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Recovery from sciatica (hip, back and leg pain), tennis elbow, chronic fatigue, and much more.

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by Cap'n Spanky, Nov 22, 2021.

  1. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    --- Summary ---​
    What's greater than the gift of health? I went from being a person who felt like there was something wrong with their body ... to a healthy, normal person (whatever normal is).
    The mind-body treatment pioneered by Dr. John Sarno and carried on by others has transformed my life.

    I've recovered from:
    - Sciatica that resulted in back/hip/leg pain,
    - Tennis elbow (RSI) and
    - Chronic fatigue - which left me with dizziness and cold/flu-like symptoms.

    For those who are interested, I provide more detail on my struggles and recovery from these three conditions in the "My Story" section below. You may want to skip ahead to one of these sections. In addition to the three health challenges listed above, there have been other conditions that are so diminished now they are no longer issues in my life. These include things like acid reflux, chronic bronchitis, insomnia, and IBS.

    It's difficult to summarize how I recovered in a few sentences, so that's why I provide additional detail the sections below. But generally speaking, recovery is a process that involves changing the way we think and feel about chronic pain and certain health conditions. We learn to reduce the fear associated with our pain and symptoms, and as we do, we rewire the neural pathways that trigger pain. It requires tapping into our feelings, allowing yourself to experience those feelings in a safe way. In time, the pain and symptoms become less important and subside. In many cases (including mine), they go away entirely. I know this sounds fantastical and too good to be true. But all I can say is, it honestly works.

    If you are new and want to know how to get started, I'd suggest going to the TMS Wiki and doing some research there. It contains a wealth of information. I'd recommend finding some books or a program you connect with and applying them in a systematic method. Some methodologies that I can personally vouch for were developed by Alan Gordon, LCSW, Dr. Howard Shubiner, and of course the grandfather of it all - Dr. John Sarno. But there are other options, including TMS doctors, therapists, coaches, other books, and even an app for your phone. There are also two, completely free, self-guided programs on the TMS Wiki. In addition, I've found mindfulness meditation very helpful. Just don't try to do too much and find what works for you.

    In my experience, recovery is not an easy path, nor is it always smooth. It requires commitment, time, and a certain level of faith in the process. But it's also a tremendously rewarding process that provides benefits beyond your pain and health. It includes learning to care for ourselves out of self-love and kindness. Don't put too much pressure to do everything perfectly. But instead, practice from a place of hope ... and maybe even a bit of joy.

    --- My Story ---​
    Part 1 - Back / Hip / Leg Pain (Sciatica)
    I woke up one morning with pain and tingling shooting up and down the side of my body. It felt like someone was pulling on a drawstring that ran from my left foot, up the side of my body, all the way to my left hand. The epicenter of the pain was in my left hip.

    It was the early 1990s and I was a road musician, a one-man-band traveling alone through the mid-west playing small town hotel bars and staying in the rooms they provided. It was a lonely, isolated life that was not conducive to optimal happiness or mental health. For weeks at a time, I was away from my young son who I missed terribly and felt very guilty for abandoning.

    The sciatica started then and was a constant struggle for the next 15 years. During that time, I went through two years of chiropractic, which did no good. Then I saw a neurologist who put me on Amitriptyline and physical therapy. This helped a little, but only marginally. Around this time, I'd grown tired of earning a meager living playing music. So in 1994 I earned a bachelor's degree, then a CPA, and went to work in government; primarily in IT. I learned to live with the pain by taking large, unhealthy doses of Ibuprofen and avoiding standing and walking for extended periods. The pain ruled my life in many ways and hung like a dark cloud over my future. I even feared that one day, I may have to use a wheelchair. An orthopedic surgeon suggested that eventually I have spinal fusion. Thank God I never proceeded with that.

    My first exposure to Dr. Sarno and TMS was in 2006 where I read the blog of a young woman who'd recovered using Dr. Sarno's methods. Then I saw the Dr. John E Sarno - 20/20 Segment, which provided initial excitement and optimism. I'd been suffering for over 15 years and suddenly there was hope!

