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My journey with chronic pain

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by North Star, Jul 20, 2014.

  1. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    A new friend here asked about my history with TMS (after reading my Schubiner account) so I thought I'd post it here. I wrote this awhile ago…and forgive me if I posted here awhile ago, I can't remember if I did or not. I warn you: This is long. I wrote it in two parts.

    Part 1

    The other day, I experienced something I’ve not experienced in probably 10 years. I went for a two mile walk. Without pain. And without the usual accoutrements I’ve grown used to using: custom orthotics, a shoe lift, and trekking poles. But yet even with these, I always finished my walks with an ice massage and ibuprofen.

    So this pain-free walk was sort of a big deal to me. And then I did another walk. And another. Over three days, I walked daily…pain free.

    First a little history. I’ve always been an avid walker/hiker. A 3-4 mile walk- with maybe a little jogging thrown in – was part of my daily routine. Until I got hit with shin splints – mid-calf pain that was nothing short of excruciating.

    That kicked off what was to be 10 years of visiting orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, podiatrists, chiropractors and sports trainers. X-rays and MRI’s would reveal swelling but nothing more. Everyone shrugged their shoulders and tosseds out their theories.

    The grand finale was when my achilles tendon blew about three years ago. (You haven’t lived until you experience the pain of a PT digging into a walnut-sized achilles.) Again – cause unknown.

    I followed every treatment protocol recommended. Had dry needling (a special kind of hell), ultrasound, acupuncture, massage, Reiki, heck, I joked to my friends that if they knew of a shaman, I’d make an appointment with him.

    Any relief was short-term and fleeting.

    And as if the shin splint weren’t enough, I’ve been dealing with a litany of other aches and pains. Headaches lasting a week or longer. Tendonitis here and there and seemingly, everywhere. And mysterious rashes and lesions. (Ah! The joy of waiting for biopsy results!) I blamed everything on a car accident when I was a kid and had been seriously injured.

    My doc summed it all up with a fibromyalgia diagnosis. (With fibromyalgia, a person is diagnosed when they have 11 out of 18 “tender points”- certain spots on various muscles that are painful to touch). I scored 18.

    It was a relief to have a diagnosis but it was also devastating. Is THIS what I have to look forward to? Costco sized bottles of ibuprofen and physical therapy appointments for the rest of my life?

    To be continued…

    Part 2

    It’s amazing what one can find trolling around on the internet – like a new life.

    Through a series of twists and turns down a bunny path, I found Dr. John Sarno’s book, The Divided Mind – The epidemic of mindbody disorders on Amazon.

    I had looked at one of his earlier books, Healing Back Pain- the mind-body connection several years ago but had dismissed it since my back issues began with broken vertebrae and later, herniated discs. Ain’t nobody telling me my back pain was in my head!

    I kept looking at the book and the astounding reviews. “After reading this book, I was cured of 10 years of horrible pain!” The vast majority of the reviewers sounded like they had just returned from a faith healing meetin’. (I also watched clips of interviews on Youtube – be sure to check out the one that was on 20/20. John Stossel says Dr. Sarno’s approach cured his agonizing back.)

    So, I downloaded the sample pages on my Kindle. And I saw myself among the many case studies. People like me who are dealing with chronic pain with no answers in sight!

    Ever the skeptic, I emailed a wise friend and asked if he had heard of the book. “Yes,” he replied. “It revolutionized my life.” He went on to tell me of how he bought a book for a friend whose wife was bedridden with pain. The husband read the book to the wife who then got up from the bed, pain-free.

    I bought the book and spent the rest of the afternoon and the following day, reading and highlighting it…cover to cover. And back again.

    I learned that I don’t have fibromyalgia. I have TMS – Tension Myositis Syndrome. (And actually, fibromyalgia is considered an intense version of TMS.) TMS is a benign condition caused by a mild oxygen deprivation to a muscle which is triggered by repressed and/or sub-conscience emotions.

