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The dismissal of quack Dr. John Sarno's nonsensical and insulting theories..

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by johnhenryowen, Dec 16, 2014.

  1. johnhenryowen

    johnhenryowen New Member

    ... months ago.

    And then the strangest thing happened.

    A week or so ago, I was at what might have been the lowest ebb in a year long battle with arm pain, variously termed RSI, upper limb disorder etc. I had come to believe I was disabled - permanently.

    And then the thought struck me, razor sharp - a moment of abject clarity; the sensations I was feeling were entirely irrational, illogical - If the tissues in my arms were damaged, why was the pain and numbness so wildly inconsistent. Why could I carry heavy objects, grasp things firmly perform all manor of activities requiring dexterity in some instances, but not in others. Why pain whilst typing and playing guitar, but not whilst drumming my fingers or buttoning my shirt. I had of course thought about this before, but had been assured that 'complex upper limb pain' can behave in a way that seems irrational - This injury was eccentric, nebulous, mobile - it could radiate, shift and recur.

    What struck me in that moment of clarity was that the explanation for this irrational phenomena was itself irrational. Occam's razor applied, I concluded - firmly - that there was something inherently unlikely about the idea that I had somehow damaged the muscle tissue or nerves in my arms and hands, and that this was causing unpredictable pain and other sensations. There was only one alternative; the pain must have been somehow manufactured by my mind. One further piece of puzzle started to take shape soon after this strange and compelling realisation. Looking over at my laptop, sitting unused on my desk, an object of fear and resentment, my hands and arms started to buzz with pain and tingling. I realised that this was - that it must be - a conditioned reaction, something like the salivation of Pavlov's dogs. Where had I encountered that suggestion before?

    It was, i finally remembered, when I had flicked through that guy's eccentric ideas in a book that I bought whilst buying every book I encountered that dealt with RSI from Amazon. His name was Dr John E. Sarno (3 weeks ago, I'm ashamed to say, I would have put inverted commas around 'Dr' such was my contempt for anything called 'mindbody')

    I read the book I had. I ordered the others, and the audio versions. I was ashamed, because pursuing this felt like an act of desperation, and a betrayal of a proud commitment to empiricism in its evidentialist form - of medicine itself, the thing that might, one day, help me to recover. I had turned to the 'new age' to 'feelings' to everything I thought was a blind alley full of delusional saps and zealots profiting from misery.

    The books impressed me. But they didn't convince me. They still don't. This business about blood flow and oxygen deprivation. Hm - I humbly submit I just don't know about that. But this insight - that a psychomsymatic origin for this pain is possible resonated with my earlier realisation. It was - it is - a Copernican revolution, a new way of thinking about this - And I feel, cautiously, that I am profiting from it.

    I started to read accounts of people getting better from this seemingly incurable pathology, and to read this forum. I realised that the people talking to me from Youtube, and in typed accounts full of abrupt transitions from unadulterated misery to unmitigated joy were not delusional, impressionable people. They seemed to be articulate, sceptical and well-informed. More than anything - They had got better.

    I'm not fixed. But, I am typing this from the laptop that I had learned to fear. And the last two/ three days, I have felt better than I have in a long time.

    If this persists until Christmas, if I continue to improve, even just a little, I will throw myself at the feet of Dr. Sarno, and on the alter of TMS ask forgiveness. Then, I will sit down, and calmly - painlessly - type my confession, my story of abject fear and of eventual success.

  2. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi John,

    Welcome to the forum, a fabulous first post. I think many have doubts when they first come across the concept, the fact that you have tried numerous thing to no avail then gone back to Dr Sarnos teachings is a great start. There are also countless other Drs who have incorporated this into their practices, and have had a proven track record of success. I understand Forest who set up this Forum also managed to cure himself of RSI pain some years ago, you may wish to look at his story when you have a moment.

    It's great that you are seeing success, but please remember to have 100% belief in Dr Sarnos teaching, an element of doubt could hinder or delay your healing.

    There is a fabulous FREE Structured Educational Program on this forum which has been devised by Alan Gordon using those principles mentioned in Dr Sarnos book.

