The problem with TMS..

..is that it can be a (bleep!!****) to shift! Here’s what got me thinking:

I just got back from a 12k run and now I’m scared to bend down and take my shoes off….what the hell?! I had to have a word with myself: “You have just comfortably run 12k on dirt tracks, grass and road. You can certainly bend down to take your shoes without experiencing pain”.

So, what did I do? I bent down in the most relaxed way I possibly could, (it still twinged a little) took off my shoes, then bent down 5 more times more confidently just to tell my brain it was OK! And it was.

I cannot possibly do justice to the work of physician and TMS rock star Dr John Sarno without quoting him directly. I hate to stumble over my words when there are important messages to share:

..psychological stress occurs from a negative perception of events. when we think we want some specific thing – but in our judgement – we got something else, or nothing at all, we become stressed.

Tension is the body’s physical response to that stress. Stress is perceived within the mind, and tension is real within the body. TMS is a real physical mindbody effect that begins as a perception within, and permeates the corporeal body as crippling pain, illness and fatigue (from the book ‘Dr John Sarno’s Top 10 Healing Discoveries’ by Steve Ozanich).

Dr. Sarno contended that you don’t always have to eliminate the tension to heal, but it certainly helps if you can. The idea in tension reduction is to change the perception of the need to fight or flee to one of surrendering, and the body will not react as strongly (from the same book).

We hold fear, anger, sorrow and resentment in our bodies to protect ourselves from the pain of really experiencing the full brunt of the pain those emotions cause us, and to maintain the persona – to show that, outwardly, everything is going well in our lives. The problem is that those feelings are held in the body as unpleasant physical sensations unless we deal with them. Many of these thoughts threaten our ego and we’re too concerned with how others perceive us, so we push those feelings downwards and inwards.

Most people see TMS as a weakness, but it isn’t. Strong, kind, generous, thoughtful and selfless people are classic TMS sufferers. They hide their emotions for the sake of others, constantly putting their own needs on the back burner. They don’t want to accept or recognise that these perpetual acts of pleasing others and not themselves is building resentment within them – “No, I’m not a mean and angry person! I’m perfectly happy to serve others……..my needs are unimportant…….it’s all fine”. The TMS protective mechanism acts as a ‘crutch that keeps the person walking, but crippled’ (Steve Ozanich).

Pain is the mind’s way of telling us we have unmet needs and unresolved emotions. Fear of facing these is the great motivator for the cycle to continue. Running from it feeds it, keeping it alive, allowing it to manifests in various physical and psychological forms.

The only thing that satisfies the hunger of fear is surrender – to who you are, to what already is, to Truth (Steve Ozanich).

This is my lesson to you, and to me. Love, accept and forgive yourself, and the rest will follow xx

Truth! My medical results

The truth is there is nothing wrong with me

physically that is. It’s a huge relief that hasn’t quite sunk in. But it needs to, if I’m to stand a chance of getting rid of this chronic back pain that I have endured for over six months.

This morning I went to see my GP to discuss the results of my X-ray, MRI scan (for my lower back) and the blood test I was advised to have.

The conclusion was that I have a flatter than ‘normal’ back (I don’t have a curve in the lower back where I should have one) and a herniated disc, but nothing pressing on a nerve that would cause any pain down my legs. I’ve had pain down my legs; this just proves that is either emotional or just tight muscles (or a mix of both!). I have pain in my lower back constantly, but there is nothing in those results that accounts for this pain.

“Surgery is not advised” said my doctor, “and you can carry on running”. Not that I had any surgery planned or intended to stop running!

But it just shows, to me at least, the importance we give to the opinions of people in the medical profession. I realised that, although I thought I had fully accepted my diagnosis of TMS (tension myoneural syndrome) I hadn’t really. There was still a thread of doubt that my pain was caused by a structural abnormality.

I realised I have been muddling along for a few months, trying to get better, but still (unconsciously) seeing the pain as the result of something wrong with my body, and not with my mind.

From the insightful book ‘Dr. John Sarno’s Top 10 Healing Discoveries’ by Steve Ozanich: People who believe their body is broken remain in pain. Those who believe their body is okay, tend to heal.

So, it really is high time I 100% (not 99.9%) believed that my body is NOT broken. I have, what Dr. Sarno would call, ‘normal abnormalities‘ in my spine. The spine starts to degenerate from the age of 20 (yes I was surprised by this fact too!), and many people have herniated discs without any pain, or any knowledge of them. If spinal structure is the problem in back pain, then why does the rate of back pain drop off after the age of 50?

(From page 15 of ‘Dr. John Sarno’s Top 10 Healing Discoveries’) We are far, far stronger than we think we are. Healing occurs when you no longer fear the pain. It takes confidence – and fear is a lack of confidence. As long as she fears the pain, she will have reoccurence.

As for my blood test, I’m low in iron. Nothing more, nothing less. I have some iron tablets to take and I may as well do – I’ll be needing lots of it for the physical training I plan to do!

Rigorous physical movement teaches the brain to react differently to movement (Steve Ozanich again).

So, I left with my ‘certificat medical’ to prove it’s safe for me to run and with my goals firmly set in my mind: a half marathon in May, a marathon in September and an ultra run in October! (shit I’ve said it now, I suppose I ought to now enter those last two ;))

Have confidence my friends. Work on the fear. Understand where it is coming from, and don’t stop moving.

Why it’s good to ‘switch it up ‘

I realised that I’m a real creature of habit – aren’t we all to a degree? I have the same salad almost every day, I do the same type of run several times a week and I stay with the same yoga classes each week. Essentially, I keep it ‘safe’. The exact same rituals may not apply to you, but we probably share a habit of keeping life boxed up fairly neatly, not straying too far from our comfort zones.