    Whoa. Emotions? Did I just say this was in my head? Uh yes. But I’m not saying it’s imaginary. The pain response is VERY REAL. The symptoms are VERY REAL. And it’s costing billions upon billions of dollars for ineffective treatments…to say nothing of the toll of suffering.

    Dr. Sarno, now retired, was a professor of rehabilitative medicine in addition to being a practicing physician for several decades. He witnessed first hand how much people were suffering and how ineffective standard medical treatment was.

    Using some of Freud’s theories of the Id, Ego And Super Ego, he postulated that TMS was cause by the mindbody connection. Suppressed and subconscious emotions activate the nervous system which then sets in motion the mild oxygen deprivation. Boom! PAIN. Or a host of other ailments, such as gastrointestinal problems, dermatological disorders and soft tissue inflammation.

    Sarno states that he has successfully treated over 10,000 patients simply by educating them via lectures or his books.

    Why would the brain do this? The brain is trying to protect you through distraction. Subconsciously, it decides that it would be easier to hurt physically than to sort out painful emotions.

    I know it sounds crazy. I’m still trying to get my mind around this.

    So how does one grab hold of this and become pain free? First, it’s important to rule out any structural issues. I’ve already done that a gazillion times. (But keep in mind that even with evidence of say, arthritic changes, the pain response is, in many cases, caused my TMS and NOT by arthritis.)

    Next, it’s a matter of recognizing the dynamic taking place. I’ve been telling myself, “Leg, you ARE FINE. Your shoulder is fine. Your head is fine.” (Sort of like I would ask the neuro to tell me I have no brain tumor when I was in the midst of one of my raging headaches. I knew what he was going to say but it always made me feel better just to hear it.)

    The other action I took, on the advice Sarno gives in the book, I tossed the orthotics and heel lifts out of my shoes. And I went for a walk…without my trek poles.

    And that, my friend, is when I noticed I had no pain. Oh…a few twinges here and there. But not the hot poker mid calf feeling.

    I’d like to say all pain has gone POOF! and disappeared but that is not true. As a matter of fact, when I started journaling, a very important component in recognizing patterns in pain and emotions, I developed tendonitis in my hand making it difficult to hold a pen. (And guess what? With TMS, there’s a thing called “symptom imperative” which means the pain might resolve in one location and then pop up in another.)

    An important thing to remember is to quit looking for physical causes and acknowledge that this is a mindbody thing.

    And yes, some people are instantly healed. Others must contend for it. (It would appear I’m going to have to walk some of this out but that’s okay.) Sarno estimates about 80% of folks are helped immediately and over a period of a few months. Some folks require psychotherapy from a therapist trained in TMS, but they are among the minority.

    My action list so far is: Resume the activities that I have forsaken because of fear of bringing on more pain. (Like vacuuming…that has been a migraine trigger. I vacuumed the other day with no problem.) I’ve ditched all the stuff I’ve accumulated over years of PT – ankle support, wrist support, etc. I journal daily and record dreams when I have them. I’m owning up to some deep emotions and painful issues. I’m learning how to make boundaries with some people that drain me…instead of suffering silently and feeling like a victim. I am also keeping an “Evidence” record to remind myself of the growing victories in taking my life back.

    Most importantly, I am also envisioning a future free of pain and full of hikes and lap swimming.

    Our brains are amazing. No matter your view, evolution or creation, I think we can all agree the brain is beyond our understanding and marvelous in its functions. Through understanding some of these mindbody dynamics, we can harness its strength and healing inherent with every human being.

    If you’ve made it this far in my lengthy epistle, thank you! I hope if you’re dealing with pain, it will encourage you to check out Dr. Sarno’s book.

    And be sure and let me know what your experience is.

