Hoping I can help someone who isn’t sure about the mind having an impact on our physical bodies or who may have questions. I am an almost fully recovered TMS patient of Dr. Sarno.
I had weird sensations in my right butt cheek end of August–oddly enough coming home from vacation. Slight pains here and there, nothing that impacted my everyday life. Had it returning from vacation AGAIN in November. Sitting in the airport, thinking about my son going back to his father that night, returning to work, etc. Coincidence this happened again returning from vacation? Got me thinking. But then I was ok. For two weeks. Driving one day I got acute pain in my butt cheek and actually cried when I got home. Called PCP she said go to ER. ER said “sciatica, take this painkiller and steroid and go to your PCP.” 2 days later PCP said take muscle relaxer. Not going to work (job) now, too much pain. Not better after 2nd trip to PCP that week so she said go to orthopedist. Fortunately had someone to drive me places as I was not in a condition to sit. Got xrays, “degenerative disc disease” I HATE THAT TERM. Then MRI which showed, alas, a herniated disc where else? L5 S1 of course.
Well that must be the cause of the pain, right? I mean the orthopedist should know, right? OK, so take steroid pack (talk about making me sick!), then physical therapy would be next, injection of cortisone, then if nothing else worked, discectomy. Well, great. I have NEVER had surgery and don’t want to! The steroid pack made me sicker than I have been all along. But I kept on it.
At this point I was pretty much disabled.
Dr. John Sarno was being mentioned to me here and there by friends. Sis-in-law brought me his first book when I asked her to come and do my dishes (I could not stand for more than about 30 seconds) and I read it right away! Hmm, interesting. Also read Dr. Weil’s Spontaneous Healing book’s section about a man who had shattered discs in his back, saw Dr. Sarno, and he has no pain anymore!! Wow, we’re on a roll–this could be good–an alternative to surgery. I’m in.
Yeah, I guess emotions could be causing some of this. Got Dr. Sarno’s other books and read them all. Decided to go see Dr. Sarno. Got appt early January. Had a ride in to NYC to see him. Had to lie on the floor in the waiting room and office! But Dr. Sarno was great. I loved his conviction and enthusiasm for what he believes. Talked to me about everyday stresses, etc. and then did exam. Yup, each pressure point for TMS was sure tender. Also showed me how some of my reflexes were so good they could NOT be related to a herniated disc. Encouraging. Got the “program” and was so relieved the herniated disc was not the cause of the pain! Got started on my “list” and essay writing. Screamed, cried, cursed, etc. but got lots of emotions out. I was home all day, so I filled spiral notebooks full of essays. Few days later I could stand up longer. Sit yet? No. Easier to get around though. Within 1.5 weeks I felt a miraculous difference. I asked to be taken to the grocery store since I had not shopped for myself in six weeks. Walked through the store but toward the end had to lie down in the car. Ok, that was progress. I was happy. Next day I sat! I went to the store again and sat in the front seat of the car! Amazing! No pain! So since then I have slowly had pain go away. I still get a little annoyance in the tailbone area when sitting awhile, but I am sure it will go away as I’m not finished with my 4-6 week intensive writing program.
I cannot say enough about Dr. Sarno. I must admit, emotions playing a role in physical health was no news to me as I had heard and read about this for years.
I realize some people won’t buy into this as they feel it cannot possibly be that your anger, guilt, fear, etc. can cause the brain to cause pain. But I am a believer. I am proof this program works and am so happy I have been able to drive, go to work, and enjoy life again.
I saw Dr. Sarno at lecture last week and hugged and thanked him so much for his books and programs.
Who knows where I’d be (recovering from surgery just to have more pain?) if I had not read his books and seen him.
I wish my family would take it seriously and help themselves, but they’re not ready. My bro has knee pain and programs himself to have it after doing hard labor. My dad has spinal stenosis and other things that are the “gray hair of the spine” as Dr. Sarno says. But I know they’d be helped if they’d open their mind to this. I guess I am just grateful to have my life back virtually pain free.
Funny how I talk about it at work slightly (most people are NOT open minded I have seen) and they say “oh you got lots of rest, that’s why you’re better”. Really. I don’t consider weeks of 24/day pain rest. Or “the physical therapy helped.” Yeah, I went 3 times. Hated it. Thankful to hear Dr. Sarno does NOT recommend physical therapy as TMS is NOT a physical problem.
That’s my happy ending to my TMS story. If I get more pain, I know what to do so that does not scare me.”
Have had a twinge or two of pain especially when there were some unpleasant and unexpected changes at work, but I addressed them by writing or talking out loud at home, and the pain is gone.
You will be helped proportionate to the amount you believe TMS is the cause of your pain. If you keep doubting the TMS diagnosis, or keep concentrating on the physical, what you think you might have done to cause the pain (picked up my kid, turned funny, or one of my favorites to hear “slept wrong” hahaha), you likely will not be fully healed.
This works. I fully believed the diagnosis and took the steps to clear myself of baggage by writing till my hand hurt. Which is why I have responded to questions on this forum with “write, write, write.” I have done so much additional reading about the mindbody connection and it’s truly fascinating how our emotions affect our bodies. I highly recommend the book Mind/Body Health for insight into the mind/body connection, and The Solution program at thepathway.com for those who have trouble getting “in touch” with their emotions. I’ve learned a great way to go through a “flow of feelings” to help me get past hurts from the past. And present!
Best wishes to all of you on your recovery from TMS.
