Archive for October, 2008
Have you ever noticed that musicians are more likely to have repetitive stress injuries? Of course you have. But are you sure that the cause is actually overuse?
What about headaches, back aches, neck aches, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia and TMJ pain? Do musicians have more than their share of these as well?
Consider the situation of Jill, a 35 year old cellist who suffered from chronic and recurring wrist pain that for year she attributed to overuse. Here is her story in her own words:
”I have been an active freelancer in a major city for years. Since graduate school days, I have played in many orchestras and chamber groups, driven long distances, taught in various schools, and presented at conferences.Like many of us, I had lived with various aches and pains for years. One fall, preparing for some particularly demanding concerts, my whole upper body seemed to just shut down. I experienced overwhelming fatigue, pain, and various other symptoms. Somehow I kept performing through the 3 month wait for appointments, tests, and results. I was horrified when the specialist told me in all of 5 minutes that I needed 3 surgeries.
I was incensed at his bluntness and his unwillingness to come up with anything more than that. I made up my mind then and there that I would find my own way out of this, and consider surgery the absolute last resort.
For the next several years I went from one medical professional to the next, with discouraging results. I did exactly as I was told, paying large sums of money to see people not covered on my insurance, and yet nothing was improving. Playing caused symptoms – sometimes predictably and other times with no recognizable cause. I was also unable to do many other things I loved to do. I became very discouraged and ready to give up.
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Several people have asked me how they can deal with troublesome thoughts and emotions that arise. These thoughts and emotions, such as doubts about really having TMS/MBS or worry if you’ll ever get better or fear about developing pain, are extremely common. Everyone has those from time to time or even very frequently.
So, how can you deal with doubts, fear and worry? You may worry about having some medical/physical problems instead of MBS/TMS and how do you deal with others when they challenge your view of MBS/TMS and suggest that there is some medical/physical problem going on. These questions boil down to two main issues, I think. The first has to do with doubt about the diagnosis of MBS/TMS. The second has to do with the issue of the power of thoughts and emotions.
Dr. Sarno always (correctly) says that we need to “erase doubt.” People always do better in the MBS/TMS program when they are convinced that their physical and psychological problems are due to emotions, stress and reactions to stress, both conscious and unconscious. However, we are in this boat because we are human, i.e. we have minds and bodies and they constantly interact. Because we have minds, we will frequently have thoughts that make us wonder if we’re on the right track. I spoke to a lady today who told me that she must have something physically wrong because her pain was so severe, despite the fact that her pain had gotten much better after one week of working with the MBS/TMS program. So, it is important to erase doubt, but some doubts will undoubtedly creep in. Severe pain can definitely impair your ability to think and process emotions. It can lead to depression and more emotions, which can further impair your ability to cope with pain and which can itself lead to more pain. Some doctors also suggest that severe pain can lead to decreases in efficacy of anti-depressant medications, thus compounding the problem further. The more pain, the more doubt and then things can get spiraling out of control. In those cases, you really need to stop and go back to the beginning. You may need to seek medical advice for reassurance that there is in fact nothing more serious going on and you may even need some more testing to confirm this.
This leads to the second issue: the power of thoughts and emotions. It is critical to realize that thoughts are uncontrollable, i.e. one can never choose what thoughts will come into their heads. The mind will continually come up with a huge variety of thoughts, many of which are unproductive, weird, wild, inane, or beautiful. If we can’t control out own thoughts, one certainly cannot control other people’s thoughts, and therefore we must learn ways of dealing with thoughts and reacting to thoughts or else we will be at the mercy of every stray thought that we (or someone else) comes up with. And, of course, it is not only thoughts that we need to deal with, but emotions as well, which are basically thoughts that are connected to important material from our past.
After doing a lot of research on how the brain works, I have developed a model to explain how MBS develops in the brain. You can watch a video about this on my web site, www.yourpainisreal.com. When pain occurs, it activates nerve pathways which send those pain signals to the brain and particularly to the amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain and the area that can immediately activate the autonomic nerve system (ANS), which is the unconscious connection to the body to create the fight, flight or freeze reaction. These reactions are immediate, so that if you feel the pain of a burning match, you will immediately pull your hand away before you can even think about what is happening. This reaction occurs within 12 milliseconds, much faster than could occur if you had to send those signals up to the frontal cortex where you would become aware of them consciously. This reaction protects us from danger and happens without our conscious awareness.