    Thanks again for reading…here’s to a bright and pain-free life!
  2. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is awesome North Star. Thanks. I will put it in my favorites. You did an excellent job. I can feel your words. This is something you have put a lot of work into. Congratulations. :)
    Bless you
  3. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Aw, thanks Herbie! That's mean a lot coming from you. :happy:
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  4. Mala

    Mala Well known member

    North Star. Fantastic. I have only gleaned thru yr post but will sit done & savour every word later.

    Just wondering if u would like to put it up on,'My Story' under your Profile so that it's available there all the time.

  5. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    North Star, your report is fantastic. I will suggest to Forest that you be interviewed for the
    documentary movie "The Message of Pain" that Michael Galinsky is working on about
    TMS and Dr. Sarno. You tell the process so very well.
  6. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Mala, that is a fantastic idea and I will do just that! (But later…we just got back from our 4,300 mile trek!)

    Walt, thank you so very much! You honor me; it would be way cool to be interviewed if I can be of any help.
    Forest likes this.
  7. IrishSceptic

    IrishSceptic Podcast Visionary

    thanks for sharing. I came across Sarno in January this year and was so skeptical I only got round to seriously considering it now. have read ''healing back pain'' and still find it hard to take in. the journalling is absolutely incredible, throws up a lot of stuff you thought you had forgotten about.
    I've been in chronic pain 6 years, beginning with low back and now in shoulders,neck,ball of foot so this gives me some hope.
    My sister is a doctor and I was trying to explain it to her with little success, I'm an engineer and my opinions are firmly rooted in structuralism so it is taking me some time to consider the possibilities.
    the more I look at myself the more I see the same person as described by Sarno, its almost spooky. Schubiner replied to an email I sent too.
    Ironically I'm not meticulously documenting my symptomatology to see if they align with classic TMS traits :) perfectionism at play
    Tennis Tom and North Star like this.
  8. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    IrishSceptic - First,welcomea!

    It's great that you had such a short gap with hearing about Sarno and then reading it several months later. It took me over 10 years before I considered it again after flinging it across my living room. :eek: So you're making great progress even if you don't realize it.

    Your last sentence made me chuckle too. I DID document my symptoms and was so embarrassed at the length of the list going back 40 years. Oh well. It's all good if we keep moving forward.

    Hang in there…we're glad you're here!
    IrishSceptic likes this.
  9. IrishSceptic

    IrishSceptic Podcast Visionary

    Its pretty incredible and I'm now reading Mindbody Prescription and have Divided mind on order. I would really like to see the DVD lecture, have read the thread on that and sadly its been taken down from Youtube..why didn't I find this earlier! I'm aware of the need for repeated exposure to the material given how much of a shift in understanding is required.
    can anyone help with sourcing Sarnos DVD?
    I see Georgie Oldfield based in UK is a Sarno advocate but I'd love to hear it from the source as I find his earnestness refreshing.
    Have been to a sports medicine specialist, rheumatologist(who to his credit told me nothing was wrong and to get back exercising), two pain specialists.
    The most recent pain specialist told me that ''you must get on with life and learn to live with it'' , ''you'll know real pain when you get a wife''.
    I know...
    its seemingly got progressively worse and worse and I've been to very dark places as a result of the frustration and ''Chinese Water torture'' type situation.
    anyway I'm open to the idea given the strength of some peoples stories(with much more serious structural issues than my own).
    Thank you Northstar,
    hopefully I can find what I'm looking for
    North Star likes this.
  10. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Good luck convincing your sister the doc, John Stossel's bro is a doc too and he won't hear of it as he writhes in pain on the floor from TMS/backpain. Doctors, especially surgeons, have nothing to gain from 80% of what ails humanity being psychosomatic.

    The mindbody/brain/nervous system/endocrine/emotional system is STRUCTURAL! The brain is a vast complex unexplored universe. Dr. Sarno says we will not understand its workings in our lifetime or maybe ever. He says the mechanism(s) of how TMS functions is not important, only that we understand the theory that emotions can create real structural pain as a distraction from what the unconscious perceives as dangerous thoughts.
    IrishSceptic and North Star like this.

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