This is the fifth week of practicing the MindBody program, a fascinating approach to manage or expunge physical pain from your body. It’s the antidote to opioids. It was developed by New York’s John Sarno, M.D., who died June 22, 2017 at the age of 93.
Now progressive physicians across the country continue to keep his program alive. I hope my battle with pain, using the mindbody method, will be my small contribution to Dr. Sarno’s work. Basically the last three years I’ve gone nowhere except medical appointments due to pain and tradition medicine that failed.
Since reading and listening to audio books and watching videos by various mindbody physicians, I started to make changes. My biggest revelation was when I realized that fear was preventing me from progressing. I wasn’t exactly sure which of my physical issues were mindbody, so I held myself back out of fear.
Since June 2016 muscle relaxers, X-rays, Cat-scans, a neurosurgeon, the pain clinic, and a trial spinal chord simulator failed to ameliorate my pain. The MindBody Program was my last hope. It should have been my first hope. But we are programmed to believe that traditional medicine is our only answer.
As a result, we have little faith in the idea that we can control pain through the neural pathways in our brain, that pain in the body means the brain is controlling it. When it hurts, we want a quick fix like surgery. According to spinal surgeon Dr. David Hanscom in Seattle, Washington, spine surgeons have only a 22% success rate with back surgeries. That’s low. Many surgeons admit that it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of back pain. According to Dr. Sarno, disk problems or bone spurs don’t automatically cause pain.
Additionally, Dr. Sarno said there are no verifiable studies that show inflammation causes back pain. The reason patients find relief from injections is mostly due to the various anesthetics used with the steroids. It helps for a while. For instance, Dr. Sarno found that a steroid, such as prednisone, helps fibromyalgia patients temporarily, but the pain returns.
After the trial spinal chord simulator failed at the end of April, 2017, I wrote MindBody doctor Howard Schubiner a letter, explaining what had happened in the last ten years since I took his MindBody classes at Providence Hospital. He called and set up an appointment to see him in Southfield, MI on July 17, 2017.
Finding a way to get there was stressful. After several attempts fell through, I hoped a transportation company called Lake to Lake would be my answer. When I learned that the charge was $2.85 a mile, I knew that wouldn’t work. A 400 miles round-trip cost $1150.
It’s a shame that medical necessities, such as, transportation are unreasonably expensive in this country. But I knew that if I were to have courage and confidence to use the MindBody program, I needed a thorough neurological examination from a MindBody doctor. Other physicians would send me for testing I didn’t need or refuse to send me for testing I needed, perhaps, wasting another year of my life.
I’ve accomplished the following in the last five weeks:
Stopping one opioid prescription for pain. Two opioids were prescribed when I was admitted to a nursing home for back/leg pain April 2015. It was finally a cocktail that worked. However, when I re-injured my back June 2016, the pain pills didn’t work as well. There was an increase in pain, but I didn’t want to increase the medication.
At my June 2017, appointment with my new primary care physician (PCP), I listened to the lecture about cutting back on pain medications. It’s like an airplane, he said. Don’t stop them suddenly. Wean off them slowly as you come in for a landing.
I felt defensive. Assigned a new physician and immediately he’s badgering me about taking too much medication, I thought. They are eager to prescribe it, and I accepted it willingly, but there are usually no quick fixes to stopping it.
However, I had been suspicious for several months that one of the opioids didn’t do much except make me sleepy. On July 3, 2017, I stopped taking 30 mgs of an opioid every 8 hours and much to my surprise, I didn’t notice too much difference in pain levels.
I hurt when I took them. I hurt when I stopped them. That definitely points to the theory that mindbody pain is not tissue damage. Nor did I have any heart palpitations or other disturbing side effects when I ended them. I assume addiction to pills is not one of my major problems.
I was afraid of the pain so I continued to take them. The MindBody program gave me the courage to try a different way. I do need the second one as I’ve tried to go without, but I have confidence that the program will eliminate my pain in time. I’m proud of myself for stopping one of them.
Walking without my walker. For short walks in the house, I’m using a cane or walk under my own volition. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more painful and takes more effort. I have to start building up my body strength.
I don’t know what happened in Indiana because I was all alone and the medical profession was responsible to absolutely no one about my physical status, but my right leg has acted like it was a victim of a stroke. They asked me three times if I had ever had a stroke? No.
It could be the fusion, or the fact I haven’t walked with a natural gait for three years? Whatever, one definitely utilizes different muscles using a cane or nothing at all. I have to start somewhere.
Drove my car for the first time since August 10, 2014. I called AAA to get the battery charged and took a spin around the condo complex. Driving a car is like riding a bike–you never forget how to do it. Both created neural pathways in the brain.
Previously I couldn’t get out of my car due to the low seats and the searing pain in my knees. But after listening to the principles of the MindBody Program for four weeks, it was much easier. I anticipate getting out rather than focus on pain.
I was feeling powerful behind the wheel so I decided to drive into town for a car wash. I drove about three miles to the main street when it stalled. This was the same car that had been fine-tuned and tested to make it to Phoenix, Arizona, August 2014.
