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Introduction - a bit about me and my herniated disc!

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by ChickenSandwich, May 25, 2013.

  1. ChickenSandwich

    ChickenSandwich New Member

    Hi all – thought I might take a step out into the TMS community and put my story out for all to read and *hopefully* comment on!

    I was recently (let’s say early April) given the book by Dr Sarno called Healing Back Pain by my chiropractor (funnily enough) who thought I might get something out of the book given the pain I’m currently experiencing.. he had just been given it by another of his patients to read. Wow, like most people I found myself in this book without a doubt. I actually finished it off in 2 days which is amazing, because I really really dislike reading books. I must say I did enjoy reading the book.

    My “medical” history is as follows – I’m currently suffering from pretty severe burning pain in my right upper leg with quite a bit of pins and needles/numbness in my right foot due to, apparently, a herniated disc at L5/S1. This current episode started in January and started out somewhat slowly and progressed to a stage where I was in bed for most of February unable to really move. I actually had experienced pain in 2008 from a herniated disc at the same location and ended up in hospital where I received a steroid injection which numbed my pain. The neurosurgeon at the time refused to operate because of my age then (27) and the risks involved. Fast forward to March this year when I visited him again after seeing new MRI scans and he wanted to operate on me by the end of that week as the scans looked terrible. The MRI for all I know could have looked identical to the MRI I had in 2008. After reading HBP I wondered if my pain had returned to an old site of pain, because it knew what to expect and how I would react to it.

    I decided not to rush into surgery and went back to my chiropractor who advised me of the outcome/success of conservative care versus surgery so I decided to take the conservative approach and see how I go. I also went off and had another steroid injection in L5/S1 however this time with no effect what so ever (what I now know to have been an amazing placebo the first time I had the injection in 2008, didn’t work this time round at all !!)

    After 6 or so weeks of chiropractic care I had full movement again in my back, but absolutely no improvement in the burning pain in my leg. Laying down I was able to raise both my legs to 90 degrees which I don’t think I've ever been able to do. Interesting note about my current pain - I can sit and lay down with no problems at all, sit all day if I want to, but the moment I have to stand up for more than 5 minutes the pain kicks in and becomes unbearable, to the point I’ll just sit on the ground if I have to. What I also know now is I am *expecting* this pain to kick in, and when I stand up I actually am mentally waiting for it to start for some stupid reason – it’s almost like I’m surprised if it doesn't start hurting. Then it starts.

    On top of the back pain I have pretty bad left shoulder pain, and have done for about 18 months. I’ve been told I require an operation due to AC Joint/Rotator cuff problems. The funny story with that is 2 years ago I had right shoulder problems, they injected me with cortisone in that shoulder and then it’s like the pain went straight from the right to left shoulder. At the time I thought it was weird, but just put it down to bad form at the gym.

    Where I am at today – well I’ve been reading about TMS pretty much every day for the last month and, I’m almost convinced I have TMS (yes I know for this to work I need to be 100% convinced I have TMS). Yesterday I put on an audio tape of one Sarno’s books and managed to stand up for 1 hour straight and move around – no matter what the pain was I wasn't going to sit down. Somehow I’m still alive to write this post! I wish I was one of those lucky few who were “cured” after reading one book, but oh well… I’ll get there.

    Whilst I may not be convinced of TMS – I am 100% convinced I am NOT having a discectomy to fix my “problem”!

    On a side note - I had a conversation with my chiropractor at the end of last year when I was feeling the best I had in my life (I was at the gym 4 times a week and playing sport every other day.. I felt better at 32 than I did 22) – I said now my back feels amazing should I have an MRI to see if there’s any problems with it I didn't know about. His response was “what’s the point in doing that, if you feel great then you are great. There’s plenty of people walking around with herniated discs that don’t even know it!” At the time I didn't even really absorb what he said and just thought “whatever” and moved on.

