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Need encouragement for sitting at desk

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Rainstorm B, Jan 14, 2019.

  1. Rainstorm B

    Rainstorm B Peer Supporter

    Hello all

    I've been making great progress with multiple very long-standing TMS pain and other symptoms - the most stubborn is left-hand neck/shoulder/upper back pain and tension, particularly when sitting at my computer.

    This was my first set of symptoms, and got steadily worse day after day sitting at a computer screen for many hours doing a very stressful (and hated) job, in a not particularly pleasant environment, during an emotionally turbulent period of my life back in the early 2000s. I left that job many, many years ago (15!) and have more recently re-trained in a completely different career, but one that still requires occasional long spells of computer work. I'm having real trouble maintaining the progress I have made when I have to sit at my desk. Luckily I am now self-employed, so I'm able to manage my own hours. Although I have the odd day where sitting at the screen is not an issue, on the whole it is a struggle, with my neck and back going into spasm, and I am having trouble applying the TMS principles when it happens. It's hard to focus on the work I have to do at the same time as dealing with the symptoms...

    I am guessing that my unconscious associations between sitting at a desk and horrible stress must be pretty deep-rooted. I catch my body going into a habitual twist as I sit in my chair and I'm having trouble completely ditching the idea that this and the tension aren't connected - they certainly feel like they are.
    I am also actively working with the anxiety that comes up around establishing a new business and the steep learning curve I am on with much of it - my sleep gets very disturbed in the thick of a new project too.

    I'd be really really grateful to hear about any successes you might have had in similar situations or any thoughts about how I could best approach this.

    Many thanks,
  2. HattieNC

    HattieNC Well known member

    Hi Rainstorm,

    I've worked at a computer for 30 plus years. I never had issues until I had a complete physical breakdown in 2014. You can read the details under "My Story." Even though I've achieved about 75% recovery using TMS techniques, I still have pain with sitting. Particularly, left shoulder, rib, and scapula pain/spasms. One thing that helps is dancing at work. Weird isn't it? Luckily, I have a private office - so at least once a day I close my door, put in earbuds and listen to my favorite rock tunes while dancing like a crazy women. I also do stretches and bends to the rhythm of the music. After about 20 minutes, I feel refreshed and my muscles are nice and loose instead of taunt and in pain. Lastly, I make it a point to leave the office each day. On pretty days, I walk in the park. When the weather is bad, I go to local retail shops or grocery stores. I'm always amazed at how much these little breaks helps my mood and pain levels.
    Ellen and Rainstorm B like this.
  3. Rainstorm B

    Rainstorm B Peer Supporter

    Hello Hattie

    Thank you so much for your response! I am laughing at myself now because I just read your post, thought "Hmmm, maybe I'm still not great at taking screen breaks", looked up to check the time and saw to my horror that it is almost 7.30pm (UK time) - I have been sitting at my desk basically all day since 9am with maybe a couple of quick breaks to make coffee. Why do I do this to myself? No wonder my body complains every time I sit down to work! For that reason I am going to postpone replying properly, switch off my computer and leave my desk for the day. I might even have a little dance before dinner! I'll come back tomorrow. Talk soon.
  4. Rainstorm B

    Rainstorm B Peer Supporter

    Thanks so much for your thoughts on this Hattie. I've read your story and can relate to so much of what you have experienced and what you have had to discover about yourself to get so far along the road to recovery. I feel really encouraged and hopeful that my own slow steady recovery can continue in the same way. I've got so far in shaking off multiple TMS symptoms, but this pain when sitting thing has become so perplexing, not least because it was the first symptom I had. I seem to get into loops with it - I can't concentrate properly because I'm in pain, therefore my work takes twice as long as it should, therefore I need to put in even more hours at my desk, which makes the pain worse...and so it continues. Self employment can be a curse as well as a blessing in this respect, as it feels like I have unlimited hours, rather than having to get something done by the end of the day for an employer, for example. It's time to start trying something different in the way I manage my work I think...

