Mind & Motion

Dealing with Back Pain Part 2 : TMS

Posted in Health, Personal Essays by Meghan Pickrell on October 24, 2012

About two weeks before my wedding I picked up Dr. Sarno’s “Healing Back Pain” off my bookshelf. I had read the book about 10 years ago from the perspective as the practitioner. Now, I was reading it as a student. I had just thrown my back out and was in a word, desperate.

Dr. Sarno’s theory involves the mind. Through his research at the Rusk Institute in New York, Dr. Sarno found that back pain was difficult to diagnose and treat. This was because causes and symptoms were not always aligning. Science and research are based on a cause and effect relationship. When patients were having a) symptoms with no structural abnormality or b) differing patient responses to the same diagnosis (i.e. some patients in extreme pain from a herniated disc and others completely asymptomatic), Dr. Sarno decided that the cause of pain may not be due to any structural abnormality. The commonality was stemming from something psychological. He diagnosed patients with TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) when the cause of pain or a chronic condition was actually induced from stress or surpressed emotions.

Now, I’m a tricky one. I’ve often had psycho-somatic aliments starting from intense stomach aches as a child. I’ve also struggled with other stress induced conditions. Although I do believe there was a huge structural component to my back pain, I also believe there was a huge psychological component as well. It’s not by chance that my back went out two weeks before one of the biggest days of my life. I had been planning my wedding for the past 6 months, running Mind & Motion (which is only a year old) and organizing our honeymoon. All of that was stressful enough, but I was also realizing the emotional implications that come along with committing to another person for life. I was stressed. Healing cannot begin if the body is in a sympathetic flux so relaxation was key. It was also important to remember that any additional tension caused by the pain itself would only perpetuate the condition. So, I tried to breathe, meditate, pray, and let go to the best of my ability. I’m also still in the process of learning how to recondition my brain so that my stress doesn’t manifest itself in physical ways. This is hard because I spend so much of my day focusing on the body.

Knowing that there is nothing seriously wrong with me and directing my focus toward my emotions has helped me get through this chronic pain. I have also found other resources by psychologists in Los Angeles. Alan Gordon is a clinical researcher of TMS in Los Angeles. For more information on TMS, you can read an article by him here.

3 Responses

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  1. Carole Amend said, on October 25, 2012 at 5:53 am

    It’s wonderful that you are sharing another adventure in the integration of body, mind, and spirit. As you delve deeper, this post emphasizes your ever-seeking, empathic nature. ♥ -Carole

  2. mom said, on October 25, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Meghan, you have written so eloquently about your back issues. You have faced your issue, shared your experience and I am certain connected with more people. Continue to analyze, verbalize and evlauate all areas of your life.

  3. david schechter said, on January 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Great job meghan, being open to mind and body is a crucial part of overall health. Truly, David Schechter MD http://www.MindBodyMedicine.com los angeles


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