    I was very hopeful. I lived and breathed Dr. Sarno's concepts for months. I bought a couple of books, an audio book, and a video tape featuring Dr. Sarno. I frequented TMS discussion forums. I immersed myself in this world; I "drank the Kool-Aid" as they say. I journaled daily. When the pain came, I'd focus on my feelings and emotions rather than the pain. Sometimes I'd yell at my brain and tell it to "knock it off." This was in the days before somatic tracking and other more modern techniques available today. Regardless, it worked. The pain decreased shortly after I began applying Dr. Sarno's concepts, but it did not go away entirely. There were good days and bad. Finally, after about five months the pain went completely away. It has not returned since 2006.

    Part 2 - Tennis Elbow / Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)
    About a year before discovering Dr. Sarno, and in addition to the sciatica, I began suffering with tennis elbow in both arms. It was a painful RSI brought on by typing, which is something I did all day long in my accounting/IT job. One day, I remember a couple of co-workers whispering and pointing at me because I had my left leg propped up on a chair for the sciatica, and both arms wrapped in tennis elbow braces. I think this was their awkward attempt at good natured teasing, but it made me angry at the time.

    I began using voice recognition software on my computer, which back in 2005 was very clunky and unreliable. Nothing like the Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa of today. This was another source of embarrassment at work when co-workers walking by would hear me talking to my computer.

    Nothing seemed to help and I began seeing an orthopedic surgeon. He was convinced that surgery would help and his optimism persuaded me. So I had the surgery and long story short, it did no good. The surgeon's frustration was palpable that the operation didn't ease my pain. I felt like some of that frustration was pointed at me. This was when the light bulb went off!

    Around this time, I had found Dr. Sarno and my sciatica and back problems were improving significantly. For whatever reason, I didn't think my tennis elbow was TMS too. Maybe it was the optimism of the orthopedic surgeon or maybe I was just to new to TMS to understand how pervasive it can be. Regardless, when the surgeon became frustrated with my lack of recovery, something clicked in my head and I became fully convinced that the tennis elbow was TMS too. It was like a religious conversion.

    I began reading Dr. Sarno and other materials, and applying the exact same principals to my elbows as I had to my sciatica. In short order, both elbows got better, including the elbow with surgery and the elbow without. A couple of doctors told me that my tennis elbow would likely return. It's been nearly 15 years and it never has.

    Part 3: Chronic Fatigue - Dizziness, Cold and Flu-like Symptoms
    I thought I had this TMS thing figured out. After all, it was 2016 and I hadn't had any chronic pain issues for nearly ten years. But it turns out that for some of us at least, TMS is a life long endeavor and I'm okay with that.

    I began to notice a phenomenon of heavy fatigue a couple of days after vigorous exercise. The actual day of the exercise I felt fine, even good. But a day or two later, I would feel so run down that it felt like I had a cold. The fatigue would last for two or three days. If I rested, it would eventually subside. I was now in my 60s, so some of this may have been due to aging. But the fact that it came on a couple days after the exercise and the way it hung around for so long didn't make sense. I suspected it was a form of TMS.

    This went on for several years and I muddled through. Then in early 2021, I began to experience dizziness along with cold/flu-like symptoms. The symptoms drug on for weeks and months. As noted, I thought was probably some form of TMS, but I wanted to rule out anything serious. So I visited the doctor on three separate occasions. Each time, the doctors were left scratching their heads. One prescribed a round of steroids, which had little effect.

    The fact that the doctors 1) didn't seem to know what it was, and 2) weren't raising alarms about a serious problem, gave me confidence that it was, in fact, TMS. It was time for me to get serious about addressing this.

