1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
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starting program with sciatica

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by seanpat, Feb 4, 2022.

  1. seanpat

    seanpat New Member

    Hi all,

    I have had frequent episodes of TMS for past 15-20 years from panic attacks to stomach issues, to shoulder pain, knee pain, tension headaches, scratchy eyes and most everything else. What I have never had, until now, is back pain/sciatica. I had my hip replaced in October for severe arthritis (I really had it but that is another story) and when I woke up I had terrible sciatica. Really bad and it has been with me on and off for several months. Dr. Schubiner believes it is TMS and that there is no way that it happened during surgery. I had been so disabled in the 3 years leading up to the hip replacement that a large part of me thinks my mind is keeping me disabled. I have been very active and worked out very hard before my hip issues. I waited so long for the hip surgery because I was not convinced it was not my mind playing tricks on me. I do have much better range of motion with my new hip and if I did not have the sciatica it would be a terrific outcome. I have been going to PT but I stopped as it helped at first and then seemed to make it worse. I ignored it for a week or so and it improved but never went away. I always have a tension going down back of left leg and sometimes both legs. It seems HIGHLY unlikely that I developed sciatica bilaterally all of a sudden. My brain tells me this is not credible but...I have walked twice for 3 miles plus and when I start it hurts badly, then it "loosens up" about a mile into it and then tenses again and gets painful. The last two times it hurt the next fews days quite a bit. I am very frustrated but having trouble convincing myself it is not "real". My physical exam is normal in the sense that my PT says I have normal strength etc and she does not think it is a disc. I have avoided an MRI because my doctor says there is no indication for one medically based on my strength and the only reason to do one is if we are thinking about surgery. IN the past, once I figured out my issues were TMS they evaporated. Sometimes immediately, other times it took weeks but it has never taken months. This of course has me thinking maybe this is structural etc etc. This has been dragging on too long and is painful/depressing. Any help appreciated.
  2. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hello seanpat and Welcome!

    I think it is great you're starting a program. I assume it is the SEP?

    Everything you already know about TMS is going to be helpful, obviously.

    I wonder how much feeling/emotional awareness work you've done. As I read your report I don't see you mentioning this. I feel that it is an important piece to be added to your on-going "cognitive work." The SEP has opportunities for this. Also I'll put a link in which references Dr. Sarno's journaling/self-help directions which Forest put together years ago. Whether you do this or not, this summary points to the importance.

    To me, the long-term in-depth work needs to be addressed. Whether this is with journaling, a therapist, a skilled coach, a support group, a friend who will listen without judgement... Your case of having some relief, doing this work for a long time, changing symptoms, to me, points to this deeper work being important.

    I can't find the post, but here it is cut and pasted. Good luck with your work, which I think will go well as you go deeper...


    Summary of Dr. Sarno's Home Study Program Practices, by Forest, TMS Wiki 5-2014

    Dr. Sarno described the process that he used at the Rusk Institute in all of his books. In the Divided Mind, in the treatment program section, he wrote the following:

    1. If you have not already done so, read the entire book you are using a bit at a time (Healing Back Pain or The Mind-body Prescription). After that, read the psychology or treatment chapter every day. Pay close attention to what you read, especially when you see things that remind you of yourself.

    2. Set aside time every day, possibly fifteen minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the evening, to review the material I am about to suggest.

    3. Unconscious painful and threatening feelings are what necessitates the pain. They are inside you; you don’t feel them.

    4. Make a list of all the things that may be contributing to those feelings.

    5. Write an essay, the longer the better, about each item on your list. This will force you to focus in depth on the emotional things of importance in your life.

    (p. 142-143 in The Divided Mind. Some text boldfaced by me for emphasis.)

    With Dr. Sarno being the consummate hospital physician, I suspect that he didn't feel comfortable telling people how to treat themselves at home. Rather, he wanted people to be under the care of highly trained physicians and therapists. While this may be frustrating to us, because we want step by step instructions, I think it is a testament to the respect that he has for medical science. The closest that he ever got to describing a home treatment program for people who weren't at Rusk was in The Mindbody Prescription. In it, rather than describing his prescription for home treatment, he reproduced a letter in which one of his patients, Jim Campobello, described what he recommended to his friends. I think that this is as close as we will ever get to Dr. Sarno of an at-home treatment protocol.

    So what did the Campobello program involve? It involved reading and rereading (and some other things). Here is his handout:

