Pain in arms and knees

Date: 4 October 2010
Name: Lene

For two years I was in incredible pain that first developed in my arms after very intensive computer use and later in my knees for some (at that time) unknown reason.
For most of those 2 years I wasn't able to work, not to mention cook, clean, buy groceries, ect.. I used a straw to drink out of and my husband helped me to carry food ect. to the table. I developed tricks to have other people open the doors when going places, while trying not to let them notice that I wasn't able to hold the door myself. I used shoes without laces so that they would be easy to put on. When going out I had a small bag I carried around my waist, since I was told it was bad for me to carry a back pack. When my knees got bad I could only walk about half a mile before strong pain overwhelmed me. In other words the situation was pretty bad.

For part of that time I was on the Sorehand list and got a lot of help from a lot of very helpful and kind persons. Now I would like to share my story with you and to tell you that I am now completely pain free and can do anything that I want and anything that any other normal person can do. (Of course I believe in taking care of my body, not overusing it, eating healthy, getting exercise ect. but that's another story).

The list of doctors and therapist I tried during those two years is long. To mention a few: 3 rheumatologists, an anesthesiologist, a neurologist, 2 surgeons, a hand specialist (surgeon), 2 osteopaths, several physiotherapists, an occupational therapist, a doctor specializing in allergies, a dietician. I tried Alexander Technique, acupuncture, yoga, The Edgelow Program (a program using different exercises), Sharon Butler's Tendonitis Self Care Program, got an X-ray and MRI of my knees, and an X-ray of my neck, different dietary supplements such as MSM, a lot of pain killers, medicine for rheumatoid arthritis. None of this helped me - some of them gave a slight temporary relief, but as soon as I would use my arms and knees again it would hurt just as bad.

The good thing about all this was that they established that there was really nothing physically wrong with my body, other than what one doctor said that I wasn't getting enough blood supply to my arms. This helped me to accept and not to be afraid when I started reading about John E. Sarno's approach to treating pain in The Mindbody Prescription (price: ). What he wrote was that the pain is induced by the mind.

I understand if you are skeptical. So was I. I am from a science background and although I try to keep an open mind to new ideas, I want a thorough explanation of things and I want there to be a solid background backing up the ideas. Consequently, when I first heard about Sarno's approach I didn't even want to read about it. I was convinced there was something physically wrong with my body. And importantly I was extremely afraid of doing something wrong, using my body in such a way as to cause a permanent damage. At that time I hadn't gone through all of the treatments mentioned above. I needed to do that before I would be ready for a mind-body approach. Half a year after someone first mentioned Sarno's approach, and after I had gone through all the treatments mentioned, I was ready to see what Sarno had to say. What could I lose? I had been living for 2 years in extreme pain and completely disabled.

What finally convinced me of trying it was a couple of people who had written to the Sorehand list and said they had completely gotten better by this approach. And also I talked to a Danish guy from Sorehand who pointed out that of all the people writing to the Sorehand list, the only people who have gotten completely better was people using this approach. He himself had been helped quit a lot also.

I would not have been able to accept it had Sarno said that the pain was just in the mind. My pain felt very real. Sarno's explanation is that the pain is real and is caused by a lack of blood supply to the areas in question. The resulting mild oxygen deprivation is what causes the muscle and nerve pain. However, this lack of blood supply is ultimately caused by the mind because of stress and repressed emotions.
The other thing is that you become afraid of the pain, and associate certain things with the pain. It becomes a conditioned response.

In a very thorough manner and backed up by a lot of research Sarno explains this connection and it made a lot of sense to me. We have all experienced how the mind affects the body, f.ex. when feeling nervous or upset our stomach can hurt or our hands get wet and start shaking. It answered a lot of the questions I had had during the period of pain. F.ex. why did my knees start hurting during this period for no apparent reason? Now I could see that it was because I was so upset and sad about my situation with pain and upset that nobody could help me. It also explained why after I started using the Edgelow program - which recommended not sitting in certain soft chairs because it could be harmful - I all of a sudden had a hard time sitting in the movie theater. Before that I had had pain in my arms for a year but no problems sitting anywhere. I had become conditioned to believe that it would cause pain to sit in certain chairs.

I will not go into more detail about Sarno's theory. You can read it yourself if you are interested. I will just say that it was a tremendous relief that Sarno wrote that there was nothing seriously and irreversibly wrong, no permanent damage done.
As soon as I got the blood flowing to my arms and knees I would be totally normal and healthy again. Another huge relief was that I could use my body in a normal way without all kinds of restrictions. A lot of well-meaning therapists had told me a lot of things about how I should use my body: sit in certain ways, lift in certain ways, hold my wrist in certain ways when using them, ect.

I accepted Sarno's approach and applied it. Among other things I made a list of ever harder challenges I had to do the next couple of months. Already after a few weeks I saw a big difference, and I could cook meals, which I hadn't done for two years. In about 3-4 months I was pretty much pain free being able to do all those things I had enjoyed before: playing the piano, knitting, lifting, doing yoga, exercising, working, ect. After all that time it felt like having life back again.

I really hope that my story will inspire some of you to try Sarno's approach. I know that it is difficult to believe this and that many of you are skeptical like I was.
But even though it is very good to be skeptical it is very important also to be open to new ideas and to try to understand them before evaluating them.

Here is the literature that I used:
John E. Sarno: The Mindbody Prescription (price: )
Fred Amir: Rapid recovery from back and neck pain (price: ) Great practical advice on how to use Sarno's approach
Schechter: The MindBody Workbook (price: )

Really good web pages are: (check out the recovery stories here, they are amazing)

Other personal stories

This personal story reflects the experiences of the author. Repetitive strain injury is an umbrella term for pain in muscles, tendons and nerves usually caused by repetitive motions. Even if your symptoms are similar, the cause may be a totally different one! Print out this page and discuss all the information with a doctor or physical therapist before trying them out. You do everything at your own risk!
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