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TMS or tennis elbow?

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Crios4119, Jul 4, 2020.

  1. Crios4119

    Crios4119 Newcomer


    I have been browsing these forums for a while now and am so grateful to have found this wonderful resource! I have discovered Dr. Sarno recently, and have read halfway through the Mindbody Perscription, so I thought I would share what I've been going through and hopefully get some opinions on whether I have TMS or not. I'm becoming very convinced that I do, but it is very difficult to let go of the fear that something is still physically wrong. A couple of years ago I was washing my car, and afterwards I had this wierd burning sensation in my right forearm out of nowhere. I was a piano major and had just recovered from a RSI in my hand that was caused by bad technique, but it cleared up with rest, so I wasn't playing very much when this new injury occured. After this happened, I experienced alot of fatigue at the piano that I never had before, and could only play a few notes for about 5 minutes before having to stop due to the fatigue and burning. The doctor said it was tendonitis, so I did several sessions of physical therapy and deep tissue messages while taking weeks off the piano. The treatment didn't help, although I would feel better during the message but an hour or so later, the symptoms came right back. The same thing also started in my left arm out of no where a few weeks later. Since reading through about half the book, I realized I have every personality trait, and that I have alot of rage. I started to really fear the piano, and I began to constantly worry that I was doing something wrong because I feared making it worse. Funny thing is, the pain has never been that bad. My arms just have this burning sensation all the time, but it has never gotten better or worse. I become obsessed with the problem and have always been afraid to do anything since I thought it would get worse. This has created alot of rage, as I wanted to pursue a piano degree and do this as a career, and the one thing I am passionate about is taken away, and I was forced to drop out of college a year ago since I could barely play. Fast forward several months of no piano, it never improved and I went to a sports medicine doctor this March who works with injured musicians. He did a x-ray of my spine and said nothing is wrong and there are no pinched nerves, and diagnosed it as tennis elbow. So he sent me to 12 sessions of occupational therapy, more ice, heat, ultrasound, tens unit, etc. and there has been barely any improvement, and the therapists insist it is RSI but the ergonomic computer stuff doesn't do a thing. Now, I'll list the strange things that make me think it's TMS -

    I have been retraining my piano technique in the Taubman approach with an expert teacher for the past 3 months, which is a healthy technique that has gotten many injured pianists out of pain. They teach you how to properly move at the piano, and explain why many things pianists are traditionally taught can cause injury. The funny thing is, in all of the success stories you read, the pianists have alot of pain in real life, but at the piano when they learn the new healthy movements, they don't have any pain or fatigue, and usually in this amount of time they are pretty much recovered. Why is it that I go to the piano and play a few notes, and the symptoms start back up? Sometimes even my left arm is fine for a couple weeks, but as soon as I play a few notes, the symptoms come back as bad as they were before, Despite the fact it is a healthy technique and I am being told I'm doing it correctly. And I barely even use my left arm. Why is it that I can play bass for 30 minutes straight and never have any symptoms? I can carry several bags of heavy groceries and have no symptoms, yet I try to lift some weights and the symptoms come immediately. It seems to affect everything that I love to do, yet there is absolutely no reason the piano should be causing a problem. I was reading in the book today how our brain can be conditioned to have pain with certain activities, and I believe this is happening because I am so worried I am going to do something wrong and re-injure myself, and I expect to have the pain every time I play or lift weights. Reading that blew me away. Yet when I have the pain, it still makes me fear that something is physically wrong. I even started having knee pain and calf pain a few weeks ago for no reason at all, and it gets worse when I go for a walk. I guess I am asking, how can I get out of this fear of having the pain at the piano? I am very convinced this is TMS and it seems impossible that something is still wrong, and I know what I'm doing at the piano will not harm me, yet the fear is so strong. It makes sense that my brain is conditioned to have fatigue and pain when I play, and that seems like the best explanation because I go to the piano fearing that I am going to have it. It is strange though that this has never gotten better, or worse. Sometimes it's a burning sensation, or a dull ache near my elbow, or my arm will feel weak. Some days it's fine most of the day, or it will just flare up for no reason when I haven't done anything. I should mention too that I always get back pain after sitting at the piano a few minutes, yet I can sit for a long time in any other chair without much of a problem, and again they confirmed nothing is wrong. Also when I would go to the message therapist, they would always find so many muscle knots in my upper back and triceps. I am so tight all the time for some reason. Around my hips is very tender as well.

    I apologize for how lengthy this is, and greatly appreciate anyone taking the time to read it. I am just looking for some opinions about all this stuff and more reassurance that it is TMS. Thanks!!
  2. Baseball65

    Baseball65 Beloved Grand Eagle

    You are conditioned like a rat in a skinner box. That's actually good news, because now you can break it!