    Finally, please be mindful, dedicated and 100% committed knowing that you hold the key to your own healing.

    All the best,

    North Star, Ellen and Becca like this.
  3. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, JohnHenryOwen and welcome to the forum. You're definitely not alone in angrily rejecting the diagnosis upon first reading about it. One of the most beloved TMS authors, Steve Ozanich, reported throwing Dr. Sarno's book across the room upon first reading it. I also rejected it when I first learned about it in the mid nineties. I've got some scientific training and knew that many of Freud's ideas hadn't held up very well in the latter half of the 20th century and that most scientific psychological research had moved on. Plus, as you say, it feels insulting!

    How things have changed since then! I'm continually amazed at how the TMS approach can transform people's lives. I wish that I had given it more of a try back in the 90s. Once a friend showed me some success stories online and I decided to give it a try, I finally got my life back. However, the delay affected marriage decisions and saddled me with persistent anxiety for more than a decade (which is not a good thing for brain plasticity). As time has passed, I've become much more comfortable with psychodynamic approaches.

    In terms of accepting the diagnosis 100%, it's always something that you want to strive for, as it helps recovery. Yet, I've also seen quite a few people who have recovered without accepting it 100%. This person, for instance:

    In fact, sometimes you talk to people who claim to accept the diagnosis 100%, but when you press them, you realize that they don't accept it as much as they thought they did. For example, I was speaking with someone a week ago who thought he accepted the diagnosis 100% but then worried that cold weather made his muscles tense and that that worsened symptoms. That seemed like "physical thinking" to me.

    Anyway, welcome to the forum. I wish the best for you in your recovery!
    Ellen, Anne Walker and Walt Oleksy like this.
  4. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks, Forest. I went to the 4046 link and liked what he says.
    Sometimes we can have some doubts about our symptoms being 100 percent from TMS.
    If so, we need to keep working to achieve that belief. It's good to know some people heal with less belief.

    Every day a new stress, or return of an old one, can challenge that 100 percent belief.
    We handle it as best we can. It's all in our head anyway, and we can think ourselves sick or we
    can think ourselves well. I keep practicing thinking I'm well.
  5. johnhenryowen

    johnhenryowen New Member

    Many thank for the responses. So nice that this is such an active forum.

    Forest, I feel like I'm addressing a celebrity since I have played your Youtube video about a dozen times since I started pursuing this approach a few days ago (). Your comment about how pain switched from the forearms to the back of the hands (or dorsal aspect as I have learnt to say, suggesting a possible radial nerve problem) at one stage during your illness is a mirror of my own plight - doubtless just a coincidental parallel, but that comment was the difference between me pursuing this idea and ditching it. Your comments about fears for the future very resonant also - that is a constant source of intense anxiety for me. Also when you say you didn't see yourself on every page of Sarno's books - I feel the same. Again, I thought before I saw that vid that this probably didn't apply to me since reading Sarno does not feel like 'reading my biography' (a phrase I seem to see quite often)

    Your case is (was) far more severe than mine and far more long-lasting (although mine has proved deeply depressing and debilitating this year, ruinous really) but it was similar enough to provide a model for rehabilitation using the Sarno method. I've showed it to a couple of impatient friends to see if they see a parallel in symptoms and personality, and they can't help but acknowledge it...

    I have an MRI coming up in January. I'm going to take it, no matter what (I'm in the UK so although it takes forever, at least the National Health picks up the bill). Until that time, I'm going to do all I can to make this approach work - Thanks for the suggestions of resources and stories.

    P.s - I think that those of you who have recovered are doing very impressive work in supporting those still with troubles. I hope if I do indeed recover I'll be similarly altruistic.
  6. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    'Why' indeed!? Why is it that I can do leg exercises on 15 weight workstations in a row and only feel pain when I walk three steps down from one level of the exercise room to another lower level? If the pain varies from situation to situation and also moves from one location to another, those are pretty good signs that your symptoms are programmed and conditioned (at least to some degree) by your mind. To me, all that PT talk about "radiating" nerve pain seems like an argument concocted to evade that conclusion and reassert the structural diagnosis.