    I love that you dance in your office - I don't think it's weird that that helps at all - dancing is the perfect mix of physical and fun and surely gets the endorphins moving. I used to love dancing and there's no reason I couldn't do these things for myself too as I work from home so don't even need to worry about strange looks from colleagues! I know that I could also help myself by perhaps taking the dogs out for a short walk, or going for a potter in the garden. But there is this incredibly strong insistence in me that I have to sit and continue working through the pain, that I don't have time to stop, that I should just be able to ignore it, etc... I don't understand yet where the resistance comes from, but I definitely need to start challenging it more robustly. I think writing about it here is a start. Anyway, thanks again, and I'd love to hear from anyone else who has a take on this.
  5. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    [QUOTE="Rainstorm B, post: 106305, member: 4378"But there is this incredibly strong insistence in me that I have to sit and continue working through the pain, that I don't have time to stop, that I should just be able to ignore it, etc... I don't understand yet where the resistance comes from, but I definitely need to start challenging it more robustly. I think writing about it here is a start. Anyway, thanks again, and I'd love to hear from anyone else who has a take on this.[/QUOTE]

    This is a great realization, and in my experience, is how we make steps toward recovery. You're becoming more aware of how you put pressure on yourself--how perfectionism is a problem. I suggest that you keep exploring this and try to figure out where it started. Most of this kind of internalized stress comes from early childhood experiences, though not always. Bringing up all this unconscious stuff into conscious awareness is how much of the healing occurs.

    Best wishes on your healing journey.....
    Rainstorm B likes this.
  6. HattieNC

    HattieNC Well known member

    Oh Rainstorm, how I can relate to the pressure you put on yourself. I look over my life and see how my crazy expectations of perfectionism took me down the road to almost ruin. I allowed employers and family to put more on me than I could humanly do. Now, I set definite boundaries. I tell people "no." In fact, just a few minutes ago I told a coworker (in a nice way) that I didn't have time to help with her project. Truthfully, it was the time I set aside to dance/stretch, but I didn't feel compelled to explain that to her.

    If I can impart any wisdom to those younger than me, it would be to please be gentle with yourself. Speak kindly to your body and mind. Laugh as much as possible. Watch funny videos and stay away from the news. Guard your health as preciously as you guard your finances. Say NO to those who try to impose their demands on your time. Before I go to sleep each night, I make a mental list of ways that I took care of myself that day: a bubble bath, watching funny videos or TV shows, eating healthy, dancing my heart out, saying no, etc. Then, I congratulate myself for putting me first.

    I've been on the TMS recovery journey for quite a while now. I read the books, journaled, cried, meditated, and felt my emotions. I prayed, forgave, and stopped being afraid of the pain. But, it wasn't until I started practicing self compassion and self love that I made significant strides. You will get this. We are all here to help.
    suky, Rainstorm B and Ellen like this.
  7. Rainstorm B

    Rainstorm B Peer Supporter

    I'm going to respond properly when I have more time (HA!) - I've had some big shifts with this in the past few days...

    @HattieNC & @Ellen I just wanted to thank you both so much for your kindness and encouragement - it means everything to know that I am not alone with this. This place is a blessing, and so are you.

    Ellen likes this.
  8. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    Stress can lead to TMS pain, but how about a simpler association--not between sitting at a desk and stress but between sitting at a desk and pain? Sarno wrote in Healing Back Pain: "The process of conditioning, or programming, seems to be very important in determining when the person with TMS will have pain. For example a common complaint of people with low back pain is that it is invariably brought on by sitting. This is such a benign activity one is mystified by the fact that it initiates pain. But conditioning occurs when two things go on simultaneously, so it is easy to imagine that at some point early in the course of the TMS experience the person happens to be having pain while sitting. The brain makes the association between sitting and the presence of pain and that person is now programmed to expect pain with sitting."

