Since I created this webpage a lot of people have contacted me asking for advice about how to get better. In August 2003 I sent out an email asking the people who had contacted me over the years to write me back with info about how they had progressed. Here are some of their responses.
It's a bit difficult to answer when my symptoms began, since i now think a lot of other problems i have had in the past are TMS related. when i first contacted you, i was having problem with my ankles. it had gotten so bad that both feet were in casts and i was in a wheelchair. the first time i had problem with my ankles was in high school...probably around 1987. I had surgery then had an 'extra' bone removed and was fine until a motor accident in 1997. I had surgery again in 1998, but didn't get better very quickly. slowly recovered over the years to maybe 90%. certainly always worried about it. had problems again when i went to see a person for massage and they yanked on it. this started (at least i thought it at the time) the downward spiral leading to the wheelchair. i think other problems in my life were TMS related.
i have a friend that i knew had problem with her wrists that she thought was carpal tunnel. i called her about how she decided to take some time off work (i didn't know she had gotten better before calling). she told me she just couldn't type anymore and had to leave work. she was at harvard and there was an RSI group, half of which supported dr. sarno's ideas. she told me to get the books and i read them all.
i'd say i'm almost 100% physically better using TMS techniques. there is nothing i won't do because i think it will cause pain like it did in the past. it was a very slow process...not a magical switch that i have know some people to experience. more of a coming to accept the ideas. the biggest relief was not worrying about my body falling apart. i still do occasionally feel a twinge, but it doesn't linger.
massage helped as well, but i don't think really on a physical level. more just as a relaxation and temporary relief of physical tension.
i found a few other books that had more detail on what to *do* to recover. sarno's books talk about the idea in detail, but not really what to do. the things i did made accepting the sarno ideas on a deeper level happen faster and quelled the anxiety that i wasn't doing anything to get better. the three books i mainly used was 1) Dr. Schechter's workbook (order it online from his website: http://www.mindbodymedicine.com/) 2)'Rapid Recovery from Back and Neck Pain: A Nine Step Recovery Plan', by Fred Amir and 3)'Heal your Body', by Louise L. Hay
i also went to see Dr. Schechter to see if you thought i had TMS. not everyone needs this confirmation, but it helped me. I also went to some of Dr. Bruce Eisendorf group meetings for people with TMS. A directory of TMS doctors (http://www.tarpityoga.com/tms.html) is where I found references for them.
My symptoms began after a gig (I'm a pianist) in October 2000. I woke up the morning after this gig with electric jolts down the ulnar nerves (bilateral).
I discovered Sarno in October 2002. I applied the techniques, made lists, got the mindbody workbook, talked with others doing likewise and even made an audio tape of Sarno affirmations- none of this made an appreciable impact. I would say I gave Sarno a good try over about a 3 month stretch.
Probably the best thing for my symptoms remains what its been since onset nearly 3 years ago- a hot shower. This seems to clear my paresthesias for an hour or so. Deep tissue massage and trigger point work has been helpful as well, but my diagnosis is still cubital tunnel as verified by NCV/EMG two times in the last year and a half.
It is my opinion that many people who benefit from Sarno indeed have no structural pathology but are instead experiencing "central sensitization" in which the spinal cord and brain has changed the representation of a body part or parts due to chronic pain state. By ignoring the warning signals of pain they work toward reprogramming the threshold of their alarm system.
Feel free to have others contact me about RSI if you like. Best of luck to all those out there looking for answers.
Michael My symptoms began in 1996. Shortly before or shortly after my daughter was born. I remember having very severe pain in both forearms that would last for some period of time but would go away. It flared up in 1999 when I started a new job at a non-ergonomic desk (although that may not have had anything to do with it considering the Sarno Theory because I was there for only a month or two before it flared up). It was about a year later, sometime in 2000 when it became chronic (My mother passed away that year). It was chronic everyday for three years until I started to investigate the TMS Theory.
I discovered the TMS theory in May 2003. My first exposure was Nate McNamara's and your website. Interestingly, I had read Nate's website about six months prior but I really didn't believe it. It wasn't until I experienced the worst pain (in both forearms) that I have ever had in April 2003. After that I was willing to try anything. So I went back to Nate's website and that led me to your website. By sometime in July (just two months later) I was about 95% "cured". I had read: Healing Backp Pain, The Mind Body Prescription, Fred Amir's book, To Be Or Not To BE Pain Free, and part of Why Don't Zebra's get Ulcers. The more I read the more I saw myself in the descriptions.
All my improvement is attributed to understanding TMS. I have not used any other method.
I am now 99-100% better cured. This is only after four montsh. The discomfort that I feel is very minimal and I think it is mostly attributable to fatique as I am working out with weights, doing pushups, working as a programmer during the day, playing xbox at night, and working more (programming) at night. I have probably typed more in the last two months than I did during the last year -- I am not exagerating at all! I would have never been able to type this email! I found now that I have been virtually pain free for almost three months that I do not fear activities or the pain itself. I know that I will never experience what I had in the past.