Everything went out–power steering, brakes, windows, AC, you name it. I wonder if a cable came loose on the battery, but the AAA guy was young and did nothing to check it out.
It was a sweltering hot day, no doubt over 100 degrees inside the car. I was the second car in line for the left turn lane. Tempers flared and horns honked to let me know I had fouled up traffic.
Thankfully, some guys pushed me into a gas station where I waited for AAA to roll in again. My basic concern was my heart. It functions at only 35% with a defibrillator and due to the stress and heat, I was rapidly losing stamina.
Triple A followed me home. The car conked out about three minutes after he left. I will have the car towed to a garage this next week. But I kept thinking–I made it. My first trip out was stressful and unpredicated, but I handled it. It was also a warning that I need to be safe when I travel due to my heart.
Took a 400 mile round-trip to Southfield, MI to see Dr. Howard Schubiner, M.D., doctor of Internal Medicine at Providence Hospital and a MindBody physician. My angel neighbor drove me. (Even Dr. Schubiner called her an angel.)
I rented a car, but she drove due to insurance coverage. My appointment with Dr. Schubiner was from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. It was extensive and worth every minute. He, like Dr. Sarno, had learned new things since 2007, so now I’m privy to them, too. He gave me the updated edition of his book Unlearn Your Pain (2016).
We talked about the MindBody Program, he examined me, then we spent the remainder of time discussing emotional issues. He put me in touch with my anger, power and how to change neural pathways in the brain. One time when I cried, sharing a story, he wiped his tears away. “That’s sad,” he said. “It makes me cry, too.”
That, my friends, is a dedicated, compassionate doctor.
I will be blogging about techniques, and what I uncovered in my subconscious that has caused great pain throughout my body the last three years or more. I also learned that my heart and the swelling of my left leg and foot are not MindBody. That gives me confidence to go forward unafraid about issues I can control. And seek medical help for the other.
For example, my former primary care physician dismissed a muscle/nerve test recommended by the neurosurgeon saying, “We know you have nerve damage.” Yet, Dr. Schubiner found good muscle strength in my legs. Nerve damage in my back would make my legs markedly weak, he explained.
“You do not have nerve damage,” he asserted. “You will get well. You will walk again,” he added with conviction.
You can’t imagine how wonderful it is to hear someone encourage you rather than give up on you like all the other physicians did. Because the surgery was performed in IN, no doctor in MI wanted to take responsibility.
Pain signals come from the brain. All pain is real. It is often triggered by oxygen deprivation to the muscles and nerves which can cause tremendous pain. Or via neural pathways in the brain that have been turned on and need to be turned off. MindBody exercises can do that.
Dr. David Schechter in Los Angeles, CA said sometimes there is a loop from the brain to the spine, sending pain messages. That loop must be broken with mindbody techniques.
The two things you need to fight are fear and doubt. They mutilate confidence. You must be convinced that the pain is a message from the brain, not a structural deformity causing pain. The brain is trying to protect you from the emotional pain it thinks you can’t handle. You can handle it. You don’t need pain to distract you from the emotional work that needs to be acknowledged. Could emotional pain really be anymore difficult than the physical pain that is destroying your life?
I have many exercises to do daily to re-program my brain. Some people can read one of Dr. Sarno’s books and be healed instantaneously. I’m not one of those people. I had a stressful childhood which my brain deciphered as dangerous. Now, I’m always seeing danger in situations, especially walking on a painful back.
The brain doesn’t know the difference between physical trauma (like surgery or illness) that triggers pain and emotional trauma (like a childhood of emotional or physical abuse or neglect) that triggers pain. It reacts to “danger” or “no danger.” The mindbody program teaches you how to turn off the danger response.
To reduce symptoms, you must notice your pain and negative thoughts but counter them with statements such as “That’s interesting.” “I don’t need to do anything about this right now.” “It will pass.” “I’m OK and will be fine.” (This is why you must believe unequivocally that your pain is MindBody and not structural). Pain might hurt but it won’t harm you.
When you feel confident, move forward by engaging in activities that seemed too frightening or painful, such as, driving your car for the first time in three years, working in your garden, or running a 5K. You learn to control your pain rather than your pain controlling you.
The medical profession wants scientific proof via studies (which Dr. Howard Schubiner and others are conducting now), but Dr. Sarno’s success was in the thousands of patients he healed, starting in the 80’s. He, and now other MindBody doctors, believe that this is the wave of the future.
The way we do medicine now is too costly. Do you know that 2.5 billion was spent on back hardware alone in 2015 and most fusions cause a spinal breakdown above and below the fusion?
I have a fusion from L1-L5 and didn’t want it. Two years later, I’ve suffered 4 fractures in the thorasic spine and L5-S1 in the lumbar region. And I still suffer spondylolisthesis at L4-L5. MindBody medicine, on the other hand, takes a few trips to the doctor and a book or three. You do the actual healing.
There is a peer-led website at http://www.tmswiki.org/w/index.php?page=The_Tension_Myositis_Syndrome_Wiki where you can receive support and know you are not alone in your pain issues.
If you have given up hope about how to manage or eliminate your pain, please return to this blog because I plan to get better, and I want you to get better with me.