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Chronic Pain and TMS
Do you have chronic back pain, neck pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, tendonitis, or irritable bowel symptoms? Perhaps you have visited medical doctors who have not been able to adequately treat or even diagnose your pain. Maybe you’re starting to feel frustrated and hopeless, as if you may never be pain-free again.
It is possible that your pain may be linked to your emotions. Not all physical pain is caused by structural damage or disease. Physical pain can be brought on or intensified by feelings. Stress, anxiety, depression and other feelings can trigger physical changes in the body. In fact, everyone experiences emotionally-triggered physiological changes at times. Have you ever blushed when feeling embarrassed or gotten sweaty palms when feeling nervous? Do you notice that your shoulder muscles tend to tighten with stress? These physiological sensations are caused by emotions. That is, they are mind-body symptoms, initiated by the nervous system in response to a feeling.
Why does some pain become chronic?
Sometimes mind-body symptoms can become chronic. This occurs when feelings of stress or unresolved, unconscious emotions persist over time, causing the body to react with persistent physical symptoms. Think of how the muscles in your shoulders may grow tighter and more painful the longer you feel stressed. Eventually, you may experience intense, chronic pain in this area, and perhaps in other areas as well.
This type of chronic pain, also known as TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) or PPD (Psychophysiologic Disorder), was first described by John Sarno, MD in his book Healing Back Pain. Pain symptoms manifest in many different ways, from migraine headaches and back pain to gastrointestinal issues, tendonitis and more.
How do I know if emotions are driving my pain?
When assessing what may be causing or adding to your chronic pain, it is important to consult with a doctor and rule out a medical condition. If you have already done so or if you have seen doctors who have been unable to help you, then it is quite possible that your pain is mind-body, or emotionally-caused.
From here, you can explore the relationship between your pain and feelings.
• Does your pain increase when your stress, anxiety or depression increases?
• Do you find that your pain is inconsistent? Does it seem to go away when you are distracted?
• Have you experienced other types of stress-induced aches and pain, such as tension headaches, TMJ, or skin irritations?
• Do you tend to push your emotions away?
How can therapy help with my chronic pain?
In therapy, we will explore what feelings or experiences (past or present) may be triggering your physical symptoms, and work together to heal those issues. We also will explore your own unique experience of pain—how your pain manifests and how your reaction to your pain may impact its intensity. Through this type of exploration and chronic pain treatment, your pain can start to diminish.
I will help you to think differently about your pain. Sometimes just thinking about your pain from a more psychological perspective can help reduce symptoms. I also will help you learn new tools to balance your nervous system and decrease your body’s tendency to manifest physiological symptoms. I also encourage the use of meditation and mindfulness to support your chronic pain treatment.
I’m not sure . . . I have more questions.
If my pain is caused by my emotions, does that mean it is all “in my head”?
Absolutely not. The pain you feel is real. With TMS or PPD, your nervous system produces real physical pain as a response to unresolved emotional stress. So, the cause of your pain may be emotional but the pain is 100% physical.
Why is therapy better than more traditional types of chronic pain treatment?
More traditional forms of chronic pain treatment or pain management, including physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, massage, surgery, and medication may temporarily reduce or relieve your pain. In this way, they can be helpful. However, these treatments will not resolve the underlying causes of your pain. Without such resolution, your pain may continue to impact your life in frustrating and debilitating ways.
Won’t therapy be expensive and take a really long time?
How long have you been living with your pain? How much time, money and energy have you put toward chronic pain treatments that have not helped, at least not completely? Therapy does not have to be a costly, long-term investment. Treatment length for chronic pain can vary, and often, can be more short-term than traditional psychotherapy. And, it is an investment in a long-term solution to your pain.
If you have been diagnosed with TMS as a result of a medical examination and are wanting to implement the strategies of Dr. Sarno's paradigm, I can help with the retraining of your neural pathways. I work collaboratively with you to find ways of alleviating repression and training your brain to stop creating pain. Sound to good to be true? Check out for more information.