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Success Story (RSI/hand pain)

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by sarah2254, Jun 21, 2021.

  1. sarah2254

    sarah2254 Peer Supporter

    I dreamt of the day I could write a success story on any online forum and after all of the skepticism I once had about Dr. Sarno, I can't believe it ended up being this forum! I am sharing my story in hopes of inspiring people who may be experiencing severe hand pain/RSI (or any type of TMS-related pain for that matter).

    My Story (Through an Objective Lens)

    I started experiencing debilitating hand pain in my fourth year of university. My anxiety prompted me to google causes of hand pain and after reading about carpal tunnel, my anxiety only got worse. I was working as a server at the time, so I attributed the pain to lifting heavy trays in a non-ergonomic fashion, combined with the amount of typing I was doing to complete final assignments. I was convinced I had carpel tunnel, quit my job, and saw a nerve specialist. He did a nerve conduction test and told me I had a "very, very, very mild case of carpel tunnel." He said I just needed to wear wrist braces while I typed and that I would be fine.

    So, I took his advice and that got me through graduate school. Fast forward to two years later, after graduating with my MA, I started a research job. Within three days of starting this new job, the pain came back. I was extremely shocked because I was certain that wearing wrist braces had fixed the issue. I couldn’t believe that whatever was causing my pain could lie dormant for that long and I instantly began to panic and catastrophize. I started to believe that I had something much worse than carpal tunnel and I was terrified that I’d have to live with this pain for the rest of my life.

    Just to give you an idea of the severity of the pain, this was the WORST pain I’ve ever felt. From the moment I’d open my eyes in the morning to the second I’d fall asleep at night, I would feel a burning sensation in both of my hands. It felt like they were on fire all day and nothing worked to make it go away. I saw several doctors, various types of specialists, and even tried different medications, including both oral and topical anti-inflammatories. I spent so much money on ergonomic equipment (i.e., keyboards, mice, etc.) but NOTHING WORKED. I even saw a specialist for a second time, who did a nerve conduction test and told me that I actually did NOT have carpal tunnel; not even a mild case. I had an MRI done, X-rays, even had my neck checked out, and everything came back normal. I could not understand how I could be feeling such intense pain, yet not a single doctor was able to give me an explanation. I even started to feel burning in my feet (bilateral which was very weird, but also possibly indicative of a psychological source of pain). At this point, I was in so much agony. I cried myself to sleep almost everyday and I knew this was no way to live. So, I ended up quitting my job, which further exacerbated my anxiety.

    I had seen Dr. Sarno's work online before, but I never took it seriously and was actually triggered when anyone in my life insinuated that my pain was psychologically-induced. Finally, one day, I got so bored during lockdown that I decided to read Dr. Sarno's book and when he started describing the personality traits of people who are susceptible to experiencing psychologically-induced pain, I started crying. It was as if he knew me personally.

    My Story (Knowing what I know about Dr. Sarno's work)

    In hindsight, I believe my anxiety is what caused my pain. There is a section in Alan's multimedia program that explains the brain's response to perceived threats. When Alan started talking about how pain can sometimes be generated by the brain in response to a perceived physical or psychological threat, I was 100% sure that my anxiety was the culprit of my pain.

    Just to paint a picture here, before seeking treatment, my anxiety was absolutely exhausting to both myself and those around me. Everyday, I would have a new worry that consumed my life and my loved ones constantly reassured me that I was being irrational. It was the type of anxiety that impacted me physically. I would often feel sick/want to vomit if I was having certain reoccurring negative thoughts. One time, my anxiety kept me from sleeping for 60 hours straight. It was as if I was in fight-or-flight mode 24/7, always worrying that something bad would happen.

    During my fourth year of university, I had put extreme pressure on myself to graduate with a high GPA and be accepted into graduate school. Once the pain started and I knew I had to quit my part-time job, the catastrophizing began. "I'm not going to be able to graduate because of this pain. I won't be accepted to graduate school. I’m never going to land a job in my field.” I believe my pain was initially brought on by my anxiety and then reinforced after my carpal tunnel diagnosis. Since the day I was told by a specialist that I had carpal tunnel (although very mild), I conditioned my brain to fear keyboards and this became a perceived threat.

    I think I then convinced myself, in line with what the doctor had told me, that wearing wrist braces would solve my issue and therefore my threat response was deactivated for a short period of time. However, this never really solved the underlying issue, which was my anxiety. That’s why when I started a new job after completing my Master’s degree, the pain came back. Perhaps I was subconsciously nervous about performing well at this new job and my brain started to produce pain in response to this.

    Now, to explain the burning in my feet. I think that as my anxiety about my hand pain increased, my brain interpreted that I was in more and more danger. As a defense mechanism, maybe my brain produced even more pain in different parts of my body to alert me of a perceived threat.

    My Recovery

    After I found this website and completed the multi-media program on here, my hands finally started to improve. I couldn’t believe it. NO MEDS. It took about 8 months for my hands to go back to normal. Here’s what I did to get better:

    1. I bought plenty of books on psychologically-induced pain. You can buy e-versions on Kindle that are usually cheaper than the hardcopy. My favourite book would have to be Unlearn Your Pain by Dr. Schubiner.

    2. I threw away my wrist braces and started to type again. I started with just 2 minutes a day. When my pain was at its peak, I could not even type for 2 minutes. This was my starting point, and I gradually increased the duration of time in 10-minute increments each day.

    3. I practiced outcome independence during this time. I stopped complaining about my pain or letting it dictate my decisions.

    4. I journaled about my emotions. I am not sure why, but writing with a pen was more effective for me than typing out my journal entries. One day while journaling, I noticed I had been so focused on my emotions that I had completely forgotten about my pain. This is when I truly started to believe I could overcome this pain.

    5. I meditated and worked hard to treat my anxiety. After all, I do believe the root cause of my pain was my catastrophizing and negative thinking. I educated myself on cognitive distortions and worked hard to habitualize positive thinking.

    My pain definitely did not go away over night and healing was cyclical rather than linear, but my life is so much better now!!! If you are in a situation like mine, please don’t ever give up. I was at my lowest point a year and a half ago and I cried everyday about my pain. All I wanted to see was a success story like this. If you’re in a similar situation, I hope this gives you hope!
    Ellen, Sita, Kellso and 1 other person like this.
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks for sharing your Success Story. It will inspire and encourage others. Congratulations!
    sarah2254 likes this.
  3. sarah2254

    sarah2254 Peer Supporter

    Thank you!!!

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