I’ve typically avoided activity for 48 hours before feeling any significant reduction of symptoms.