Inception

After three trips to the chiropractor, I’m still in pain. I really like what Dr. Tony does while I’m there, and there’s definitely some temporary relief, but it’s not enough to justify paying that much money once a week.

A friend refers me to this book: Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno. The friend is Mazza, my burning-man-yogi-half-baked-spiritual-meditative LA friend. She tells me it’s done wonders for her back issues. She actually says, “I rarely have pain, just from reading it.”

C’mon, are you joking?? You don’t have back pain because you read a book?! That’s ridiculous. I don’t believe it.

The book is on Audible. I immediately purchase it and start listening.

Well, first, I listen to the sample because I have to like the narrator. If I don’t like the narrator’s voice or the way he speaks, I can’t get through it. This book is read by the author and he sounds old and shaky. The audio itself sounds old and shaky, too, as if I’m listening to a record or something. But it’s only three hours and 23 minutes, it has great reviews, and if I put the speed up to 1.5 as I do with all audiobooks, it won’t be as hard to get through. Also, my back freaking hurts!

Here’s the gist of it. Dr. Sarno explains the phenomena of TMS, which stands for Tension Myositis Syndrome. Since I can never remember that, let’s call it the other acronym – The MindBody Syndrome.

From the Mind Body Medicine website:

“TMS is a common and treatable diagnosis for back, neck, arm, pelvic, and other types of chronic pain with no clear structural cause (benign pain). Healing comes from learning to shift focus from physical to psychological, break dysfunctional neural pathways, and process emotions differently. The symptoms are very real, but the cause is not what is expected or typically looked for by most doctors.”

By the third hour, I’m kind of annoyed. This guy has been going on and on and on about TMS and what it is, and scientific terms and OTHER ways doctors try to handle it and prescribe it. He keeps giving examples of people with pain and how they’ve tried everything but haven’t felt relief until they’ve seen him. But he’s not telling me what the heck I’m supposed to do about it.

Finally, at hour three, I’m getting worked up and even more anxious because there have been zero answers and shouldn’t I be feeling better by now??

Then things start to become clear. Sarno has been explaining TMS and its effects and giving examples, because the first step to dealing with TMS, is being educated about it.

I roll my eyes. OK, I get it. I have TMS. I’m educated now. GREAT. Now can you please tell me what to do?

More from the web:

“Step 1: Accept the diagnosis.

A key to getting well from TMS is understanding and believing the diagnosis! The TMS pain process occurs, we believe, in order for the unconscious mind to hide “unacceptable” emotions. It is a form of distraction. When this TMS process is exposed, the symptoms begin to resolve.

“Step 2: Think psychologically.

The second part of the treatment process is learning to think psychologically, not physically.  By this we mean focusing on emotional tension and your internal response to external events and not on prior, conventional, mechanical or so-called structural explanations for your pain. We also teach a cognitive system of blocking, then shifting attention that is very effective (a form of self-talk).”

Let’s say I believe all this. I mean, I do, actually. I really hope that its true because it means there is a way out. It makes sense. I have had continual back and neck pain for years, but doctors always tell me I’m just fine. I hate when they tell me I’m fine. I’m not fine. How are you not finding something wrong with me?!!

When I think about it further, and think about the onset of my pain, it does tend to occur when I’m feeling anxious about something. I always start to feel pain before I go to work. Going to work at a restaurant feels like a trigger for stress. It’s not what I want to be doing with my life, I feel trapped, and I’m not looking forward to it. Once I’m there and working, I’m fine, but it is interesting to notice that the pain doesn’t just start for no reason. There is a link between my pain and anxiety.

This could be my answer. I start talking to myself, saying, ‘The pain is not real, I am in control of my body.’ I say it out loud to Steve, too, but I can’t help but smirk when I say it. Because the problem is, I’m still in pain.

So I believe that my pain is a product of my mind. I still don’t know how to fix it. Sure, I guess it is slightly comforting to know that there isn’t anything structurally wrong with my body, and that I am OK. But Sarno’s saying that I’m repressing some emotions that I don’t want to deal with. How am I supposed to know what those “unacceptable emotions” are??

I’m going to have to read another book…

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