    You've had a major TMS epiphany, John Henry, now go with it!
    North Star and johnhenryowen like this.
  7. Peggy

    Peggy Well known member

    Sounds like the Grinch who Stole Christmas, and then got all happy at the end.

    P.S. I still think Forest has a little celebrity status. When I discovered TMS I watched videos for days until I got my books.
    North Star likes this.
  8. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    There's lots of room at the altar of Dr. Sarno. You're welcome to join us there anytime :)

    Loved your very well-written post.
    North Star and johnhenryowen like this.
  9. tmsandrew

    tmsandrew Peer Supporter

    hiya John, great post. It sounds like you are very similar to me - and in a very similar position to where I was about 5 years ago. Three years of steadily increasing RSI pain - culminating in pain which seemed to be shutting every possible door both career-wise and socially. A litany of GPs, MRIs, physios, steroids, nerve tests, occupational health nurses, specialists, all failing to help, all failing to halt what seemed to be an inexorable spread. And then my sister mentioned that since no-one had found anything structurally wrong that maybe this was a psychosomatic condition. At the time I hated her for it - the very idea! And yet, the spark had been lit. A few months later it finally caught. Why was my condition so irrational? Why could I do some things with my hands and not others? Why was I getting pain when no doctor could find anything wrong? I too found Dr Sarno's work online, along with this forum, and TMShelp. Within a week I was seeing significant improvements, within 3 months I was completely cured. Playing guitar again, typing online for hours where previously I had used Dragon dictate, writing freehand, playing badminton. All with no symptoms.

    Embrace the concept - build up slowly, do a lot of exercise, do some journalling and meditation. You'll be free of RSI in a matter of weeks.

    If you're in England and anywhere in the North, look up Georgie Oldfield - she's a qualified physio and runs a TMS course. She was great to talk to - and equally useful was meeting face to face with other people who had recovered from RSI. I drove from Wigan to Huddersfield for the meeting - that was the final 10% push I needed to fully accept things.

    If you want to read my success story in more detail it is here: http://rsi-backpain.co.uk/

    Even better, read all the success stories listed here: http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/Repetitive_Strain_Injuries_-_RSI

    There's about 100 of them - everyone saying the same thing....

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2014
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  10. johnhenryowen

    johnhenryowen New Member

    Andrew, I just typed 'you have no idea how valuable it is to hear this...' but then I remembered that you probably have a very developed idea of how valuable this kind of story is. I really appreciate it, and will read the detailed version of your story. Funnily enough, my parents live in Sheffield - So I might well look up Georgie Oldfield. Thanks for the tip. There seem to be so few practitioners here.

    I'm on what I might call day three (or four or five, let's say three) of work since my realisation the other day, and I am working unaided at a laptop. That is something I haven't done for months, and I've just done it for three days straight. Last night I took all of my splints, supports, rehabilitation putties, gloves, gel wrests, heat creams, ergonomic computer equipment, books (the sterling value of which is probably equal to my annual income!) and put them in a big carry-all bag. Then I went an played piano. It's a strange experience, not un-painful - but considerably better.

    Funnily enough, a new book arrived yesterday morning that I ordered from the states weeks ago - Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Repetitive Strain Injuries: A Self-Care Program. It prescribed a load of new stretches. I put it in the bag.
    IrishSceptic and Irene like this.
  11. tmsandrew

    tmsandrew Peer Supporter

    yes, definitely ditch the stretch methods - I might have even ordered the same book! It made things worse as it got me focusing on structural problems even more so than before....

    It sounds like you are already a big leap on the way to recovery. Taking off my hand splints, logging out of Dragon Voice, getting rid of my foot-activated mouse they were all big steps. I didn't need any of them! I would definitely recommend exercise as a tool to overcome your RSI - I built up from this complete fear of exercise to 1 hour at the gym every day for about 1 year. I made it something I needed to go to - I was always afraid that if I missed a session then I would start to slip back again, that the fear of exercise would return. Start it gradually - but build up bit by bit as you get more confident. Or if you're musical, play the piano everyday or the guitar, build up how long you play - until you notice that nothing is wrong anymore. If you get any pain after exercising don't worry - it's just your muscles which are out of shape!

