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My introduction to TMS, dealing with arm pain

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by lisamr, Dec 25, 2017.

  1. lisamr

    lisamr New Member

    Over the last 3 months, I've been dealing with a ridiculous amount of pain that I have never experienced before. It all started when I was doing handstands on an elbow with a partially torn ligament (I'm not patient and I have an obsession with staying active). On the third day of doing handstands, I started having pain on the lateral side of my elbow (ligament is on the medial side). I ignored the pain, thinking it was referred pain from the ligament, but as the ligament healed completely, the lateral forearm pain persisted and got worse. Within 2.5 weeks, I developed pain on the inside of my other arm, which I was able to rid by massaging it heavily, but the next day the lateral side started to hurt in same way as the other arm. I reasoned it was from overcompensation.

    Both the doctor and PT had troubles giving me a diagnosis since I didn't present with the typical tennis elbow symptoms, but they still called it that. It's a general tightness over the forearms with no weakness, just pain. The doctor told me to wear compression straps near the elbow joint to "allow the tendon to heal", and after 8 hours of wearing them, I develop excruciating pain on the insides of my elbows. Great, I have golfers elbow now too, I thought. It was so bad I couldn't zip up my own jacket for a week without pain.

    One week later, the pain starts to improve slightly, but my neck starts to hurt and so do my muscles along the ulnar nerve. Then my pinkies go numb! I rationalized the compression straps irritated my flexor muscles, which then took a week to irritate my ulnar nerves (because that makes sense...). I convinced myself I had cubital tunnel syndrome, then thoracic outlet syndrome, then that I had a pinched nerve in my neck that was sending referred pain down my arms.

    One week after my ulnar nerve acted up, nerve pain on my inner thighs and knees began. My lower back was totally fine and I went on a run at 7 min pace a few days before, so again, it didn't make sense. The pain subsided after 3 weeks. In times of stress, I can still feel the nerve acting up.

    I was watching my body deteriorate and was freaking out that this is my life now, thinking that I'll have to accept a life full of chronic pain. It made (still makes) me anxious, depressed, and I frequently had panic attacks. I would cry when I thought of my life just a few months ago, full of happiness and freedom to do my hobbies and work I love. My identity is rooted in my activities--I climb to feel strong, graceful, and attractive; I work with wood and metal to feel capable and thwart sexist stereotypes; I draw, paint, carve and knit to feel creative; I type and use the mouse to work on my dissertation! All of these activities are impossible without pain-free arms.

    Things started to take a turn 2 weeks ago when I took an anti-anxiety pill. The muscles in my neck went from tight and knotted to smooth and relaxed. Cool. The pain came back a few hours later. I then came down with the flu and my attention was on getting my fever down. I finally was able to take a quality nap and woke up with a normal temperature, and no neck pain! Awesome. Later that night, I had a panic attack again and I watch my neck muscles tense up and again and the pain was back. This was the first ah-ha moment for me because I know for certain my neck pain is from my emotions. A few days later, I smoked some weed and I watched pain reappear on the insides of my arms. I am aware that smoking can amplify pain, but this time it brought back pain that was absolutely not there. Another ah-ha moment for me.

    In the last week, I've read the Mindbody Prescription and I'm making my way through the Great Pain Deception. Neck and leg pain are a thing of the past and now I'm working towards ridding the arm pain. I'm already seeing a major reduction in pain when I type, do the dishes, and cook. Not to mention that I did my first pull up this week in 3 months! And I've started to climb again (albeit very lightly) and reintroduce my theraband exercises with no additional pain(have to do them if I don't want to dislocate my shoulder again).

    Despite the progress, my arms still hurt, especially at rest, and I'm having a difficult time fully accepting that I can't just strengthen and stretch my pain away. I also still can't help obsessing about my arm pain and I think that is my biggest hurdle. Of course I'm trying to focus on any of repressed emotions in my life, which are plenty. I guess I'm writing on this forum because I need an external source of encouragement and authority to tell me my arm pain is indeed TMS. I read and relate to the stories on this forum, but it would also be helpful to know other people relate to my experience too. Hopefully in the near future I can post more good news of letting go of pain, both emotional and physical.
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  2. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is a great intro story, lisa! I often forget to make this recommendation, but you might want to copy and post this to your profile so you can add to it later, and have fun looking back on how far you've come.

    You haven't mentioned the SEP - our Structured Educational Program, which many people have found really helpful in giving structure to doing this work - so I highly recommend it. It's a free program put together by Forest and some other early volunteers. It's on the main tmswiki.org here: http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/Structured_Educational_Program (Structured Educational Program)

    Back in 2011, I also found a lot of instant relief just from reading The Divided Mind, but I still had other symptoms that didn't go away immediately, and to this day, I still backslide during times of stress and mindlessness. The SEP really helped me back then, and to this day I pull out my favorite writing and examination techniques from the SEP to help me get back on track.

    Good luck!