I think reading and web searching were the best methods [for recovery] for me. I highly recommend all the books that I mentioned previously. Don't give up, don't loose hope.
I am a 33 yr old married female, mother of 1. I live in Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA.
I do not have TMS but read Dr. Sarno's book for the interest of healing back pain and to investigate the link of the mind/body connection.
I have been suffering from stomach ailments since November 2001. Recently, after being told for the last time by a gastroenterologist that "I am undiagnosable at this time", I started going to a wellness center. They believe entirely in the mind/body link and they offer counselling, reiki, holistic therapies, kinesiology, etc...
I had surgery for a herniated disc in 1996, I suffered daily with excruciating back pain which affected my ability to work. I was working in an environment that I absolutely hated, but like most people, good money, benefits, etc. kept me there. I finally left that place of work in 1998 and have been a stay at home mom since then. It's amazing that my back pain has cleared up 99.99% since leaving work. Only the occassional flare up happens, and is gone within 24 hours.
I do believe in the mind/body connection 100%. I am doing so much research into the connection for my own education and interest. Here are some other amazing books that I would reccommend: Dr. Gabor Mates: "When the Body Says No" and another by Lise Bourbeau called "Your Body's Telling You to Love Yourself". That last is a book on the metaphysical link to all illnesses and it explains each illness in the practical sense, plus offers the emotional/mental block and how to cure yourself!
Well, I hope this has been of some help. I also hope you and everyone else out there is happy and healthy. I honestly do believe that your body is trying to tell you something by making you sick. You just have to take time to pay attention to the message it it trying to give you. It's also interesting that the more I talk to people about this, the more their illness can be linked to a lifestyle that they are unhappy with. ( I have 2 male friends, both incredibly unhappy with their job, giving them tremendous amount of stress, one is sick with back pain, the other is being treated for an ulcer!).
Please feel free to contact me or put me in contact with someone that I may be able to help.
My symptoms began early 1993. I got pain in my elbow if I wrote more than a few words, or typed more than a few hundred characters per day. So I was almost completely disabled. If I did something that would start the pain, it would sometimes last about 3 days. After a few months I also developed problems in my other (left) elbow, although the symptoms were not 100% equal. For example, stress produces pain in my right elbow, but not in my left.
I first discovered Sarno's theory in about 1998. Someone mentioned it on Sorehand, and I read Healing Back Pain. At the time I didn't think it was relevant to my RSI. Then in okt. 2002 Nate McNamara mentioned Sarno and his recovery on Sorehand. My healing started when I read your story in jan. 2003.
I would say that in a few days, I recovered from ca. 90% disabled to ca. 20% disabled. I think the remaining problems are due to my bad posture. In retrospect I have begun to doubt whether I really had TMS. Believing in TMS has given me confidence to start typing again. However, I think the explanation in my case is much simpler. My theory now is that my pain was caused by a kind of phobia. For a few months I probably had real physical problems, then my mind had associated the keyboard/mouse with pain, and continued to do so. Reading about TMS broke the cycle of fear and pain.
I've probably improved a little more since my initial spectacular improvement. Sometimes I still get a little pain if I do too much, but it doesn't worry me at all. In my case, that's the key: believing that no serious damage will occur after a few keystrokes, and even if I would damage myself again, it would heal pretty quickly.
Tips: considering the spectacular improvements a lot of people have made, I would advise people, in particular those with chronic pain that has lasted for a long time, to try to break the cycle. They should try to find a path between recklessly typing everything they want, and by doing nothing out of fear of pain. Whatever the underlying mechanism, it seems to work for a large number of persons.
I first had symptoms in Oct. 1995: a deep ache right up the middle of my forearm, loss of grip strength. I dropped my keys every single day; I could barely hold a pencil, and it hurt to press down to write. Later I had full-blown bilateral Thoracic Outlet Syndrome with nerve pain and muscle spasm in hands, arms, neck, shoulders, upper back; hands that would occasionally turn blue; persistent flare-ups. In Oct. 1998 I was forced to stop working, and went on disability.
[I discovered Sarno's TMS theory] over four years after I stopped working, Nov.2002.
By the time I got to Sarno's theory and Schechter's method, I had experienced some minor improvement using Peter Edgelow's physical therapy protocol for TOS, and some significant improvement from prolotherapy treatments to my neck, shoulders and low back. However, my condition was still unstable, and I was prone to frequent flareups. I still could not work; though I was improved it still wasn't enough. Eight months after my first visit to Dr. Schechter, I went back to work full-time. I've been working for a month now, and have not had any major flare-ups. I have some small pain and other symptoms on a daily basis, but I use the techniques Don Dubin and Schechter's workbook taught me, and the pain responds. I have been able to do all my work without any restrictions.
Tips for someone who is trying to recover: If you are going to try the TMS cure, make a commitment and go for it. If you walk into it half-heartedly and half-baked, you'll probably be wasting your time.
I have also jumped on the Sarno band-wagon. I had been suffering for about 2 years. And I can probably blame [my friend] Mike for some of my pain.