    I’m sure I've missed a few bits of my story out here and there, but I just wanted to get the ball rolling by starting to put my story down.. I've never really written about anything like this before… maybe I can say this is my first step towards doing journals too!

    Sorry for the long post! :)
  2. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi ChickenSandwich: You ought to put your life story in your member biography, both for yourself and for other members to learn from:


    Since you've obviously been thoroughly check out by traditional MDs, your story certainly seems like a classic case of symptom substitution where you deal with TMS pain in one location and then it moves to another. Since you're reading HBP, you might also want to check out one of the criteria that Dr Sarno says is necessary for a complete cure of TMS: Discontinuing all treatment, including injections and chiropractic procedures, because they all reinforce the physical diagnosis and stop you focusing on the underlying psychological causes of your TMS pain. You hit the nail on the head about the placebo effect of cortisone injections. One time they work. The next time, no effect. That's often the case with back surgery too. Works great one time. The next time no change or improvement at all. Makes me kind of suspicious. How about yourself?

    Have you considered beginning the 37-day SEP (Structured Education Program) available on the TMS Wiki? That's a good place to start dealing with the psychological stressors behind TMS symptoms. Some people also like to watch the TMS Success Stories also available there. The videos with their first-person narratives give them a perspective on their own situation.

    All the best.
  3. gailnyc

    gailnyc Well known member


    Welcome to the forum! You will find a lot of help and support here. Don't worry about not believing 100% at first. As you begin to do TMS treatment and you find small bits of improvement, your confidence in the diagnosis will increase bit by bit.
  4. ChickenSandwich

    ChickenSandwich New Member

    Thanks for your replies BruceMC and Gailnyc!

    I have actually ceased all treatment and returned to the gym, as painful as it is. I had tried some alternative treatment for a while as well (Chinese Cupping) and the guy doing it kept saying to me, in very broken English, please don't have the operation because the problem isn't in your back at all. Again at the time I didn't think much of that comment. No matter where he touched me on my back/shoulders, I had a trigger point that hurt. He said that's the problem with doctors these days - too quick to operate and not prepared to put their hands on a the patient. However as I said, I've since stopped all treatment and anything related such as stretching and exercises.

    I started stepping through the SEP and I'm up to Day 18. I love watching the videos and reading, but I don't like writing - I really struggle with that part. I feel I have absolutely nothing to write about which is probably a bit weird.

    I do feel like I'm missing out on not being able to write though - perhaps I should be finding someone to communicate directly with such as emails / talking directly ?

    Other issue I've had in the past has been tinnitus - I get it about once a month at random times, then it just goes. This morning I decided to make a point of reading Dr Sarno's 12 daily reminders, and believe it or not as I started reading these the ringing started in my ear.. crazy! It actually made me laugh and then it just stopped.
  5. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Oh the power of the MRI! A person might have absolutely no pain at all, but then see their MRI and have a doctor point out a herniated disc and suddenly have debilitating back pain. The abnormality didn't cause the pain, the MRI did.

    You don't have to have everything figured out at the beginning. The more progress you make, the more confidence you will have. The main thing is to not try to force yourself to accept the diagnosis. The more pressure you put on yourself to get better, the more tension and stress you build up.

    I never enjoyed journaling. Like you, I always had difficulty finding something to write about, and when I did I felt that I was forcing it. Luckily, you do not have to journal to recover. It works for some people, but others, like myself, also recovered without journaling. If you don't like it, don't do it. Skip those activities in the program. You may want to substitute in reading Healing Back Pain again. It may seem odd to reread the book, but catch new things each time you read it. Knowledge is the key to this condition, and that book is full of knowledge.

    Another substitution for journaling is posting on the forum. I found interacting with people on the forum to be very helpful. We also have a weekly chat room/discussion group on Saturdays. The discussion group starts at 2 PM ET and the online chat room starts at 3 pm ET. Both of these events are a great way to interact with people directly. I would also be more than happy to talk with you over the phone sometime. Just send me a private message and we can set something up.

