Severe back pain ending up with 3 operations and still no let up!

Basic background

A lifelong athlete, physical educator and coach…..who up until a “snow shoveling” (?) injury in January of 2000 did pretty much anything, everything and MORE than most people would dream of physically.

After the injury, I was in a good deal of back pain, and started in on physical therapy and chiropractic since several local docs indicated that it was a “minor” issue (minor if it is not yours!)

Relief after treatments was only temporary and moderate. Even with 5 days of visits to well intentioned practitioners.  Throughout the entire course of this misery, I was never able to get a consistent diagnosis. We ran the gamut from bulging discs, stenosis, nerve entrapment, piriformis syndrome, muscle imbalance, on and on and on.

The local docs prescribed continued therapy and started a course of pain meds, muscle relaxers, anti anxiety drugs… one time I had 40+ bottles of different meds in a cabinet at home.

Pain continued to get worse….at one pt during a session, I felt pain shoot down both legs during treatment.  Despite these treatments, I continued to get worse, including numbness, tingling and incredible nerve pain down one leg and sometimes (no logic) into the other leg.

They sent me for cat scans, MRI (6 at least) and diagnosed a herniated disc, that they felt was questionable in terms of involvement with the pain.  At this point, I started in with several orthopaedists, neurologists and neurosurgeons, all of whom were puzzled or gave varying opinions as to what I should do.

Pain continued to get worse…..did not sleep for months…..could not stand, sit or lie down with any relief…When I did lie down at night, I lay on a plywood board and the pain was so intense that I could not put a sheet on my feet or legs.  NONE of the drugs worked….I was chewing Vioxx with my cereal in the morning!

Needless to say, with all this going on, trying to maintain my “pleasant, sparkling” disposition at work and at home become more than a challenge…I’m surprised that someone did shoot me, and I myself was pretty close to doing that!

I got to the point where I did next to NOTHING….any routine activity caused pain to the point of tears, and no matter what it continued to get worse. Taking a quart of milk out of the refrigerator caused excruciating pain.

I continued to search out other docs, travelling great distances, looking for a magic bullet. Again, no consistent answers, many shrugged shoulders and more drugs and recommendations for treatments.

Started acupuncture (daily) combined with various types of massage (5 times weekly), chiropractor visits, physical therapy. Had approximately one dozen steroidal injections in various areas, all with no real success.

I even tried 6 courses of prolotherapy…look that one up!

After several years of this, I found a surgeon in New Jersey who was experimenting with laser disc surgery. I literally begged him to “cut me open, I don’t care!”  He did, and I ended up in the same position.

Continued even more treatments, more drugs, different docs….no luck. One year later, another surgeon, an orthopaedist did a discectomy… luck.

Approx.1 year later, the pain was so bad, I was ready to try anything.

Found a big name surgeon in NYC who performed spinal fusion because he “needed to stabilize my back, or I’ll end up in a wheelchair” ….Fusion performed….no luck.

Three surgeries and still following the same daily ritual.


A Reader’s Digest was sitting on the counter at home and the title of an article on the cover caught my eye…..”End your Back Pain”. I’d spent so much time on the Internet researching standard and alternative treatments, I figured that there was nothing that I did not know. I even knew how to read x-rays and MRI scans at this point.

However, the article mentioned a doc in NYC (I’d moved from the city to upstate NY in 1991) who felt that back pain, and other maladies, could be traced to the unconscious mind and bottled up emotions. This certainly piqued my interest, as a coach and athlete I was always very much in tune with the concept of emotions and the thought process influencing attitude and performance.

Found Dr. Sarno’s first two books on the Internet and devoured them! I lived with them, as I found myself on every page!  I began to do the homework as the book outlines…..I took a chance and called the NY office and wrote a letter outlining my case, also begging for a chance to drive down and meet him.

About a week later, in May 2004, I got a phone call from Dr. Sarno in my office. I was so excited that I could hardly hold the phone.  He invited me in for a one-on-one and a small group session.

I was anxious about driving down, as I had not dared to drive that distance in such a long time. I loaded up my SUV with pills (bottles) and braced for the ride.

I did the one on one and small group session with Dr. Sarno. I left for the return trip that night (210 miles) with a bounce in my step and the pain notably diminished. NO PILLS. I have not taken a pill or had a treatment since that night, over three years ago.

The pain was not totally gone. I had to spend endless hours “married” to his texts, and doing my homework (journal). As I did the work and got into the proper mind set, I could often feel the pain and discomfort disappear.

To the present…..I kayak, I bike, I chop wood, I coach baseball, I workout…no limitations.  I began to do all these things within a couple of months of seeing Dr Sarno. I had a hard time at first convincing myself that I was ok, as there are always some doubts, especially when you’ve been “counselled” by so many docs and told that you’d never be able to do that stuff safely……

When there is a bit of discomfort, I can usually trace it back to some current life stressor, that I may or may not realize is taking place. POOF…pain disappears.

TMS is a blessing…that sounds funny; however, being forced to dig into your “trash basket” and find the junk is helpful in all aspects of your life…..

The key thing to stress is;

a) it was a great deal of emotional/mental time invested, yet the results were quite noticeable

b) if you can “forget” the physical, and do the homework, you WILL make progress…but as you heard everyone’s journey is different….I could not be happier with mine, as I was virtually a cripple for years!

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