    If you're like me and want to see some medical evidence, well have a look at: http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/Annotated_Bibliography
    there's actually quite a lot of evidence behind the mindbody approach - it's just that it doesn't really make much money for anyone, so it doesn't get promoted by the big pharmaceutical companies ....
    Ellen likes this.
  12. E. Lynn

    E. Lynn Peer Supporter

    Welcome JohnHenry. Congrats on making the connection on the conditioned reaction. It is seriously REAL. My example is, for many years I have had back pain. It has slowly gotten better over the past two months after learning more about TMS (Thank you God).

    Not long ago, when I would get in the shower, washing my hair would make my back pain worse(I have longish hair.) I knew it had to be from my 'bad' back and it made me afraid to take a shower, so I usually took a bath(which was easier on my muscles). My brain slowly came to fear the hair washing process and would immediately spasm as soon as I got in the shower BEFORE I even washed my hair. Kind of embarrassing, but there it is.

    Even though my pain has gotten better, it still did the same thing today! I wasn't even in the shower yet, and my upper back spasmed. I was so ridiculous, I laughed at it and carried on. Talk about a Pavlov response!
    Ellen likes this.
  13. Enrique

    Enrique Well known member

    Just want to say welcome! And I actually enjoyed readying your first post! :D You have a way with words.
    North Star likes this.
  14. alexandra

    alexandra Peer Supporter

    I love this post...I can carry my 6 year old, heavy bags, wash my long hair, blow dry it and straighten it just fine but as soon as I try to jog I get widespread burning nerve pain, tingling arm pain. Same with my back and legs. It's fear and conditioning. I have been in a relapse since sept. I was basically pain free by the end of last summer, even jogging a little. FEAR is my obstacle, I have experimented here and there with dealing w my fear and anxiety with great results and I am 100 % positive if I can let go of my fear I will be pain free. ☺
    North Star likes this.
  15. E. Lynn

    E. Lynn Peer Supporter

    I know what you mean, Alexandra. That same pain I get with washing my hair happens when I try to walk for exercise. I KNOW it is fear, a little conscious, and a lot more subconscious. It feels like super tight tension. It is taking longer to go away than some of the pains I've had for years. Frustrating.
    alexandra likes this.
  16. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Oh, goodness! As you'll see, I'm just another guy, just like everyone else here. It's amazing how YouTube videos can have that effect. I do feel bad about the delay in retiring, though. To be honest, I'm a bit shy and retiring in some ways, so after you said those nice things, it made me feel good, but I may have avoided the thread for a bit. :oops: I knew that there would be wonderful other folks here to keep up the discussion. And there are always fires to put out around here. (spammers; crashing servers; and comment flamewars just in the last week!)

    Yes, it was always strange how symptoms appeared in areas where they "shouldn't" be. For example, when my right thumb developed a persistent writer's cramp whenever I wrote and then I switched to writing lefty, my left thumb almost immediately developed the same symptom, despite there not being nearly enough "repetitive stress." Likewise, when I switched to computer dictation my throat started hurting ridiculously quickly.

    In hindsight, the repetitive strain model just didn't make sense, but it was hard to see then because the way that it was spreading had me so scared. Anxiety and fear can warp our thinking. I guess, evolutionarily speaking, it led to quick action (fight or flight), but it's no good when the anxiety becomes chronic.
    That would be wonderful if you could! You're a terrific writer and I hope you'll take the time to share what helped you the most. Over time I'm hoping to come up with a number of new manageable, clearly-defined volunteer roles so that we can maintain our programs and continue to grow when I need to cut my hours down a bit. Things like, a spam team, forum moderators, facebook page managers, etc.
    North Star and Anne Walker like this.
  17. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Nothing to add to the great discussion here but I did want to say I loved your post, JohnHenry! Bravo!
  18. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Speaking of pain jumping around, @johnhenryowen, I thought you might appreciate the following quote from @North Star, above, in a thread she started:
    Pro tip for forum old timers and newbies alike: if you click the upward pointing arrow in after where it says "North Star Said: " it will take you directly to the full post that the quote came from:
    A little hard to find, but convenient once you know it, right?

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