Looking back I began to have back pain when I was 16/17 years old whilst training for mountain bike racing, I now know this was TMS pain.
How did this progress over the years?
When I was training for the racing the pain began as an ache in the bottom of my back, over time it got worse until when I got off the bike it was hard to stand up straight. I would only get the pain when on a certain bike (I had 3 at the time), not on all of them and this now fits in with TMS.
I gave up cycling and the pain was not much of a problem until about 1993 when I began to have a stabbing pain like an electric shock in my lower back. This would happen if I bent over and then stood up again. This again slowly got worse until the pain would happen while I was stood still and not even bending my back. This pain then changed to an aching pain in my lower back which would sometimes go into a spasm causing very severe pain.
I also developed stabbing and aching pains in my right hip which would spread to my back making that worse, this lasted for approx 7 years.
Then for 2 years up until recovery I developed RSI in both my hands and arms. This started as mild pain in my right hand and spread to both hands and arms. The pain would be burning, stabbing, tingly aching and many other strange painful feelings
How did the pain limit you?
At first I put up with it on the bike, but it got to a point where I no longer wanted to ride so I gave up, this was something I enjoyed.
When I gave up cycling I began to ride motorcycles, but the type of bike I could ride was very limited. I thought I could only ride bikes where you are sat straight up. This way of thinking was the beginning of back pain ruling my life. Before doing almost any activity I would think how it could affect my back.
Some examples were;
If I went to see a film I wondered if I would be able to sit in a cinema if the seats were not just right for me.
When I drove my car I used a cushion to support my lower back and if I hired a car I would be very worried about the seating position and how it could upset my back.
Our sofa at home had bits of wood under it to make it just right.
The beds in hotels caused major worries or if I slept at friends.
All my garden tools had extra long handles so I didn’t have to bend down.
The pain and the fear of more pain was ruling how I lived my life.
At the time when the hip pain started I was doing a lot of walking which I liked. After a while I decided to give up the walking because I though my hip must be damaged, I had visions of the bones grinding together. Again I modified everything in my life to try and limit the pain. I would be very careful crossing the road making sure I had lots of time and would not have to run the last bit, I thought running would cause much more pain. I modified my work seats and motorbike seats to help too. I had begun to think that when I was 50 I could be in a wheel chair unable to walk and be active. I put a brave face on so it was probably not obvious to others what pain I had.
The final straw was when I developed what I thought was RSI in both hands and arms, this was the worst TMS problem I had. It eventually meant I could do almost no normal daily tasks without pain even and though it started as just a slight pain in my right hand it ended up stopping me doing just about everything.
These are some of the many ways it affected me.
I could not do my job properly because I could not type, luckily my employers are very understanding.
I could only drive very short distances and couldn’t even ride my motorbike.
Most household jobs caused lots of pain and DIY work on our new house was out of the question.
On a night I would just watch TV feeling frustrated knowing there was lots to do but I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t peel veg for tea
I bought an electric toothbrush, but it didn’t help.
Opening doors was painful.
Fastening buttons was difficult
I did begin to feel very down about how I was so limited in what I could do.
What treatments did you try for your pain?
Over the years I saw a sports physio for a couple of years with no major results.
I went to a pain clinic at the hospital which did nothing.
For approx 10 years I saw a chiropractor which did help, but only until the next appointment was due, this cost me a fortune.
I tried acupuncture, massage, heat treatment and had x rays which all showed clear . All the above were for my hip and back.
For my RSI I had more acupuncture which did nothing at all.
I went to the hospital and was told I had sudo winging and had weak core muscles. So to help this I began an exercise program which at one point took almost 3 hours a day. The pain got worse but I had more muscles around my shoulders.
I also went to the hospital 2 to 3 times a week to have my arms massaged, this would ease the pain for about an hour at most. My partner would also massage my arms too again with no improvement.
All in all I was pretty fed up, so was my partner because of how little we could do because of all my problems.
When and how did you come across TMS?
