Back pain in a 36-year-old athletic male
Iâ€™ve always been an amateur athlete and sports junkie, but severe low-back pain changed my life from active to sedentary. It started about six years ago. I got the first episode of back pain in January, but got over it relatively quickly and I promptly forgot about it. One year later, it happened again. I reasoned that the two January episodes were linked to a change in exercise patterns: Every November, soccer season ended so Iâ€™d start jogging three days a week in the winter. Even when I wasnâ€™t in an episode of acute pain, I still had some pain that Iâ€™d simply ignore. But when I had the second episode, I stopped running and I used chiropractic care to feel better. I was told that my lower vertebra was out of line and that the space between the vertebras had collapsed. I religiously went for treatments and did every exercise I was recommended.
A year later, again in January, I was on a hike in AZ, went lightning struck again. This was the worst episode ever. I couldnâ€™t walk, couldnâ€™t cough, and was in complete agony. I saw doctors, therapists, and had MRIâ€™s. There was nothing definitively wrong but I was in a great deal of pain. I canâ€™t remember all the different treatments I tried, but they included acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, too many exercises to list, and I saw every doctor that anyone recommended. I even tried something called prolotherapy, which is an injection of sugar water into the lower back. Those shots made me feel better for a day or so, but the pain always returned. I wasnâ€™t in crisis mode, but I had a lot of pain all the time. I was told that I had degenerated discs, a pelvic girdle that was â€śtoo looseâ€ť, and some other things that I donâ€™t remember. My pain was solely in the lower back and did not radiate down my legs at any time. I was fortunate to have good doctors who were straight with me, and one of them looked at my MRI and told me that theyâ€™d never be able to pinpoint the exact spot that caused my pain.
By late 2005, I was in a bad place. The pain was severe all the time and after trying everything, I had no other place to turn except having my vertebrae fused. I saw two doctors. One said to hang on and put it off as long as I could. Another simply explained the procedure and didnâ€™t seem to have a strong opinion. Searches about fusion on the Internet revealed more horror stories than good. My thought was to wait a year and see how I was at that point. If the pain continued, and it had been constant for almost two years, Iâ€™d have them fused. In February of 2006, my sister sent me Dr John Sarnoâ€™s book, The Mind Body Prescription. I never would have read a book like that, but I was desperate.
As an outwardly very calm person, who nevertheless is quite tense on the inside, I saw myself in the pages of that book. I began to believe that my back was no different from those who donâ€™t have back pain. I read research studies that showed that there is no difference in the MRIâ€™s of people with back pain and those without back pain. As I began to realize that I wouldnâ€™t make myself worse by carrying on with activities, I started moving more and gradually went back to exercising. I could ignore any pain as long as I didnâ€™t think I was permanently damaging my back. Plus I was sure I had TMS. In five days, the pain was nearly gone.
Wow. Wow. Thatâ€™s so unbelievably incredible, isnâ€™t it? For the next six months I felt remarkably good. I even had another episode of pain a month later and licked in it in four days by recognizing what it was from (my mind) and telling myself that I was really OK.
One problem however was that I was still afraid of hurting my back, so I didnâ€™t do all of the activities that I would have liked. For example, I didnâ€™t play soccer, didnâ€™t jog. I was glad to feel better and didnâ€™t want to â€śpushâ€ť it. So I did things that I thought were safe, like bike riding.
Then things got crazy at work. The pressure mounted. I could feel my back getting worse and then one day as I spoke on the phone, I had another episode. This one was bad and I could not talk my way out of it. I read Dr. Sarno's book again and again. I could almost recite the book by rote, but it wasnâ€™t helping.
An Internet search led me to Dr Schubiner. I took his class and I have to say it was as enlightening as the book first was. I learned so much more than just about TMS. I learned several methods to deal with whatâ€™s inside my head and relieve the tension that was directing itself to my back. Dr. Schubiner said so many things that made an awful lot of sense. He talked about â€śchipping awayâ€ť at the tension and finding what works for each individual. I also appreciated the fact that he makes the class become a terrific chance to reset your priorities in life. So much of it made sense to me. In two weeks, I was feeling far better; almost pain-free.
Two weeks ago, I played soccer for the first time in two years. The next day I went jogging. The pain just about disappeared. For me, the last piece of the puzzle is ridding myself of the fear that the pain will return. Iâ€™m not 100 percent there, but Iâ€™m working on it. And now I have the tools to fight TMS head on. It is a terrific feeling and I hope my story will help you as well.