I believe that I was injured at some point (I don't really remember). I am very active (mainly playing baskekball), and I probably got hit on my arm. That probably caused some discomfort for me while typing. And even though I healed at some point, the pain didn't go away. At that time, I was working full time and going to school to get my Computer Science degree (lots of stress & typing).
The reason I claim that I can blame Mike for some of my pain, is because when Mike would have a symptom, like pain while driving, all of the sudden I would have pain while driving. There are several other examples of symptoms that he experienced first, and then once he relayed them to me, then I would magically have them. We realized this after reading the Sarno book.
After reading the book and convincing my self that it was all due to lack of blood flow, my pain dropped. The lack of blood flow made sense to me, because I have always played basketball. And after I played, my arms always felt great. But as soon as I sat down to the keyboard, I started having pain.
I would have to say that I'm 95% cured now. I experience slight pain, but I mostly ignore. I do make sure that I take proper breaks and sit correctly. But I'm not worried about the pain anymore. Thankyou Dr. Sarno.
My symptoms began over two years ago. I had pain in my forearms (burning) and inner elbow tendons. About a year later, I developed pain in my shoulders (tendon area) and also in my low back and upper back. I discovered Sarno's theory about 6 months ago. I improved immensely from Sarno's theory. I had tried everything before. Anti-inflamatories, physical therapy, massage, osteopathic manipulations, ergonomic changes, voice recognition software, taking 5 weeks off work. Nothing really helped for long. My doctors told me that I would just be in pain for the rest of my life. I heard things from my doctors like "Sometimes muscle tissue can get so damaged that it can't repair itself" and "there's just something we don't understand about these injuries, we should be able to heal them." About the time I was at the end of my time off work, I discovered Sarno's books. I also started accupunture and Pilates at the same time. I think that acupunture helped me unleash some of the emotional roots that were causing the pain and Pilates helped me feel stronger and less stressed. I also read a book based on Sarno's theory called Rapid Recovery from Back Pain. Its more "proactive" in how to address the issues from a behavioral psychology perspective. I was completely pain free within about 5 weeks.
I still have flare-ups occassionally (and occassional doubts, I admit). But I've started a new more intense job (without using software,etc) and am doing fine. When I have a bit of pain (nothing like before) I just recognize it as an emotional issue and don't give it much attention. It seems to work. The pain either goes away entirely or doesn't get any worse. This is a huge improvement from where I was without Sarno's theory.
[Tips for someone who is trying to recover:] The other book I read (Rapid Recovery) helped alot. In some ways its more convincing than Sarno's book because it cites more studies (to back Sarno's theory) and really helps you develop a plan of attack.
Anonymous, April 2006
Thinking back, I can pinpoint exactly when my symptoms started. Here in germany, all boys have to serve a year in the military when they finish school. If they object for moral reasons, they have to perform a substitute service called the "Zivildienst". Nowadays, most people object and choose a hospital or an old folks home over the army. I can't say where I worked or what I did, because I had to sign a confidentiality waiver, but I can tell you that work was tedious and moronic in the highest degree. Furthermore, there was a very real danger of becoming infected with Hepatitis, TBC, or worse. At the same time, I was also struggling with some severe emotional problems (not related to work), which I don't want to discuss here. After about 2 months in this mess, my right index finger started hurting. I shrugged it off as a tendon sheath inflammation from too much computer use. When the pain didn't go away, I used my middle finger for mouse clicking. That went well for about one day, when it started hurting, too. I bought a Logitech trackball and soon returned it, when after 5 hours of use ALL of my fingers of the right hand started hurting like hell. I switched to the left hand, which got taken out after another two days. Meanwhile, my doctor told me that I had an overuse injury which would eventually go away by itself. I bought Dragon naturally Speaking and another program that clicked the mouse for me automatically. I continued in this matter for about five months. I did some resarch on RSI and found out that it can also spread to the arms and shoulders. Guess what happened next. My right arm stopped working, and after one day, my left arm followed suit. I was totally incapacitated, but my doctor told me I was perfectly healthy. I bought a little tool called SMART NAV, which lets you move the mouse with your head and was really uncomfortable. When googling RSI, I found sites like this: "How to have sex with RSI" or "I'm a paraplegic with RSI, but RSI has affected my life more". This was when I got really depressed. I thought that I was going to be a cripple for the rest of my life, that I wouldn't be able to use a computer or write or exercise or do anything with my hands ever again. Then I found your site, pretty much by accident. First I thought it was bullsh*t and dismissed it as useless psychobabble, but after about one hour, I came back and took another look. I read some of the stories on your site, and then it kinda clicked. Why should my left arm stop working after one day of use while the right arm could take years of abuse without hurting even a bit? Also, the blood flow theory explained why my hands were feeling so cold. I immediately dropped to the ground and did some push-ups. After I was done, I felt better instead of worse. I was covinced. After about three days, I was playing video games, typing, exercising, all as I did before. I went to the gym and got into the ring (I do boxing, though rather half-assed and irregularly). After six months of inactivety, I had no muscles and poor coordination, so I got my ass kicked pretty good. That was allright, though, because I caught a few shots to the head, and I think my brain really deserved that for letting me down like this. ;-)