I first heard about Dr Sarno at the RSI awareness day in London in early 2007. Right at the end of the day 2 girls who had cured their RSI with Dr Sarno’s methods gave a talk on him. I took note of his name and as soon as I got home began to research him on the internet. The first thing I noticed was the people I was reading about were getting better from RSI. They didn’t have to be careful what they did and they sounded happy. Before searching under Sarno’s name people with RSI were very unhappy and not getting better, just slowly worse.
You recovered on your own after reading ‘Healing Back Pain’ and ‘The Mindbody Prescription’. How did you go about it?
I bought Healing back pain first and as I read it a lot of the things applied to me. My personality fitted and how I dealt with emotional issues fitted too. After the first time I read the book I decided that this was for me and it was going to work. I began to do all the things I had stopped doing with my hands and arms. All the things that had made my hands hurt, I did more often.
I typed faster and for longer and if they hurt I typed more or used the mouse more. When at work I began to pick heavy things up twice or three times just to prove to myself there was nothing wrong with me. All the time I talked to myself saying things like, “there is nothing wrong with me”, “I can do what I want without pain or damaging myself” and “how can I injure my hand when there is nothing wrong with it?”. I visualised lots of blood going to the areas that hurt. I stopped doing all my hand and arm exercises straight away and stopped going to the hospital with them.
After about 3 days my RSI was much better and after a week it had almost gone, the fear of it had gone too and I knew it was not coming back ever.
I began to wonder if my other problems could be TMS too. I decided that they were and began to use my back like normal. For about 12 years I had been afraid to bend my back in case it made the pain come on. I began to bend my back to pick things up instead of bending my knees. If my back hurt I would touch my toes to prove nothing was wrong, all the time talking and visualising. The talking to myself was in my head, not out loud, so people didn’t think I was mad.
After just a few days I was doing all the things with my back that I had avoided for years, with no pain. Next was my hip, over a few days I got myself ready for a long walk on the following Saturday. This was the first time I had walked over about half a mile for a very long time. I set off walking at a good pace talking and visualising as I went and when I had to cross a road I ran across it again to prove there was nothing wrong with me. On the walk and after it I had no pain. Over the next 3 weeks I built up the distance of my walks to 18 miles all with no pain, the feeling of being pain free and active was amazing. I got on my bicycle again and had no pain, this was even better than the walking because it was something I enjoyed and had had to give up. Since beginning the Sarno work in February 2007 I have gone from not being able to ride the bike at all to taking part and finishing a 100, 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometer long distance cycling events with no hand, back or hip pain.
You struggled with journaling yet you made a swift and complete recovery. What do you feel were the main reasons you succeeded?
I think the main reason I have had very good results is a complete change of how I think about what was wrong with me and realizing how actually it is very hard to permanently damage yourself by doing every day things like bending to pick up a light object from the floor.
I now believe that you can type and do repetitive things, we have been doing things like it for years so why should we now be having problems? Also I didn’t allow any doubts about what I was doing a chance to enter my head. I read all Dr Sarno’s books several times and researched all I could to convince my self it was right and would work for me. I was very committed to this and went into it with 100% effort and when the pain went or began to move around it made me try even harder because I knew it was working.
It took a while but I began to tell people I didn’t have any more problems and I was back to normal or better, this helped a lot.
I can relate the beginning of some of the pain to things that have gone on in my life and now know my personality causes a lot of the problems too.
You had a number of TMS equivalents that you have also managed to recovery from. What were they and how did you resolve them?
I had food allergies diagnosed with blood tests for milk, eggs and types of wheat. I had modified my diet to cut all of these out which made eating out and food shopping difficult. If I ate the wrong things I would get a sore/ burning mouth and stomach pains.
I also suffered from asthma especially in cold weather.
These problems have now gone too, I dealt with them all the same way as the others, I now eat lots of eggs, have milk on all my cereals and don’t even think about what I eat.
I am very glad I found out about Dr Sarno’s work it has given me back a normal life and it’s going to stay normal.