As a writer, I hear a lot about repetitive work injury syndromes. The medical community defines a syndrome as “a set of symptoms occurring together.” If it sounds confusing, well, it pretty much is. For the writer, it is quite simply about pain, pain that occurs from doing the same task over and over again, i.e. repetitive.
Some years back, I had the most common syndrome for writers: carpal tunnel syndrome. I slept with two braces on my wrists and usually had to type with them in place. I was also getting cortisone shots in my shoulder once, sometimes twice a year.
I no longer get shots, wear braces or use any type of ergonomic equipment in my office space. I haven’t had surgery either.
How did I accomplish this miraculous cure?
I read a book.
My sister first heard about Dr. Sarno’s book on television. John Stossel was raving about it. He’d suffered from back pain for years, but after reading his first book, Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, he was pain-free without surgery.
When my sister called me about the book, I was skeptical, but in enough pain from my shoulder to try anything. As I waded through his theories on why a culture of pain has exploded in our society, I kept thinking, “Okay, I get it, but how does this help me deal with chronic pain?”
I kept reading and I actually felt the knot in my shoulder begin to ease. Dr. Sarno points out that what is actually causing the pain isn’t injury or repetition, but mild oxygen deprivation to the muscles in the area, which is brought about by the brain altering the blood flow to that area. This deprivation is what causes the pain. He calls it tension myositis syndrome (TMS).
What we believe about what is happening is a powerful force in what actually happens to our bodies. If we believe that an injury will cause long term pain, then our brain will produce that long term pain. TMS isn’t about using the wrong keyboard or even sitting in the wrong chair. It’s about our belief that the things we do can cause us pain.
Dr. Sarno also points out that our bodies are amazing. They heal. My brother broke his hip when he was young and the bone actually got thicker and stronger. Back in the days when people actually did back breaking labor, people didn’t suffer from as much back pain as we do from just sitting in our chairs.
For me this was a compelling argument. What is different about our society that is causing so many to suffer so much chronic pain? The people I know aren’t wielding axes, felling trees or clearing land. They are typing. Someone I know has had two shoulder surgeries. When questioned about what happened, her answer was, “Nothing. They just started hurting.” Two surgeries later, they are only slightly better.
The real difference between then and now is how we deal with stress. It is tension that cuts off the oxygen to our muscles. When you add stress to belief, you have a powerful combination for producing the syndrome of pain. But we also have the power to replace one belief with another.
I’m not going to tell you that I don’t ever suffer from pain, because that wouldn’t be true. I am going to tell you that when I feel pain, I am pretty sure it is TMS. The brain doesn’t give up easily on TMS. When the knot in my shoulder eased, I felt it move to my lower back. It was crazy–and another indication that I was suffering from TMS and not a mysterious syndrome. I rooted out that knot, too.
Obviously this article is a very simplified explanation of concepts explained in the book. My goal isn’t to cure your pain, just point you toward a resource that might help you. I’ve shared this book with a lot of people. Some believe me. Some don’t.
Everyone needs to make the best choice for their own health care, but if you could do something that would avoid costly and painful surgery…wouldn’t it be worth your time to read a good book first?
Some links to more information about Dr. Sarno and his books: