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Need advice - muscle tightness

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by TG957, May 25, 2016.

  1. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    My TMS symptoms are Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS aka RDS). After severe pain dissipated and swelling in my hands is almost gone, I am pretty much down to extreme tension in muscles and tendons in my arms and hands. It is getting a bit better but very, very slow. I can't fully bend or extend my fingers and wrists but the pain in them is moderate. Every once in a while I get much stronger pains all over my body, mostly in joints, but without tension. I can eliminate most of the pain (wherever it appears) quite well, just start moving and it goes away. But tension and numbness in fingers persists.

    Any advice on what should I do? I don't seem to be able to focus away from it or to focus into it with intention to relax.
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I know it's hard to do, but shifting your focus away from the symptoms is the best way I know to recover. Try shifting your thoughts to other people, animals, music, nature or become engaged in an activity that will distract you, preferably something enjoyable. This practice creates moments when you forget about the symptoms, and forgetting about the symptoms is the same as being symptom free. Creating more and more of these moments is the process of recovery.
    FreeB, Goldy, MWsunin12 and 1 other person like this.
  3. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you, Ellen!

    Well, my issue is that I have a difficult time shifting my thoughts away unless I don't do ANYTHING with my hands at the time because most of what we do involves hands, so I get reminded every minute of my waking time about tightness and clumsiness of my hands: I can't grab or hold things, I can't handwrite, I type with limitations through discomfort and often pain. Even activity that I love (hiking) for whatever reason leads to increase in swelling in my hands.

    It is easier for me to shift my thoughts away from pain, I do it just fine, but tightness is another story.
    Last edited: May 27, 2016
  4. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hmmmmm......that's interesting that you can shift away from pain and not tightness. I would just keep using the same technique you're using to shift away from pain, and apply it to the tension. Are you talking to your brain? Many people find this helps, even doing it aloud. Saying something like "Stop it brain. There is no reason why my hands should be tense or swell since there is nothing physically wrong me." Your conscious brain can eventually overrule your unconscious with repetition.
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  5. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    I second Ellen's suggestions to sink into enjoyable and pleasurable moments and activities. This probably falls under the rage to soothe ratio so it's worth reminding yourself of Sarno's words on that.

    I suffer with a lot of upper body tension/tightness mostly as a consequence of bracing against trigeminal neuralgia but also just because I experience a fair measure of irritation day to day and have come to see this annoyance as a form of low level anger duly represented by tension as low level pain. Tis only my sense-making of my situation but I offer it for any insights it brings.

    Late last year into early this year I was going great guns and could even be heard stating aloud "by the gods I am getting better". Not a prayer or vague hope but a genuinely delighted pronouncement of healing. Then something utterly rubbish happened and continues to drag its sorry *** around and I have been struggling again with a flare-up. I consider this a fine example of tms blowing its cover by trying too hard.

    Now, the magic.
    The way I was getting better was swimming. Not only mindlessly cruising along the lanes (although I do this too) but also spending stupidly indulgent amounts of time in the jacuzzi and spa bath. It is bubble heaven. I sit there with a big stupid grin on my face and muse on how this might feel to be a queen in the downtimes.

    For me this mini spa routine is one of my gold standard pleasures. If I won the lottery I would hop from one luxury spa to another. If I didn't have my partner tugging at me with his "please can we go home now" routine I'd stay there for hours.

    Every now and then we read something in the tms literature which gifts us with a lightbulb moment. I had one reading Dr. Schu's 'Unlearn Your Pain". It was " selfish people don't suffer pain." That one hit home. I'm finding the key to my healing is balancing being a carer with being a woman with all the sensual wants and fancies that make me feel all lush and juicy.

    a.k.a. pleasure

    (And Sarno smiles.)
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2016
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  6. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Plum, thank you for the post! I just returned from a several day outing doing exactly what I love doing the most: backpacking and hiking in a beautiful area. Enjoyed it greatly, as always. My joint pain in arms and legs was going through the roof when I got on the trail and subsided from level 7-8 to level 2-3 by the end of the trip, despite doing 7-8 miles a day with a heavy pack and on days without a pack 10-12 miles, all in the mountains, up and down hills. However, tension in muscles DID NOT get ANY better. As a matter of fact, my hands only got worse (yeah, from walking?). I have a very difficult time bending fingers and my hands are only getting clumsier as time goes. No magic. Magic only happens when I do essentially physical therapy, by stretching my fingers, wrists and ankles through painful yoga and qi gong exercise - which is against Sarno's recommendations. Even that only helps for a few hours - then everything goes back to square one.
  7. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Ah the mountains. Are they not beautiful and majestic. Glad to hear you had a glorious time.