    I have always found that recovering from TMS involves acting like a scientist. You need to test different techniques to find which ones resonate with you, and go from there. Not every technique is going to work for you, and that is okay. We all come from unique experiences and histories, and our reactions to each technique will be equally unique.
  6. gailnyc

    gailnyc Well known member

    Chickensandwich, I wonder how good you are with emotions? I mean, do you feel like you are able to really feel your emotions, or do you tend to analyze them instead? Journaling during the first month of my TMS treatment really helped show me how much I tend to analyze and want to control my emotions, instead of allowing myself to feel them (which feels scary). I think that emotions are a big part of TMS and if you can't journal you should try and find some other way of expressing them.
  7. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think I started with reading all three of Dr John Sarno's books in chronological order and ending with the Divided Mind where I followed the written program recommended there. Then I did the 37-day Structured Education Program (SEP) followed by the course of written exercises and meditations given in Howard Schubiner's Unlearn Your Pain workbook. There seemed to be a common string of traumatic events, current stressors and personality traits in all three sets of written exercises. Now I just meditate on those events, stressors and personality traits as recommended by Howard Schubiner in his sequence of guided meditations. But I have to agree with Forest that one thing that really has solidified my gains and deepened my perspective on TMS is engaging in this Forum and the Saturday drop-in chats and book discussion groups. Seeing how other people cope with TMS has helped me place my own symptoms in a border context by helping me see how TMS operates. This has helped me gain more and more knowledge about myself and others and, again as Dr Sarno always points out, knowledge is the real cure for TMS and other psychogenic symptoms.
  8. ChickenSandwich

    ChickenSandwich New Member

    The best way to probably answer that is with - what emotions :) I have absolutely no doubt my unconscious is overflowing with repressed emotions, but I just don't know how to "access" them. I try to think about them but it just goes no where...

    BruceMC - thanks for your tips. I've read about 6 books now (including all 3 of Dr Sarno's) and I'm just finishing up reading "The Great pain Deception" which I have really enjoyed reading - I might have to give the writing exercises another go, but the problem I really find is I cannot think of *any* traumatic events, or even things that really bother me now, but that might come back to the comment I just made above re my emotions.

    The Saturday drop in chats sounds really interesting and beneficial, however I don't know how interactive I'd be after getting up for a chat at 5am on a Sunday morning! (I'm in Australia)

    And thanks for the information and offer to help Forest, it does give me hope that journaling isn't the only cure. I do have an amazing thirst for information on TMS at the moment, but I'm somewhat annoyed that the pain hasn't decreased (increased if anything) but I remember reading in the books that perhaps this is my body's last ditch effort to make me feel physical pain.
  9. gailnyc

    gailnyc Well known member

    Wow, so you're saying you are completely unaware of feeling any emotions at all?
    This might be where you need to start.
  10. ChickenSandwich

    ChickenSandwich New Member

    Well not completely emotionless, but my girlfriend and family often tell me it wouldn't hurt me to show some sort of emotion every now and then.

    I get frustrated/angry/annoyed/sad etc as most people, but don't show it. I don't feel like I have it all bottled up inside me though. To most people I appear pretty calm cool and relaxed all of the time , but now I know deep down I'm actually not
  11. Leslie