  3. lisamr

    lisamr New Member

    Hi Jan, thanks for the encouragement. I've seen on other people's posts that the SEP or Alan's program have been really helpful.

    Two questions regarding those programs:
    1. Should I follow the SEP or Alan's program?
    2. Do people typically read only 1 day's worth of information, or can you front-load it? I guess if you front-load it, you won't have an agenda to work with, but you can also use a lot more techniques earlier on.
  4. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Well, I did the SEP, which I really liked because each Day's readings and/or exercises didn't take a whole lot of time, so it was easy for me to stay on track. I think that the SEP is worth doing if for no other reason than it introduces you to different resources and techniques. That being said, we didn't have Alan's program back in 2011, and I haven't taken the time to do it. THAT being said, I have always loved Alan's work, I listened in on the webinars he used to do for the forum, and his input is always spot-on.

    Which program you do, or do first, is undoubtedly a personal choice. You can always try Day 1 of both, and see what appeals to you.

    As for front-loading, I say that if you have time to do more than one day at a time, go for it! There will be other days when you don't have time to do it at all.

    The thing is, there's really no wrong way to do this work - except for NOT doing the work! Your perfectionist brain will try to hold you back worrying about whether you're doing it right or not - don't let it trick you into that mistake! Just do it :D
  5. lisamr

    lisamr New Member

    I feel like a wizard. While TMS pain sucks and at times it feels unfair, I'm watching my mind unravel my physical pain and it's soooo cool! I first learned about TMS 2 weeks ago from an RSI blog post and I'm happy to say with full-out honesty it's 90% better.

    There are a couple of things that allowed me to buy into TMS pretty rapidly, which I think has helped a lot. Associating the neck pain with emotions, having absolutely no diagnosis from the doctors other than "idiopathic pain", and intellectually acknowledging that my pain didn't make any sense structurally all aided me. My pain was too sudden, drastic and erratic, and meanwhile my body is too strong and young to deteriorate the way it did.

    I've been climbing more in the gym, each time with less pain and more strength, and I'm doing daily chores with no fear of pain. I'm reconnecting with my identity, something that I felt I had lost for the last few months, and it feels great. This positive feedback is giving me the confidence I need to overcome the pain. I'm really excited to go climbing in Tahoe this weekend (just some easy stuff), which will be the first time outside since August when I tore my ligament in Yosemite.

    I've been contemplating the different tensions in my life and I could list many of them: pressure to land on a dissertation topic in the second year of my PhD, the pain and anger with growing up with my dad who doesn't know how to express his anger without exploding at my mom, and most of all the fear and anxiety associated with being broken forever. I'm going through Alan's program and the thing that I resonate most with is learning how to mindfully attend to pain. Yesterday I was doing some theraband exercises and right after, my elbows and biceps were burning. I knew it was in my mind and it was consuming all of my attention. Out of desperation to end the pain, I got into the shower and felt a flood of anxiety. Instead of buying into it, it became an opportunity for me to just witness it like an audience member in a play. It was like a game to me and actually interesting. I got out of the shower and no more anxiety or burning pain for the rest of the night. In the future, I'd like to be able to do the same without having the aid of a hot shower, but there's no rush.
  6. lisamr

    lisamr New Member

    I'd also like to add that in spite of the advice to withhold from PT exercises, I'm actually doing them and I think they're helpful. I'm using the flexbar (a possibly gimicky tool for tennis elbow) and I'm stretching daily to ease the pain in my elbows and biceps. I'm also just being more physically active in general, which is helping my emotional state and certainly my atrophied body.

    TMS success hinges upon open-mindedness, so in the same vain I'm open to the idea that my body needs attention too. Sure, Sarno says to think psychologically, but at least in my case, thinking structurally helps too. I believe my mind causes my body to undergo physiological changes that elicit pain. Yes, the underlying cause is psychological, but I'm still experiencing physical changes that can be ameliorated with specific physical exercises. I get a lot of joy in body movement, so this approach might be unique to me.
  7. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    You are a TMS rock star, Lisa!
    So many great things in your posts - I have to highlight a few:
    You've got it!

    I have to say something about the use of the term "idiopathic pain". I've certainly heard the term before, but in this particular context ("we can't find anything wrong") it only now occurs to me that "idiopathic" has replaced "psychosomatic" which of course has had a bad rap for decades. But is there a difference? I don't think so!!!

    At least one of my most important turning points came about when I was able to observe a curtain of depression try to descend on my brain - I also felt like I was standing back and observing it with great interest - until I decided I wasn't having any of that, and beat it back!

    You seem to be able to love yourself enough that you can give yourself what you need in the moment. Many people are unable to do this - they are convinced that if they don't do this work "perfectly", that they won't recover - and in doing so, they remain stuck.

    I agree with you 100% There's no reason to be narrow-minded and rigid when doing this work - any many reasons NOT to be so. And, I refer to my previous comment.

    You go, girl! Here's to a brand-new you in 2018!

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