    One morning I woke up with pain in the right side of my neck. As I noticed the pain, I also noticed I was lying on my right side. Thereafter, I had pain whenever I laid in bed on my right side. I spent months trying to figure out what I was unconsciously angry about or stressed about. I never came up with anything, and the pain continued whenever I laid on my right side. Could that be because I had injured my neck on the right side many years ago in a trampoline accident--an old injury coming back to haunt me? I thought so at one point, but once I realized (meaning accepted beyond any doubt) that the pain was simply an association between lying on my right side and pain, I was O.K.
  9. Rainstorm B

    Rainstorm B Peer Supporter

    Hi Duggit

    Thank you for this brilliant reminder that sometimes we can over-complicate and overthink the causes of continuing pain (I know that I do!). I know that these unconscious associations exist - I have managed to shift so many pain manifestations that might otherwise have stuck around using the thinking you described. However, it has not worked (so far) with this issue of sitting at the desk. It feels like there is more to this particular pain. Maybe it is just quite hard-wired because I had had it for a long time before finding out about Sarno, but it seems to be complicated. It feels like it is linked to the stress I was suffering at the time it started. Maybe that is still in my system? Maybe there is an association with the amount of pressure I put on myself - i.e. what likely caused the need for the pain in the first place - that definitely seems likely. It feels like it is going to be a combination of exploring the initial emotional causes, the conditioned responses and my fear of the pain/sensations.

    I had a run of a few really good days of minimal pain while working at my desk last week, over the weekend and beginning of this week, which is unheard of. It's back again today but I'm not particularly surprised as I've been under a lot of pressure with work commitments. I think exploring it out loud has been an important start to unravelling things (I'm traditionally not great at sharing my weaknesses!) and I'm really grateful for the support here.
    suky and HattieNC like this.
  10. Rainstorm B

    Rainstorm B Peer Supporter

    It was going so well. But this week I’ve got long hours at the desk again...and pain back with a vengeance. I struggle so much to not focus on the pain, to focus on the psychological, to tell myself that it’s a conditioned response...meanwhile, I have zero per cent focus left for my bloody work.
    I don’t see how to work with this when my job requires so much concentration. I end up not wanting to do it at all because I don’t want to sit there for hours on end in bloody pain. How do I do both at once??? Soooo f-img frustrated today. Just ranting....Gah
  11. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    Hi again Rainstorm,

    I learned from a different thread on tms.wiki that you are familiar with the biopsychosocial model of modern pain science. I used to be "pure Sarno" because back in 1991 when Sarno published Healing Back Pain, that book enabled me to banish more than two decades of chronic back pain by becoming aware when I was angry at someone I was close to and why. I was also pretty good at dealing with the various forms of the symptom imperative I later experienced by using what I had learned from Healing Back Pain. A few years ago, however, I discovered the biopsychosocial pain model through the Moseley & Butler Explain Pain series of books. That has really been the clincher for me. I am no longer "pure Sarno" but rather am "biophychosocial model enlightened by Sarno regarding unfelt emotions."

    I was unaware of the Rogers and Brown book until you referred to it. A quick look at the preface on Amazon reveals they acknowledge the great work of Lorimer Moseley regarding the biopsychosocial model. I have a quibble with your statement in the other thread that the biopsychosocial model gives little or no emphasis to the role of unfelt emotions in firing up the nervous system. I think that was true, but Moseley has stepped up his game regarding the role of unnoticed emotions in Moseley & Butler, Explain Pain Supercharged, their most recent book (though still not stepped up as much as I think he should have). The book is super technical regarding neuroscience and new research on how the nervous and immune systems interact to send false danger messages to the brain, which then responds by creating pain when it should not. Besides that, the book is unduly expensive and probably cannot be understood without having first read their also unduly expensive earlier book, Explain Pain.

    Their least expensive, shortest, least technical, and most easily read book is The Explain Pain Handbook: Protectometer. It does suffer from too little attention to unfelt emotions, but if you have not seen it I think and hope you might find it a quick and interesting read--and perhaps even useful.
    Rainstorm B likes this.

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