    I would hazard a guess that either you were playing piano one day when you needed a symptom and your body chose your hands/wrist as being the most likely to get your attention OR , like myself, you are super duper competitive and perfectionistic and want to always be the best player ever.

    But reading your story, you are like textbook. All of those tender spots? Sarno discussed them and called them the 'central zones of oxygen deprivation'. He used to find them on people even when they had no pain in that particular area...
    . Yep...

    the Proof in your own words that debunks any possibility of this being structural is:
    I started noticing these sorts of contradictions before, during and after I recovered. I had 'back' problems, yet I could benchpress the entire stack at the pain clinic? Later, I also noticed that WHO I was around when the pain showed up was extremely relevant.

    I'll share a musician story that might relate to you.

    I had a showcase that Polygram set up. IF it went well, I might have signed a publishing deal that could have substantially changed my economic fortunes.
    I had no money to pay the other players in the hastily assembled band, but I told them all that if the deal went through I'd give them 1-2K each for the 6 or 7 rehearsals and the show.

    Two days before the gig, the lead guitar player came and told me "This isn't really my kind of music.... I don't think I can commit to being in this band". I wanted to throttle him... it wasn't a 'band', I was showcasing Songs. I had made that perfectly clear when I asked him to play. He was the husband of one of my benefactors and the ultimate bitch-man beta-male....I wouldn't have wanted to play with him either... it was a FAVOR.

    That night laying in bed I felt a pain start in my chest. It ended up wrapping around my whole body into my left arm and hand...pretty scary. I eventually got so scared I went to the emergency room down the street. I was thinking maybe Heart attack?
    They told me I had a shoulder spasm and nerve compression,yada, ca dida ca dada.... I could still play guitar but I couldn't stand up. So I found an emergency lead guitar player. I did two quick rehearsals SITTING DOWN due to the pain in my arm and hands. When I played the showcase I had to have other people lift my amps, haul my shit, and play sitting down Like Jerry Garcia...embarrassing. .....BUT....

    As soon as the showcase was over, I magically lifted my own 80 pound amp and all of my guitar cases and the pain was GONE.
    All of the pressure and stress was over.. It was the anxiety and fear of tanking and looking like a rookie that necessitated the symptom. When it was over, the symptom was useless and went away.

    I'll bet if you examine your experience closer you will find LOTS of these same type of stories and contradictions which is the main clue to the culprit. NOW that you have the bastard outed, begin to uncondition yourself. It is Nowhere near as hard as it sounds. You've actually begun the process by studying this.... you can expedite it by continuing to learn about TMS and other mindbody things and when you catch yourself paying attention to the symptoms consciously shifting your attention to a recurrent source of irritation... it can even be your anxiety over playing.

    I had years and years of tapes to delete... I didn't start playing music until I was nearly 20 , but for those first 20 years everytime I would sing or play guitar , family and friends would tell me "You suck...shut up".... that's a lot of old tracks to delete, right? So.. anytime I catch myself paying attention to a symptom, I have an imaginary discussion with one of those detractors.. "Oh yeah? Well, you are WRONG...F.U....."

    I also have almost 30 years of painfree playing since reading Sarno and I have been in many, much higher pressure environments than that showcase. This stuff really works.

    sorry for the book and lecture BUT I found when I was recovering , the other anecdotes that were similar to my own dilemma were the most useful...You oughta' get better fast.

    shout at me on a PM if you have any other questions

  3. Crios4119

    Crios4119 Newcomer

    Hey Baseball65, I greatly appreciate you taking the time to write such a detailed reply and sharing your story! I can definitely relate to being perfectionistic with my playing, but in my case people are always telling me how good I play and I always see what I could have done better and am never happy with how I play, haha. Your story was exactly what I needed to hear, and it is totally clear that nothing is structurally wrong. I am not done with the book yet, but surprisingly I felt better at the piano today and didn't have much of a flare up. I think learning about TMS and finally realizing what is wrong is starting to help. Thanks again for your thoughtful reply and advice! There is finally hope, I'd pretty much given up when all that therapy failed lol
  4. Baseball65

    Baseball65 Beloved Grand Eagle

    That's where the truth lives. Right there in that little sentence. Think about that and pretend you aren't you for a second.... if You are always thinking that thought, then you never get 'there'...get it?

    AFTER your pain goes away (and it will very shortly) You might want to delve into that. I have still never written my best song, played my best gig, had my best baseball game...and I am 54 because "I always see what I could have done better". It's like the human Chutzpah that drives the species. All great performers artists, builders and athletes have that... but it can also be a huge RAGE maker.... anger at ourselves for not being perfect, mixed with some contempt for our fellows who are satisfied with their own mediocrity.
    amen.... and it works for everything, not just your wrists and hands.


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