    I started reading Dr. Sarno's books and began visiting the TMS Wiki and forums again. After reviewing Alan Gordon's Pain Recovery Program (free on the TMS Wiki), I decided to begin working it in earnest and really jumped in with both feet. I simply replaced the word "pain" with "symptoms". I went through the program taking copious notes. Then, I decided to re-write the program in my own words. I actually did this three separate times. I know this sounds a bit obsessive and even a little crazy. But there are critical concepts in Alan's work and I wanted to beat those concepts into my head. In my experience, recovery from TMS is not a passive activity. It requires taking the bull by the horns.

    Around the same time, I also started a regular mindfulness meditation practice. Mindfulness folds together very nicely with a TMS program. It taught me a new, safe way to experience my emotions and body sensations. Mindfulness significantly reduced my anxiety, which is super helpful in recovering from TMS.

    As I re-educated myself through the Pain Recovery Program, and regularly confronted the dizziness, flu-like symptoms and fatigue through mindfulness and somatic tracking (see Alan's program), the symptoms slowly began to dissipate. Eventually, after some ups and downs, it went away. Chronic fatigue is tricky in that it has been more challenging than my TMS pain issues. Sometimes it wants rear its head again when I'm not sleeping well, or if I catch a little bug, or when my allergies flare. So I have to carry the principals with me and call on them often.
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Wonderful success story! Congratulations and thank you for sharing your experience with us.
    Cap'n Spanky likes this.
  3. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    Thank you @Ellen! That means a great deal coming from you. I've gotten so much help from your posts!

    Sorry about this being so long! :) I couldn't come up with a good way to shorten it.
    Ellen likes this.
  4. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Tim, congratulations on your success and ingenuity in finding your own way of healing! It is a tremendous achievement!
    Cap'n Spanky likes this.
  5. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    Thanks so much, Tamara! That's high praise from someone who has an amazing success story of their own!
    TG957 likes this.
  6. hawaii_five0

    hawaii_five0 Well known member

    GREAT recovery story! Very hopeful. I really like how you laid this out and you have so many good words of wisdom in here. Hopefully we will all get there.

    Cap'n Spanky likes this.
  7. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    Thank you, James! That's very kind of you. I had your suggestions in mind when I worked on this.

    ... And you will get there!
  8. fridaynotes

    fridaynotes Well known member

    THIS! I was just musing that it seems TMS returns progressively with more and more mysterious symptom imperatives that are less direct and obvious than shooting back/shoulder/etc pain. Many of us have positively dealt with the more "structural" TMS symptoms but have been tripped up by the more mysterious ones that present as neurological or exhaustion type of symptoms. I'm dealing with that now... and it's DIFFICULT to easily conquer. It's taking a lot more work for me to recover this time around as my symptoms are so subtle and more like wacky discomforts rather than clear "pain" I too have been feeling muscle weakness, flu-like symptoms, sensations of a fever without actually running a fever, and tingling and numbness in the extremities. So, your post has given me some hope because for the last three months I've been dealing with these experiences and they come and go, but they have not left. Some days I feel hopeless and sad, other days I feel like i'm really on the mend and turning a corner. Woah~ it's a process!
    Cap'n Spanky likes this.
  9. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    This is so true, @fridaynotes ! TMS can be a sneaky little bastard. It'll find some vague set of symptoms and leave you in doubt as to whether it's really TMS or not.

    It took quite a while, but I did finally turn the corner on the chronic fatigue symptoms. You've had success with structural issues, so there's a high probability you'll do the same with these "mysterious ones".

    I'll add that a very modest mindfulness practice (8- 15 minutes per day), using some somatic tracking techniques has made a tremendous difference.
    AMarie likes this.
  10. shilohgreen

    shilohgreen New Member

    Hey @Cap'n Spanky, I realize I have a recovery story very similar to yours, just that I'm still in the middle of a bout of chronic fatigue:(

    I beat my RSI/Back/Knee pain 1.5 years ago but it seems like TMS is back with new symptoms (fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite) and it's really getting to me. I have two questions regarding your amazing recovery:
    1. How long did it take you to recover fully from chronic fatigue?
    2. How do you get over the fear of the symptoms themselves? I feel like I am living in constant fear of nausea and fatigue being there forever, and I do feel depressed and scared that may be the case because the feelings of fatigue and nausea are so real and present.