    Let's keep a friendly eye on the psychological ball. The only reason Sarno stopped using physical treatments is that he realised the problem was psychological. This doesn't negate the physical altogether but does mean we need to clarify our intention. If we engage in physical things to heal our pain we miss the mark, however when we do them as part of over-arching self-care it's ok. Indeed in terms of general health and well-being it behooves us all to embrace some form of holistic practice. Yoga, Qi gong, TaiJi are too often stripped of their roots and meaning and reduced to exercise.

    You mention that the yoga exercises you do are painful. Have you read Ellen's post on yoga?

    http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/threads/what-hatha-yoga-has-taught-me-about-pain.6512/ (What Hatha Yoga has taught me about pain)

    I practise a form of yoga called yin yoga which is deeply contemplative and gentle. It involves holding poses for longer periods than other styles and as Ellen describes in her post, I have learned a huge amount about pain and relaxation from it. Mostly though I find it connects me profoundly with my heart and the rush of compassion has left me in tears sometimes. This for me is more healing than the postures themselves.

    As for pleasure, it is a circuit-breaker for a lifestyle that became too freighted by stress. I view pleasure as a rolling way of being. On and on and on as opposed to an occasional jolly. While this is largely aspirational, making it an integral part of life seems key. When you reflect upon it, why wouldn't we create a pleasurable lifestyle for ourselves? We're here for such a short time after all, seems a shame to put the washing up before a long hot bath.

    I find my tension and pain levels can be all over the place regardless of how much or how little I swim or spa each time but in the long haul, they do begin to diminish. Certainly we can ascribe all the usual boons of exercise and movement to this but there is also a profound psychological factor. In the greater scheme going to the baths gives me a break. Being a 24/7 carer is no joyride and I can go stir-crazy battling the same shit day in and day out. Unless and until someone discovers a cure for Parkinson's that situation won't change. It is what it is. I choose to stay and look after my partner and mostly we do quite well. As you can imagine there are endless ways such a situation can make you want to throw in the towel.

    Standing on the shoulders of many great philosophers, Claire Weekes observed that how we view our situation is the thing. If we see it as noble and beautiful, it is. However when our view of it becomes diminished all bets are off and our health goes down the tubes.

    This is encapsulated in The Myth of Sisyphus. Can we imagine Sisyphus to be happy? Here it helps to have a sense of humour and to embrace Camus' ideas on the absurdity of life. When I start to take it all very seriously my pain and tension go through the roof. When I don't, they calm. It would be easy to come to this forum and post endless 'woe is me' stuff but to what end? I have meltdowns. I deal with them. I wake to a new day every day.

    We all know there's no such thing as magic other than the spells we can cast with our own hearts and minds. We have that choice.

    Get out of your own way and do what works for you and keep on doing it until you forget there was ever a reason for its inception.
    billiewells, mike2014 and Ellen like this.
  8. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Plum, I have been doing yoga for 17 years and it is my meditation, has been for many years. Indeed, it started as a physical exercise to stretch and became much needed for both mind and body. I practice vinyasa mostly, since the flow of it gets me into a meditative state of mindbody but when in pain, i take it slow and do yin yoga. When my CRPS symptoms were at the peak, one of the things that pulled me through was the yoga hiking group that I have been running for years. We hike and then practice yoga in the park. Just being with my yoga buddies and being able to do whatever little was left for me in it by the debilitating pain, was very healing.

    When, upon reading Sarno's book, I got into the down dog first after a 5 months break, I could only hold it for 3 seconds. It took me 3 months to finally be able to do the sun salutation flow again, but I start with pain every time and slowly breathe my way into relaxation (as much as my hands would allow). Of course, when I was in the mountains, I did my yoga, on the beach and on the meadow - that truly is YOGA. But out of yoga and couple hours later - I am back to tense fingers and wrists. Not planning on throwing my towel in - hoping that there is something else I could do to speed up recovery.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
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  9. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Sweetheart, do you meditate? Are you able to sit still and be with yourself? Or do you only engage in movement meditations?

