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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!
    czb145, hawaii_five0, Ryan and 6 others 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!!!
  4. Willi

    Willi Newcomer

    Hi sarah,

    thanks for sharing your way of healing and success. It's very motivating and inspiring for me, especially because I could clearly see myself in your story.
    Last year I also suffered from RSI and hand pain in both hands for about 5 months. I thought it was carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or repititive strain issue. All the doctors I went to told me that it's repititive strain issue. I tried every therapy except surgery. Nothing helped.
    I'm also at the end of my Master at the university and I always put myself under extremely high pressure to get the perfect GPA and be the best compared to others. Besides that I spend a lot of time in my part-time job in research. It is very stressful and I also always put myself under high pressure to get the best results, just to be recognized by others and to impress my superiors. I'm a typically people pleaser and perfectionist.

    At the beginning of this year I was finally able to heal myself from these pains by just recognizing it's TMS, by pain talk, meditations and especially by journaling about my past/present thoughts, emotions and feelings.

    But I couldn't heal any other symptoms of myself. I still suffer under stomach issues, reflux issues, digestiv disorders, pressure in my forehead and in the eye area. The last two symptoms often lead me into inconcentration and distract me a lot.
    Im sure that my anxiety, the issue I couldn't fix yet, is responsible for alle the remaining symptoms.
    There is always something for me to worry and be anxious about. My anxiety is at the moment my biggest fear. Im anxious about my anxiety. Im anxious about not to be able to heal me from my symptoms. Im anxious about that my symptoms might increase when I do something bad for them for example eating unhealthy food or do sports ...

    So there's still a long way for me to go.
    I'm happy for you and wish you all the best, stay mentally healthy :)
  5. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    Great success story! Thank so much for sharing.
  6. Ryan

    Ryan Well known member

    Good for you, your story will help others. Enjoy your life
  7. Jim D.

    Jim D. Peer Supporter

    @sarah2254, I also thank you for sharing your story as I am now going through the "symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome" (note that I did say "through carpal tunnel syndrome" because I believe my pain is stress-caused). I have posted my situation elsewhere so will just summarize the current issues: I am a chocolatier (very small-scale) now making the Thanksgiving batch of chocolates and gearing up for the Christmas one (which for the past few years has meant making 3,000 pieces of decorated and filled chocolate). Last year my longstanding eczema flared up during December so badly that it eventually got infected and required medical attention. Then I began to notice that the intense itching was sometimes occurring in places where there were no eczema lesions. It's flaring up again now, but I am more aware of it and so it is not as bad as last year. The "carpal tunnel" is a new TMS symptom for me. It makes the chocolate work very painful. I have noted, however, that at times there is shoulder pain (no obvious cause), and the unaffected left hand sometimes shows symptoms as well. The latest twist is knee/hip pain (relevant because I make the chocolates in my home and have to go up and down 14 stairs multiple times daily). It all seems very TMS-like, and I am striving to believe. I am a perfectionist and people-pleaser, the whole TMS bit, so making the chocolates fits in perfectly with my personality. I am cutting down dramatically on the number being made this year, and I suspect my mind is taking its revenge for this "failure" with all these aches and pains.
  8. hawaii_five0

    hawaii_five0 Well known member

    Awesome success story, thank you so much for posting this and the numbered list of what you did. It gives so much encouragement to hear these stories. Yes me too I kind of dream sometimes of how my success story will someday read, and indeed it might even be a good healing method?, visualizing the future healthy you, giving back. Anyway, so happy for you.
    - James
  9. schultzb23

    schultzb23 New Member

    How has your tennis elbow been? I had tennis elbow 10 years ago but it has now come back. I had surgery back then for it and it did not completely help. Finally applied TMS techniques from other symptoms I have had and it went away. Started drumming and playing golf recently and it came back. I remember from your post in the past you had it pretty bad and weightlifting triggered it.


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