    It'd be great to hear your take on this, currently not doing too well :(
  11. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    Hey @shilohgreen - sorry for the slow reply! For some reason, this didn't come up in my notifications.

    Fear of symptoms: that's nearly the whole enchilada! Or at least reducing the fear is.

    1. How long did it take you to recover fully from chronic fatigue?
    That's difficult to say, because I suffered with it on and off over a period of several years. But once I finally decided that I was going to do something about and started working the Pain Recovery Program | TMS Forum (The Mindbody Syndrome) (tmswiki.org) in earnest, I'd say 3 or 4 months. I had to keep the faith through some difficult days. The reason it took so long to get serious about it was due to the deceptive nature of CFS. Was it really a cold or something like that? Or was it TMS? Or a little of both? I finally accumulated enough evidence to satisfy any doubts. Every time... when I finally accept it's TMS is when I get better.

    2. How do you get over the fear of the symptoms themselves?
    For me, nearly every aspect of Alan's program is designed to reduce those fears. But in particular, the sections on somatic tracking and outcome independence come to mind. To me, somatic tracking is a form of mindfulness meditation and I have found the two extremely helpful in reducing health related fear. It should be noted that some folks can't deal with somatic tracking. It's too intense. But I never had that problem.

    I feel like I am living in constant fear of nausea and fatigue being there forever, and I do feel depressed and scared that may be the case because the feelings of fatigue and nausea are so real and present.
    I'm so sorry that you're suffering shilohgreen! CFS is a very tough one. It was more challenging to recover from than my pain issues. But recover is completely possible. Many have. I wish you the very best!!
  12. ImGa

    ImGa New Member

    Congratulations on your recovery.
    I am very new to TMS. I am dealing with CFS and I am happy I discovered it’s TMS.
    I have been reassuring my body that I am fine and there is no reason to give me all these symptoms. Can’t wait for it to understand that all is good . Any extra tips for it ?
    Cap'n Spanky likes this.
  13. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    Thanks so much, @ImGa !

    I have no big tips beyond what I've written above. Everyone's a little different. But for me, immersing myself in these concepts and returning to them again and again when those fears start to creep back in, has been necessary. CFS is challenging and learning to not give up is helpful.

    This article was also helpful in understanding how CFS could be TMS. Best of luck to you!!
  14. AMarie

    AMarie New Member

    I've been suffering from fatigue for 4 years. I recovered from chronic back pain after discovering Sarno, but replacing "fatigue" with "pain" just doesn't work for me, and I think there are major differences (despite full believing they're both TMS). For instance, there's so much written about fear, specifically people's fears of getting back to normal life because of the pain of it. But I don't have to overcome fear that I'll get hurt or experience pain, I just want to rest all of the time! I'm not afraid to push through the fatigue -- I just physically can't do it. And brain fog is a massive hinderance.
    So when you say you replaced "pain" with "symptoms" in doing the program to recover from your fatigue, did you have any issues like that, or did it all make sense to you once you did that?
    And since you re-wrote the program in your own words, can you give any examples of how you put things? I think it will help differentiate from the writing that's almost exclusively about pain. Thanks. And so glad you're doing well.

    Cap'n Spanky likes this.
  15. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    Hi @AMarie - great questions! I can tell you're putting a lot of serious thought into this and that is wonderful.

    Your symptoms might be a bit worse than mine were. I had cold/flu-like symptoms, prolonged - excessive fatigue after exercise, chest congestion, & dizziness. But I could function.
    When you say you can't push through the fatigue, are you so exhausted that you literally can't do anything?

    Replacing the word "pain" with "symptoms" was simply a method of convincing my brain that "this program works for my symptoms too. It's not just for pain". There was nothing magical about it. It was just another technique to reassure my skeptical mind.

