Back in June of 2012, I developed chronic wrist pain which later involved my elbows and forearms. As a Guitarist, this was a big scare as I had been planning to make the plunge into full-time music for a little over a year. My plans for long practice sessions and lots of gigs had to be diverted while I tried to figure out what was wrong with my body.
Over the next ~9 months, I tried acupuncture, massage, chiropractor visits, diet tweaks, rest, icing, compression, tennis elbow straps, and probably a few other "remedies" that I'm forgetting. I spent a lot of money and time on all of these, and none of it really worked. I stopped lifting weights, tried stretching, and at best, some of these offered temporary relief. Doctors said it was RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) and/or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
It wasn't until I came across the work of "Dr. Sarno" that I began to get hope again that my body could return to normal function.
Who is Dr. Sarno?
Dr. Sarno passed away this year, and during his life he authored three books about a symptom he calls "TMS". In a nutshell, his premise is that many of the chronic pain conditions that you hear about today (i.e. chronic back pain, RSI, Whiplash related injuries, and many others) are nothing more than a trick that the brain plays to ensure that person does not ever confront strong, powerful emotions that are buried deep in the subconscious - the most powerful of which is rage. For me this meant that there was nothing wrong with my arms & wrists, and that my brain was creating this brain as a distraction from strong emotions that I was not conscious of.
His prescription is fairly simple - first acknowledge that the source of the pain is psychological, and that there is nothing physically wrong with the body. Then resume normal activity as soon as possible, and concentrate on what's going on in your life that would be contributing to deeply repressed, unconscious feelings.
My first reaction to his material was skepticism, however I was desperate enough to give it a look and try what he suggested. Sarno goes on to describe the personality types of people that are susceptible to TMS - people who are perfectionist, exhibit "good-ism" character traits, or otherwise put a lot of pressure on themselves.
What sold it for me was the sheer number of people who reported getting better by following his advice (either by reading his books or seeing him in person). Check out this website that documents thousands of peoples accounts of how they over-came their chronic pain by listening to what Dr Sarno had to say: http://www.thankyoudrsarno.com/
My Return to Normal Activity
After reading up on Dr Sarno and reading a few of his books, I followed the recommended advice:
* Resume normal activity
* Examine what's going on in life, and what could lead to unconscious rage.
* Continue re-reading his books until the pain went away.
What this all meant for me was to get back to hitting the weights in the gym, and to play as much guitar as I wanted. I also had to recognize the "coincidence" that my pain started within a week of a serious breakup with a woman I'd been in a relationship with for over 6 years. As I re-read his book, I identified more and more with the "good-ist" person that he describes, and learned to go easy on myself and not expect myself to be perfect.
It took a few months, and there was still some pain here and there, but I slowly got better, and before I knew it I was back to working out how I used to work out and playing gigs without any pain at all.
I remember feeling doomed to a life of not being able to do what I wanted to do and being a slave to the pain, and I'm so grateful to Dr. Sarno's work for helping me in my life, and to many other people that shared their story which helped me believe the psychological basis of the pain I was experiencing.