    First, you must decide that you will make a serious attempt at Dr. Sarno’s technique. The technique only works for people who make a strong effort to apply it. You must either believe that it can work for you, or you must be so desperate that you will try very hard to do it even if you don’t believe in it.
    I did not believe in it when I first read the book. My nature is very skeptical; I didn’t believe in mental powers of any kind, and I had given up on the miracles. However, I was desperate. I was in constant pain. My life consisted of standing up to do what little work I could, and lying on a mat on the floor at home the rest of the day. So even though I didn’t think it could help, my wife convinced me to try it. You can do the same thing.
    So first you must make a commitment to try the book’s approach. It costs nothing, but you must be willing to spend some time on it every day for at least a month. You might as well try—what have you got to lose?
    I don’t think there is one exact way to do it, but I will tell you what worked for me and recommend that you try it.
    1. Read about 30 pages of the book every day. Don’t just go over the words—think about them! Pay attention to what he says, and think about how it applies to you. It’s very easy to be inattentive, so force yourself to concentrate on the ideas. When you see parts that remind you of yourself, be especially attentive. Also, keep reminding yourself that the people described in the book had problems similar to yours, and they were cured. When you finish reading the book, start it again the next day. You must read it continuously for a month or more. And you must pay attention every time you read it.
    2. Set aside time every day to think about what problems might be bothering you, what might be in your life and in your mind that is causing your back trouble. Spend at least 30 minutes every day thinking about this. I used to take 15 minutes in the morning, when I first got up, and then 30 minutes in the evening. Use this time for the following:
    Think about everything that might possibly bother you—work or school pressure, family responsibility, financial matters, etc. Be as specific as possible. You cannot simply say, “I’m worried about work”—that isn’t enough. You must try to identify every specific item you can think of. I found it useful to write lists to keep track of it. (When you are very specific you can think of quite a few things.) Pay attention to all areas of your life, big and little. Consider not only the obvious problems, but try to speculate about hidden things too. Consider both the real and imagined things that might be troubling you.
    Once you have identified your problems, divide them into two categories: those that you can do something about, and those that are beyond your control. Be realistic about where each one fits. The ones you can do something about, start taking action on. Do whatever you can to correct them, or try to at least. The ones you have no control over, tell yourself that you know they bother you, but you must accept them—and most important, you will not let them cause you any more back pain. Remember, you don’t have to eliminate your problems for the cure to work, you just have to be aware of the process.
    Think about what you are like—what is it in you that lets these problems create such pain. I am a typical Sarno type—perfectionist, easily angered, highly motivated, high achiever, somewhat compulsive and impatient with other people. Those are the part of my personality that led my mind to develop back pain. However, there are other types that get it. One of my co-workers is a happy, easygoing, very pleasant woman, but she got back pain as bad as mine, and the book cured her, too. (It took her about three months, by the way, but she is perfectly healthy now.) Try to learn what is inside you that needs that distraction. What permits the pain to develop and persist? Be honest about yourself. Again, remember that you don’t have to change your personality for the cure to work—you just have to understand and fight it.
    3. All day long, keep reminding yourself of the whole process. Whenever a problem occurs, think, “Okay, I don’t like that, but I’m not going to let it go to my back and cause pain.” Whenever you feel back pain (or if you are like I was and it hurts all the time, whenever it feels especially bad), think, “My back is acting up. What is going on in my life or in my mind to make it hurt?”
    4. After you have worked on the above for three or four weeks, start to take small steps to test your progress. Don’t do too much too soon. Just look for tiny improvements, find something you can do that doesn’t hurt quite as much as it used to. Go very slowly, but after a few more weeks you will notice your back is a little better. Build on the small steps—the slightest improvement is a sign that the process is working, and that should encourage you to stick with it.
    5. Don’t give up. Believe me, I know how depressing and discouraging it is. Yet there is hope. But in order for it to work, you must put in the time and effort to make it work.
    (p. 152-155 in The Mindbody Prescription. Some text boldfaced by me for emphasis.)

    For anyone who is curious, Jim participated in our Thank You, Dr. Sarno project. His thank-you, with photo, can be found here:
    http://www.thankyoudrsarno.org/jim-campobellos-thank-you (Jim Campobello's Thank You - Thank You, Dr. Sarno)

    So why is all of this reading and rereading so important? Dr. Sarno provides us with a quote from Edna St Vincent Millay: "Pity me that the heart is slow to learn / What the swift mind beholds at every turn" (p. 78 in Healing Back Pain). While we may read a book a single time and get it on a purely intellectual level, it takes a long time and a great deal of repetition for a lot of people for us to truly accept the diagnosis. It can take a great deal of repetition to deeply, deeply understand what Dr. Sarno is saying and internalize how it applies to us. Dr. David Schechter has the following to say about how to read a TMS book: "focus on how the concepts apply to you personally. It's not enough to just have a general understanding of the theory. It's crucial to reflect on the similarities to your own symptoms and personality and delve deeper...even if your problem is tension headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, or TMJ, rather than the one described in a particular book, these books can be helpful to you if you try to apply the concepts to yourself" (p. 20 in Dr. Schechter's MindBody Workbook).

    All of the time on the forum we see people who post questions that are actually answered in books that they have already read. As I see it, in when this happens we can help them by teaching them how to read TMS books better, as described above. We can let them know about how important it is to reread and apply the material to their lives, or perhaps even point them to this post. It is natural and completely human for newcomers to need to be taught how to read a TMS book well.

    Bearing this in mind, remember how I opened this post by describing how there can be a tendency to read the TMS Recovery Program donated by Alan Gordon as if it were a magazine article? My hope in having an official thread for each section of the program is to give people something to read that may help them see how various people applied the ideas in their own lives. So if you are reading these threads and are trying to heal, please take heed of the advice from Dr. Sarno, Jim Campobello, Dr. Schechter and myself about how to read TMS materials. Read these posts written by other people and think hard about how and whether they apply to you.
  3. seanpat

    seanpat New Member

    This is great. Thank you. I think you are right about the deep dive. IN the past all I had to do was acknowledge that stress etc was causing my issues and it would go away either immediately or with a few days or weeks. Not so, this time. Also, the recurring nature of my TMS raises the issue of something deeper that is not going away until I address it. I know Sarno didn't believe it had to be addressed in this manner (for lots of people) and that knowledge was the cure but it seems if I don't do the deep dive the symptom imperative will be keep nagging at me. I went to a party last night and my sciatica was almost non-existent...

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