I now realise my suffering from back pain and other TMS equivalents goes back to my childhood. By my early 20s I had an ulcer. I was OK during my late 20s, during which time I was married and had kids. In my mid 30s, following a traumatic death in my family, I developed chronic hand-arm-shoulder pain which doctors called RSI or carpal tunnel, although the symptoms didn’t quite match and no treatments had any effect. This lasted about 15 years, and I also gradually developed a lot of back and shoulder pain. Over the years I have had IBS, gastritis and other digestive problems, become allergic (to cats, pollen and chemicals) and have generalised bone and muscle pains that doctors cannot fathom.
A year ago (August 2008) I woke up one morning with severe lower back pain. This continued to get worse over the next months: I had to take time off work repeatedly, and was in constant pain. I couldn’t sit for more than 15-20 minutes without suffering acute pain: that meant I had to switch to an ergonomic kneeling chair at work, all social life came to a halt and I spent every evening lying on the sofa watching tv, with heat packs, cushions… I couldn’t do any travelling, which is normally an important aspect of my job, and my boss was beginning to lose patience with me. My family’s patience was wearing very thin indeed, especially my husband’s as we could no longer share any of the things we previously enjoyed like gardening and home improvement etc. Sure they were sympathetic, but life wasn’t much fun. On top of that my allergies had reached an all-time high and I was spending day and night sneezing and blowing my nose till the skin was raw.
I had blood tests, x-rays, MRI scans, saw several doctors, osteopaths, acupuncture… all in all I spent several thousand euro on tests and treatments on top of what was reimbursed by insurance To cut a very long story short, nothing worked and they couldn’t find the cause of my pain. Also I spent a fortune on loads of different types of allergy medication that made no difference whatsoever.
In January I had booked a 2-week holiday in Greece, for end June. By mid May I was panicking… how could I contemplate such a trip when the pain was constantly so bad? I needed my husband’s help to put on my socks, never mind spending 2 weeks in a remote village on a greek island. It caused me intense pain to bend over and pick up something I dropped. I couldn’t carry even a light bag of shopping.
I started (for the umpteenth time) to google randomly and this time, instead of all the scary stuff about the nasty things lower back pain can be a symptom of, I happened on Dr Sarno’s web page… which I immediately moved on from because it seemed like just another internet scam (his website really is crap!) But then I happened on a website of someone talking about TMS and Sarno, and I found this website and suddenly it all started to make sense.
Within minutes I was downloading Healing Back Pain from Audible, and as I listened I actually started to cry. Here was my answer not just to my chronic pain for the last year, but for many years before that.
The following weeks were hard. Within a few hours of listening to Sarno’s book, I stood up and felt something “go” in my back. Suddenly my back pain had disappeared only to be replaced by sciatica that grew worse over the next couple of days. 3 days later I was in such pain I was gasping for breath: it was a national holiday but I managed to find an osteopath who could see me right away. My husband helped me to get there, and the osteopath pulled and twisted and relieved some of the pain. I already knew at that stage that this was the “wrong” way to treat the pain but I couldn’t “think psychological” while the immediate pain was so intense. I loaded up on painkillers and waited for teh worst to subside while I tried to “think psychological” and keep telling myself “this is not real: this is TMS…”
Gradually over the following weeks my pain improved. I listened to Sarno’s books Healing Back Pain and then The Divided Mind over and over and over. I visited this forum several times a day – and some wonderful people here supported me and even took the time to email me privately. (You know who you are and I am incredibly grateful to you!) My allergies just stopped, miraculously, from when I first started listening to Healing Back Pain. I think I sneezed 5 times in the following weeks and each time told myself “this is just TMS trying it on. I won’t accept it!” and it just stopped!
I have not really managed to journal or do much of the work that I should do. I find it very hard to address the psychological issues. I think I would benefit from psychotherapy but for one I can’t afford it and for two, I want to kick this thing myself in my own way and my own time. For the time being, it is enough for me to take the time to de-program my brain so that it stops using TMS as a distraction technique.
And the result? Well, yesterday we returned from our 2-week holiday in Greece. It was the best holiday I have ever had. I walked for hours, hiked (in 32C heat), climbed mountains and swam several times a day. I was 90% pain free!!!!!! Every time it was tough, instead of telling myself “I’m so unfit, my body is letting me down all the time” I told myself “a month ago I was flat on my back in pain! Look at the progress I have made!”
When we came back our garden was like a jungle and this morning I spent 2 hours weeding! After 9 months of lying on my back most of my time, unable to bend over to put on my socks, I was weeding!!!!
What I find so remarkable about TMS diagnosis and treatment is that although I did not have an overnight cure – almost every day I still experience some pain – I have now understood my pain and so I can manage it. Every time I feel pain, I talk to my brain, telling it I know what it’s trying to do, but I won’t accept it. I can actually make pain disappear just by talking to my brain. It keeps trying it on, and I keep talking it away.
I have ordered The Mind-Body Prescription book and I’m looking forward to reading it soon. I know I still have a way to go. But I feel great joy that I have found the key to my back pain and so many other symptoms I have had over the years.
The psychological journey will continue to be tough, and I know my work is not done, but I am fully optimistic that although I may always have a tendency towards TMS, at least now I can manage it.
And most of all, I can get back to gardening, which I love, and all the other activities which I couldn’t do for so long. And my husband and I had a wonderful holiday, as well! My gratitude to Dr Sarno knows no bounds, and my gratitude to everyone here is immense also.
To anyone new to all this, I wish you well, and a good journey towards recovery.
I don’t suppose Dr Sarno will ever read this post, but if I could talk to him I would tell him that he can add my name to the list of thousands and thousands of people whose lives he has changed radically for the better and forever. How many people can achieve that in a lifetime