My back pain from TMS has not gone away yet, although I have seen improvements that I’m feeling really positive about. I realised I was avoiding certain movements out of fear – fear that they would hurt if I did them, or that I wouldn’t be able to do them at all.

So, today I decided to switch it up a little! OK, I didn’t suddenly take up rhythmic gymnastics (I much prefer the ‘proper’ stuff without the ribbons and hoops!) BUT I did try bridge pose and wheel posa in yoga! I got my bridge up, and even though it wasn’t beautiful engineering and you couldn’t have got much weight across it, it did go up!

And yesterday I went on a fast (relatively speaking!) 5k run instead of my usual slower 10k run. And, OK, it wasn’t as fast as I used to do it, but it was still better than I HAD been doing it, so I was happy!

And what happened as a result of this ‘switching things up’? I realised that there is nothing I can’t at least try to do, and that trying it is not going to kill me or make anything worse. And, that the only way to really rid myself of the fear is to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. In the words of Dr John Sarno, what I have going on in my back is a ‘normal abnormality’ (mainly disc generation, and a suspect diagnosis of a ‘pinched’ nerve – pinched for as long as it has been I’d have lost sensation to my legs by now!)

I’m also trying visualization techniques, which are proven to help with pain relief. Essentially I visualize a beautiful, strong and healthy spine and moving however I want with ease. I even talk to my spine sometimes (not out loud, I wouldn’t want to draw unwanted attention!).

This from the website Pathways: (https://www.pathways.health/visualization-for-pain-relief-management-the-ultimate-guide/ A compelling example of visualizations being used to relieve pain is from the example of psychiatrist turned pain specialist, Dr Michael Moskowitz:   Dr Moskowitz suffered a serious accident when water-skiing. The severe injuries left with battling with crippling pain that dominated his life for 13 years. When all conventional methods of treatment had failed, he began researching the discovery that the brain is neuroplastic (it’s always changing & adapting) and seeing how this might relate to him.   He realized that many of the areas in the brain that fire in chronic pain also process thoughts, sensations, images, memories, movements, emotions, and beliefs – when they’re not processing pain, that is. He thought that if he could practice visualizing pain relief when pain strikes, that will help him ‘reclaim’ the areas of the brain that get ‘hijacked’.   He started noticing a reduction in pain within a few weeks. Within a few months he had his first pain free periods. Within a year he was almost always pain free.   

So, please, if you’re suffering from what you feel is chronic pain (pain that you have experienced beyond the body’s normal healing period of 12 weeks) and, like I was feeling before I discovered the work of Dr Sarno, you are pretty fed up – even desperate – just open your mind to the idea that your pain could be a result of your emotions, even if you really don’t think it’s possible. It beats jumping right into surgery and regretting it, doesn’t it?

I’m here to help if you’re at all curious 🙂

On a final note, my sister said I should post a photo of myself as ‘people’ would want to know what I look like. So, people, this is me, in the middle of my first ever ultra run last year. That was one of the best days of my life 🙂


Some of the dos and don’ts from Healing Back Pain by Dr John Sarno, published in 1991:

Thanking Dr John Sarno

A few months ago I had never heard of TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) or considered the mind body connection in any depth. That is, until I started to get fed up, and worried about, the constant back pain I was experiencing. Listening to a podcast one day, the interviewee mentioned that she had been cured of her own back pain by reading a book. How was this possible?! I immediately grabbed a notepad and pen and made a note of the title and author: ‘Healing Back Pain’ by a Dr John Sarno. I’ve read it too, and it changed my life (no joke)! I have this book to thank for putting me on my own road to recovery.

Dr John Sarno was probably America’s most famous back pain doctor. He died in 2017 at the health age of 93, and thankfully his legacy continues in the form of (among many):

  • Nicole Sachs, LCSW
  • Dr Harold Schubiner
  • Dave Clarke, MD
  • Alan Gordon, LCSW
  • Barbara Kline, LCSW-C
  • Georgie Oldfield, MCSP
  • David Schechter, MD
  • Howard Schubiner, MD
  • Eric Sherman, PsyD
  • John Stracks, MD
  • Peter Zafirides, MD
Dr Sarno argued that chronic pain is actually the result of a psychosomatic process and emotional factors.

Don’t even get me started on this topic! I have so much I want to share with you. If you feel you are suffering from chronic pain (pain that has endured beyond the body’s normal inflammatory and healing process of 12 weeks) anywhere in your body, please get in touch and I will help you! It is my passion, and my mission, to share this work and to cure others as I have cured myself.

Healing from within

I am always studying the fascinating mind body connection and how past trauma and current day-to-day stress can manifest itself in the body, if not expressed, and lead to chronic pain. I’ve been doing a few exercises on myself and it’s incredible how many ‘aha!’ moments I’m having.

I will be talking much more about the mind body connection and adding some really useful and insightful information to help coach clients to better health. Watch this space! I already have two clients lined up and can’t wait to get started.

In other news, I can finally talk properly after losing my voice for several days! I had been travelling a lot, talking much more than is usual for a country mouse and my immunity was compromised. I ended up with a stinky cold for almost a week. I couldn’t even remember the last time I was ill, so this time I just told myself to accept it, rest and take care of myself and let my immune system do its work. It meant I couldn’t exercise for 7 days (and nobody wants to be around me when this happens!), but it did mean I had plenty of time to read, research and be kind to myself. It worked, and was just what I needed.

This morning I ran and felt great! I even had my son with me for the second lap, so we had a little bonding time. This time together becomes rare during the teenage years, so I’ll take any positive moment and treasure it!

Back to work now. Wishing you a wonderful, positive day doing at least one thing that you love, just for you.