    Leslie Well known member

    ChickenSandwich our stories are sooooo similar it's a bit freaky! I was also directed the "psychological" route by a chiropractor. She had been treating me very diligently no less than once every 2 weeks (and boy did we celebrate when I could make it 2 weeks) when my symptoms got dramatically worse for no apparent reason. She did everything she could to try to talk me out of having an MRI, in fact she wouldn't write the script. I had to be sure we weren't missing anything so I saw a physiatrist. First thing he wanted to do was an MRI, and I had my chiropractor CC'd on the results. He told me all this horrible stuff about bulging this and herniated that and osteo here and degenerative there. Was recommending all sorts of injections and possible surgeries that "hopefully" would fix the problem. My chiro looked at the same test result and said, first of all the radiologist has no idea WHY you are having this test, all they do is write down EVERY single thing they see that does NOT match the picture in the anatomy textbook of the "perfect" human being (and incidentally, where do we find one of those to compare ourselves to?). Then she went on to tell me that if 100 painfree-people over the age of 30 were to have MRIs, 80 of them would have "herniated" this and "bulging" that...it's gravity. So, there was $500 out the window. All I knew for sure was that she hadn't lied to me yet, and the other doctor's treatment plan of "try this injection and see, or that surgery and maybe" were expensive options I couldn't think about. So, this wonderful chiropractor, who had tried to save me $500 and was at her wits end with why I couldn't maintain even a "tolerable" pain level consulted with some of her colleagues. The next time I saw her she very tactfully asked me some questions about "stressors" previously in my life in the early fall. Having been in her office multiple times a week for over a year we had become friends and I didn't think too much about why she would ask. She went on to tell me about the conversation with her colleagues and how they had reminded her that it had been around the same time, a year earlier, that all of them had physically evaluated me (at her request) when I was experiencing inexplicable pain. That's when she suggested the possibility that there might be an emotional component to my pain. After I verified that the theory even had merit (had to consult a family friend who's a psychologist because truthfully, my first thought was, what does a chiropractor know about pain having an emotional component) a google search introduced me to Dr. Sarno and all the fabulous folks on this forum! Incidentally, I think the reason chiropractors are much better at recognizing that pain has an emotional component is simply because their training and licensing requirements only allow them to threat the body as a whole, they can't puncture the skin so they have to look for ways to relieve pain without the use of pills, injections, or surgery. Through the course of my journey I even tried the chinese cupping, had several people ask if they could play "connect the dots" with the bruises too!

    I think our natural tendency is to pull away from everyone when we're in pain. We certainly don't want to be sociable and deal with strangers, we don't want to "inflict" our misery on our loved ones so we avoid them, and let's face it, the ones that are stuck in the same house as us are struggling to maintain their own sanity through our pain because we sure aren't easy to live with and all they want it so help us. And it's hard to feel like you're connecting and communicating with someone who truly cannot understand what you're experiencing. There are plenty of days that my journal and I don't connect. Truthfully, some days I can't face myself on that level. There are days when you can, and will communicate with just you. There are also probably more days when the only way you're going to be able to communicate with you is through someone else. The mirror is very useful for helping us get the spinach out of our teeth, but we all need someone to tell us to look in the mirror once in a while. This forum is great for that. Not only will someone else see a completely different meaning in something you didn't even realize you said, but you'll see it from time to time as well when you go back and read something you wrote later on. I also find much, much benefit from "penpals". Some of us are just not comfortable posting about all facets of ourselves in a public forum. Once you log into the forum, this website has a wonderful feature where you can have a private "email" conversation with specific participants that the rest of the world cannot view. The emails go back and forth through this site so your privacy is guaranteed unless you provide the participants with your direct contact information. Do start an email conversation you go to the top right of the screen where you see your screenname, next to that is "Inbox", if you click there you will see the option for Start a New Conversation, after that all you do is select the forum member you want to talk with and type your message. If you want to see if you might benefit from an email penpal, you're welcome to start a conversation with me. I try to log in at least a few times a week and I respond to every message I get. I can't promise I'll have all the answers but I can promise you empathy cuz I'm right there with ya!
  12. ChickenSandwich

    ChickenSandwich New Member

    Thanks so much for your wonderful reply Leslie, I really appreciate you spending the time to respond. Thanks for the advice on the "penpals" as well, I'm a very private person usually so even writing my little story above was a pretty big deal to me..

    I think one of the problems I am having at the moment is that with a lot of stuff I read, and perhaps I'm even going around in circles to some degree, it often talks of the past and how that contributes to the pain today. I really couldn't fault my childhood at all, and even through until now I couldn't say I really had anything to be worried or stressed, even angry about - unless of course this is the problem and I've just hidden it in my unconscious.