    I've done yoga on and off for years and have noticed many people are decidedly physically focused. They are better at playing with the body's limits and tend to neglect the edges of the mind. I only raised the subject of yoga as a bridge from the physical to the mental~emotional as it can help people transition their awareness not only from their pain but also from future-oriented thinking into present moment awareness. Only you can answer this. I wasn't teaching you how to suck eggs but rather suggesting ways of shifting out of the physical arena. This is so crucial to tms healing that it cannot be said enough.

    I'd also add that trying to speed healing is another manifestation of tms intensity. It takes as long as it takes. Remember too that any *recovery* is not physical, but comes when we have calmed our inner fires. If your anger-cup continues to runneth over you will still experience the symptoms for purposes of distraction. This does not refer to emotions you feel and are aware of. This is about unconscious rage perhaps with a peppering of sorrow.

    Pema Chodron once said the bigger the smile, the greater the anger inside, with reference to buried emotion. I saw this a lot within various spiritual communities over the years. Because it's not particularly acknowledged it can render some people vulnerable to abuse hence the awful stories of cults-gone-bad that we hear of. I lost a friend to a cult and saw all this writ large.

    Essentially, respectfully I am suggesting that you go back to tms basics, that's why I said to 'keep our eye on the psychological ball'.

    Read this thread, especially the latter part of Walt's initial comment on burn it, face it, transform it.

    http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/threads/call-in-tuesday-jan-14-steve-ozanich-book-chapter-26.3448/#post-67167 (Call-in Tuesday, Jan. 14, Steve Ozanich book Chapter 26)


    Last edited: Jun 9, 2016
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  10. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Plum, I think you hit the nail on it's head.

    I am reading Steve Ozanich's book, incidentally, chapter 26 and figuring out what to do with my anger and how to find it as I feel NONE of it.

    My main issue is that I can't take my mind off the timeline and my attention of the damn tension in my hands. It infuriates me that I can't "fix" myself quickly enough. What really does not help is the fact that daily things like picking up a pen, typing, opening the door, brushing teeth, taking a shower (and list goes on) remind me of tension in my hands and force me to alter the ways I am used to doing things - and it ain't getting visibly better, it just moves from one finger to another or one part of the hand/arm to another.

    Also, I am getting better with my meditative practices, although being able to do a sitting meditation has always been my challenge. However, I learned that even Jon Kabat-Zin, a founding father of the mindfulness in the modern US, considers walking meditation 100% kosher. Walking is effortless to me and a walk in the woods has always been the most healing and relaxing thing to do. I have been doing more of it lately.

    Thank you again!


    plum likes this.
  11. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle


    I'm a huge fan of movement meditations. I used to be a middle eastern dancer and enjoyed a long period of exploring the ways different cultures encountered consciousness through movement. My particular favourite was zaar which is a trance ritual originating in Middle Eastern and North African countries. I love these ancient arts where the mind is gently led from its daily concerns until peace and contemplation take over, and where we ultimately fall into physical stillness and an unshakable equanimity.

    Equanimity is exquisite. A place of loving and warm engagement with the world but with no reactions. We have moved beyond the demands of our lives such that we are not indifferent to them but no longer troubled and we can approach them with compassion. It's that blissful feeling of coming home following a retreat and truly deeply knowing that your life is unconditionally fine and wonderful just the way it is. It does well to nurture this and flood our lives with its grace. (Yoga in meadows and on the beach is such an earthy way to do so :) )

    Movement meditations are a great way of cooling the fires as they all activate the parasympathetic nervous system. They can be an end unto themselves and they can be gateway into the most profound states of meditation. Honestly I find straight-forward sitting meditation a challenge too but after burning off some of the heat, I find it natural and a delight.

    I suppose the big question is where does this fit into tms healing?
    Or better still, where does tms healing fit into these tried-and-tested, world-encompassing ancient ways?

    Playfully, wherever you want it to. Sarno wasn't a yogi or a dervish. We have to find the balancing point ourselves and I suspect that for each of us that looks and feels very different. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. I like to think that everyone here is sitting around a crackling real fire in a forest and that we are sharing our tales and wisdom and woes and that from this we become enriched and empowered to forge our own healing path.

    Tis an honour to reflect on these elements with you.

    Much love,

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