My story started in June 2011 when I started getting a severe burning pain down my right leg whilst sitting at work. I went to the doctor and he diagnosed it as sciatica and gave me painkillers and said it would go in about 6 weeks. However, it just got worse and worse over the next few months so my doctor put me on the waiting list for physiotherapy and prescribed me stronger co-codamol painkillers and other medication for neuropathic pain (gabapentin & pregabalin). These didn’t really help and made me feel like a zombie so I was really struggling to function at work. I started physiotherapy in October 2011 and saw two different physiotherapists, but neither could find anything wrong with my back. I remember before Christmas 2011 just sitting in the physiotherapy clinic and crying because I was at the end of my tether from being in constant pain and nobody seeming to have any idea what to do with me.
In Jan 2012 I was referred to the senior physiotherapist, Pete Gray. He worked on different areas of my back for 3 or 4 sessions but nothing made any difference. Then the next time I went in we just chatted about what was going on in my life and then he said ‘I’m going to throw a bit of a curved ball at you now and ask you if there been anything significant that happened in your life around the time the pain started? I said ‘Well yes, my brother died a few weeks before it began’, but I couldn’t comprehend how that could have anything to do with my sciatica. We chatted some more about my brother and my family issues from childhood that had all been brought to the fore by my brother’s death. It felt a bit weird at first talking in this way with my physiotherapist, but he was so reassuring and supportive that he made me feel at ease and he explained more about TMS and how stress and emotional upset can sometimes lead to physical pain and suggested that I read Dr Sarno’s book ‘Healing back pain’. I went home and ordered it off Amazon immediately.
I have read other people’s accounts of when they first read this book about how they saw themselves leap out of every page and it was exactly the same for me. I knew that TMS applied to me immediately but what I couldn’t get my head around was how I was going to conquer it. The pain seemed to intensify at this time so I got the doctor to sign me off work for 2 weeks and I just read everything I could find on the internet about TMS, I read Dr Sarno’s other books and ‘They can’t find anything wrong’ by David Clarke. I started to journal every day about everything that had happened to me in my childhood that had made me angry and how I felt about my family now. What I was struggling with was that I thought that in order to get better I would have to confront my family about how I felt about them and ‘sort things out’ which I knew I wouldn’t be able to do so I thought I wouldn’t be able to get better. I had had some counselling when my brother died and I thought back to what my counsellor had said about not being able to change people’s behaviour and how the only thing that you can change is how you deal with them. I came to a turning point when I realised I could get better by just changing the way I dealt with them. So I vented my anger and frustration on paper and also verbally to people I could trust, my best friend, my new partner and my kids, all of whom have been amazingly supportive. Gradually the pain started to go, it was not overnight but within 2-3 weeks I was feeling much better. When I went back to work the pain returned for a while but I felt able to control it and it didn’t overwhelm me as it had done before.
I had been on the waiting list for an MRI scan which I went to during my recovery period which needless to say didn’t find anything. I found it so frustrating that neither my doctor nor the spinal specialist asked anything about my emotional state at that time and when I suggested it may be stress related after first hearing about TMS, they just dismissed it. I was amazingly lucky to have Pete as my physiotherapist who had heard about TMS, I can’t thank him enough and I can’t possibly imagine where I’d be without his help and advice.
My story is relatively short compared to others who have been in pain for many years because they weren’t lucky enough to have someone tell them about TMS early on. I’m so pleased that Pete Gray has now done the practitioner course with Georgie Oldfield and is now listed on the SIRPA website as a practitioner in Nottingham.