    As far as re-writing Alan's program in my own words goes, think of it like a very conscientious high school student writing a book report. I'd read a paragraph or two, and then write in my own words.... here's what I think he said. Again, there' nothing magical about it. Sometimes I'm a bit dense. And by doing this, it forced me to pay attention and think about what he was saying.

    I'd be happy to share examples of what I wrote... but I think that would actually be a distraction here. Doing the work and trying the different techniques is extremely important. I'm a big believer in doing the work. But below are some other things that are equally important (and it took me a while to learn them):

    Stop worrying whether my symptoms might flair or get worse if I'm not doing every TMS technique correctly.
    Don't puzzle and stress, wondering if I fully understand every TMS concept.
    That rumination about doing everything right actually fans the flames of fear.

    Move out of problem-solving mode. There's nothing to fix.
    My obsession with getting well is actually perpetuating the symptoms.

    So, what do I do, then? Go live my life. Take care of business.
    Focus on the things that interest me and the things I enjoy. Have some fun.
    Think of what I'm grateful for and what brings me joy.

    Be indifferent to the symptoms. Acknowledge them, then let them go.

    Understand that there is nothing wrong with me. There's nothing wrong with my body. I'm normal.
    ALSO... there is nothing wrong with my brain. My brain isn't screwed up and causing TMS.
    My brain is normal.

    Those are some thoughts I had written in my journal, and I thought they might be applicable here. If you have more questions, let me know.
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  16. AMarie

    AMarie New Member

    thank you!
    I'm sorry I didn't reply sooner. My fatigue often takes the form of being brain fogged and very overwhelmed by the thought of taking on tasks, like responding to this in a meaningful way. But for now I at least want to say thank you for taking the time to respond.
    The reason I wanted to see what kinds of things you put in your own words was because I can't really get past it when it says "pain" all the time -- in the program, in Curable, in the Curable podcasts, etc. and it just seems like if it really worked for chronic fatigue then someone would have a program (like Gupta actually does) that uses the word "fatigue" instead of telling me to substitute it. And it would address the differences, like the seeming physical impossibility of doing certain things, vs. the fear of doing something because of pain. And I know that if my brain can't get to a place of truly believing this is tailored for my problem, it's really not working.
    So maybe I need to rewrite it myself and see if it works -- and share it with people here!
    I"m in therapy now which is helping me emotionally, but the fatigue remains. We'll see. I'm trying to maintain hope. Thanks again.
    Cap'n Spanky likes this.
  17. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    No worries for the late response!

    I can promise you that CFS is definitely a form of TMS and the process for recovery is the same as back pain. We are trying to teach our brains that the (pain, symptoms, fatigue, whatever) is not dangerous. Sometimes the world doesn't work the way we think it should. We have to adapt. If that means taking a program that uses the word "pain" and replace it with "fatigue", then so be it. Hundreds, if not thousands of people have recovered from CFS using a TMS approach. Don't let the word "pain" rob you of that opportunity.

    Belief is a critical aspect of this program. Believing that TMS is the root of our problem. It doesn't mean we get there all at once. Belief is a process that takes time. It starts to build as you see evidence that the program is working. But in the meantime, having faith that it will work for you can be extremely helpful. Your therapist should be very helpful, but they may not give you that faith. That is something you'll have to find within and by reading and researching other TMS success stories.

    Here's something else I wrote in my journal lately. I though5 it might apply:
    "Let go of the fear of getting overly tired... and the fear that if I do, the fatigue will come on and last a long time. I see those fearful thoughts happening in the deep recesses of my head. Just like I let go of the fear other symptoms, I can break that pattern."

    In addition to Alan Gordon, some others you might want to check out are Nichole Sachs (her podcast is really good), and also Dan Buglio's Pain Free You YouTube channel. Both are free and give very different, yet very helpful perspectives on treating TMS.

    I wish you all the best, @AMarie !
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