Tension Myositis Syndrome

Mind Body Connection

A Mind Body Connection

I’ve always believed in the mind body connection in that your mind can control certain parts of your body in terms of making things better or worse.  You hear about when people get depressed and how their body starts to break down.  the whole will to live is a mindset, not an internal thing.  It’s how your mind works.  So, if it fits for depression, then why wouldn’t it impact our physical state in other areas.

We hear about it with migraine headaches as well.  In fact, they call them “tension” headaches.   There are other areas where you begin to break down because of your mental state.  It’s proven that when your mind reacts to certain situations, when it triggers fight or flight, the adrenalin starts pumping through your body.  That adrenalin is triggered by your brain – again, mind body connection.

So if we can get our heads around the concept that the mind controls the body, that’s the first step in understanding tension myositis syndrome or TMS.  As we’ve talked about, the basis of TMS is that your brain is restricting the flow of oxygen to certain muscles in your body thus causing sporadic pain.

The brain does this because it doesn’t want you dealing with something emotionally – usually something related to anger.  In fact, the brain (and mind body connection) is so convincing that you are in physical pain, each time you react to the pain, it further cements that you have a physical problem.  Your back seizes up, you start walking a little funny and the first thing you say is “Oh my back!” (I’ve been there and done this)

You then convince yourself that you need to take it easy because your back hurts and you proceed to baby it.  You try not to move in certain positions, you rest, don’t try to exercise at all and you put yourself in a stationary position.  You are unknowingly sending signals to your brain that I have a physical injury and I should be avoiding movement.  And more importantly, that physical injury is located in my back.

So, what is the next step?  You head to the doctor.  You explain that you have this pain in your back and the doctor asks “What did you do?”  You immediately rack your brain thinking what you might have done physically to your back.  The search gets kicked off in your brain as you try to figure out what you did to your back.

You think of these tiny and minor things (weeding, playing sports, etc) you’ve done and convince yourself that is why your back is hurting.  Usually those things you do hundreds of times and don’t give it a second thought.  However, now it is the cause of your back pain.

Next up is your doctor running a battery of tests to figure out what is “wrong” with your back.  Again, he’s convinced there is something wrong with your back, he’s telling you that and you’re telling your brain that.  Another layer of cement.

The x-ray comes back and nothing is wrong.  However, the MRI comes back and shows degenerated or slipped discs.  Finally a cause for this mind-numbing pain.  Right?  You don’t bother to ask the question “why does it not hurt ALL the time if I have slipped discs?”.  If you had done an MRI 6 months before, it would show those same degenerated discs.  However, 6 months ago you didn’t have the pain.  What the heck?

Years of again and strain on your spine has caused those discs to degenerate and that is perfectly normal.  Nearly everyone has a similar looking MRI.  But not everyone has crippling back pain.

Regardless, you and your doctor are convinced you’ve found a cause for the pain.  Meanwhile a mind body connection is at the root.

Here Come The Drugs

The first course of treatment for many doctors is putting a stop to the pain by prescribing either heavy duty NSAIDs or muscle relaxers.  Remember, if you sliced your arm near to the bone, with enough painkillers, you’d feel very little pain.  So, no surprise, this works for some time.  Nevermind that you are sleepy and lethargic, at least the pain is dulled.

After some time, they have less and less effect and it’s time for a new approach (though the mind body connection is ignored).  This second phase varies by doctor so we’ll lump them together:

1) Chiropractor

– Many doctors will give a chiropractor a try hoping that an adjustment will relieve the pain.  In fact, some orthopedic doctors will offer you an adjustment in the office themselves.  This rarely works and can be very painful as you need to be manipulated in positions that cause you pain.

2) Cortisone / Steroids

– Cortisone shots are a popular choice by many doctors today.  It involves a shot in the back injecting cortisone in between the vertebrae.  The relief is temporary and you can only have up to 3 in a one year period.  Some folks get lengthy relief while others may only have a week of relief.  This is a band-aid and does not address the underlying problem.

3) Physical Therapy

– Stretching and lower back exercises are common approaches to attempting to relieve back pain. However, most patients are fearful of injuring themselves further and this leaves them frustrated and in pain.  This fear is a strong part of the mind body connection – working against us.

4) Nerve Blockers

– Finally, we move to the drugs. If you can’t cure the pain, mask it. The NSAIDs get a boost with heavy duty nerve blockers. These beauties make you groggy, mess with your sleep and have plenty of side effects.

Explore The Mind Body Connection

So, instead of going down the road that many have with limited and inconsistent success, explore the mind body connection.  You may find the pain you are experiencing is caused by something deeper.

For more, please be sure to read about the great work on the mind body connection by Dr. John Sarno.