    The only things I can put it down to are my personality traits - having a look through the TMS personality traits on the wiki I can see myself appearing in Goodism, Stoic, and probably Low Self Esteem and even Anxiety. Just not sure what I do about these things to help me on my path to recovery.

    I manged to go for a 20 minute walk today which was a pretty big deal for me - it was damn painful - but I made it. The only problem is I've been walking around like a 90 year old lady since I got back (no one would have thought I was a 32 year old male!!)
  13. Leslie

    Leslie Well known member

    Sounds like you're making wonderful progress already. The 4 things you've identified already, "goodism, stoic, probably low self-esteem, and anxiety" are certainly not items to be minimized with the word "only". Those are 4 huge things. Start where you are, work with them. The stoic trait is likely the culprit for why you're going around in circles. I'm actually curious to know how you came to identify that trait, mostly I'm wondering if it was pointed out to you by someone else because my understanding is that it's a rare stoic that can see himself that way without assistance. Incidentally, you've already "done" what you do with those 4 things: you've identified them, you've recognized their likely contributions to your TMS. The more you get to know yourself and recognize your own patterns and tendencies, the clearer the path will become.

    Celebrate your accomplishment, you walked for 20 minutes. Let go of the thoughts of "how" you walked and just keep your focus on the simple, wonderful truth - YOU DID IT!!!
  14. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    And you didn't learn some dysfunctional emotionally repressive coping styles in childhood, Chicken, that contributed to the development of such personality traits as goodism, stoicism, low self-esteem, plus anxiety? You weren't born that way (that is, unless you suffered intrauterine trauma during fetal development). Those personality traits you list had to develop in response to your social environment somewhere along life's path. Perhaps, not during the first 6 years of life, but perhaps in response to hazing or bullying during elementary or intermediate school? You've hit the nail on the head of course when you identify those traits and suspect they're at the root cause of your TMS. But it sounds like you need to feel and connect your emotions with those traits in order to eliminate the hold they've gotten over you. As Dr Sarno would insist, passive appreciation just isn't enough; you have to really feel the repressed emotions behind those personality characteristics if you want to free yourself from their tyranny.
  15. gailnyc

    gailnyc Well known member

    Agree with Bruce.

    Also, you might want to start more slowly with the walking. "Pacing" rather than "boom-and-busting" will get you farther, though it might take more time.
  16. ChickenSandwich

    ChickenSandwich New Member

    Thanks Bruce - this actually made me think, it makes sense.. I wasn't born that way - so they HAD to have developed some way or another. I wasn't bullied during school at all , but I'll find out the cause of these traits some how!!
  17. Leslie

    Leslie Well known member

    As tempting as it is to jump in with the biggest excavator you can find and dig, dig, dig for the "cause" of these traits, try to resist the temptation. Yes, think about their roots, journal about it from time to time, but try not to make uncovering the "why" your new goal in life. I'm telling you this because I did (do from time to time until I catch myself or more often someone here calls me out on it) it. It can be very easy to switch the focus from the search for how to get rid of/reduce the physical pain, to why the pain is there. The bottom line is that uncovering the 4 points that you did, you've probably got the cause. Take your time getting to know them as you would a new acquaintance. Just focus on trying to notice when those traits are in action in your present, every day life.
  18. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    I love this analogy, Leslie. Like meeting a new acquaintance, don't try to force uncovering your emotions. For the most part, when you become more open and allowing you will begin to become aware of what your repressed emotions are, and how they developed. It is always important to remember that you may not have traumatic childhood events that are contributing to your symptoms. A lot of times, our repressive personality is developed by small encounters over the course of our lives. Identifying some of these events can be very helpful, but you also need to be able to use this knowledge to stop repressing emotions in the present. If you do that, you will make progress.

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