Allanís Story


My story is one of unexpected severe pain, anguish, foreboding, depression, surprise, elation, and gratitude.


For most of my life, I had little if any pain. My problems began with pain in my hips while driving. It became so severe that I had to pull over and stop in the parking area of a gas station, get out and walk around while the pain abated to some extent. Then another few miles and another gas station.


Then, in addition to the pain in my hips, more pain appeared in my lower back, upper thighs, and calf pain (sciatica). I also had weakness in my legs. My wife and I were on a cruise to New Brunswick, Canada, when I could not walk very well due to weakness in my legs. I had to have help going up the stairs on the ship. When we visited St. Johnís , I had to sit on a stone wall and rest my legs while my wife and the other couple toured the city.


I went to a doctor. He said that I had poor posture and that I should sit up straight while reading. He suggested Advil. By this time, I was taking 12 Advil a day and using a cane to walk.


Eventually I had an MRI. The diagnosis was spinal stenosis. The MRI indicated that there was calcium buildup in my vertebrae (bone spurs) which was impacting my spinal cord and that I had two bulging discs.


I was in so much pain that I was becoming depressed. I was embarrassed to have people open doors for me. I was considering getting a wheel chair but I felt that doing that was acknowledging that it was the end of my active life. My wife and I belonged to a cross country ski club. We had been skiing in New Hampshire and Vermont for about 12 years. I dreaded facing the end of all these good times. We had a cookout for the ski club that summer and I felt miserable using a cane.


Orthopedic doctors examined me and recommended surgery. I was all for it. Anything to relive the pain and as quickly as possible.


My internist told me that there were two doctors that specialized in back surgery at Brigham and Womanís Hospital (nationally recognized as one of the best) in Boston . I was eager to have the surgery. Unfortunately, one of the doctors was on vacation and the other was in Europe. The earliest date that I could get was two months away.


I managed to get in touch with my insurance companyís consumer advocate. He was great. He managed to get me a date with another well qualified doctor in three weeks.


Most people have heard of Howard Stern. My son Stephen enjoyed his show because, he said, that the foul mouth stuff was only a small portion of it and that he and his cohorts were really funny. Stephen heard Howard Stern mention how Dr. Sarno cured his back pain and wondered if Dr. Sarno could help me. Stern had gone to New York and went through the procedure, lectures by Dr. Sarno, etc. Stephen mailed Dr. Sarnoís book (Healing Back Pain) to me.


I couldnít believe what I was reading. Pain can be caused by muscle tension restricting the blood supply. The lack of blood results in lack of oxygen and this situation cause pain. Harmless but very real. Wow! I was so excited that I went to the library and got his other book, The Mindbody Prescription.


There it was on page 69. Spinal Stenosis.


ďOne of the most important age-related changes is spinal stenosis because it is frequently treated surgically. (He mentions bone spurs.) If this condition is found in the TMS patient with severe pain, surgery is recommended and, if the patient is desperate, often performed. Of the large number of patients that I have seen with this diagnosis, I can recall only one who needed surgery. When these patients are treated for TMS they become pain-free despite the continuing presence of spinal stenosis.Ē

There was a dramatic recovery in my back pain but my sciatica was worse than ever. About this time I bought Fred Amirís book, Rapid Recovery for Neck and Back Pain.


Fred Amirís recommended treatment procedures pick up where Dr. Sarnoís leave off. In Chapter six, he recommends setting short-term and long-term goals.


My biggest problem with the pain of sciatica was climbing stairs. I had to hold on to the banister. Even then, I could barely do it. So my short-term goal was to do two steps without holding on. I gave myself one week. My long-term goal was to climb them two at a time in a month. I thought that this second goal was probably unrealistic but I was going for it.


Monday morning I started. One step, horrible severe pain. That was enough for one day. The next day, One step, severe pain but manageable. Trying the second step was unbelievable severe pain. I was ready to give up but I was determined and pushed through it. As my leg came down, the pain went away. Completely gone. I couldnít believe it. I went up a few more steps. No pain. I did the rest of the stairs two at a time. No pain. I cancelled the surgery.


In two days I had completed my short-term and long-goals. To this day, eight years later, neither my back pain nor my sciatica pain has come back. I am convinced that I would still be in pain were it not for setting goals.


Epilogue. Dr. Sarno mentions the decade change as one of the major causes of TMS pain. I was turning 70 and I was angry. I wonít go into details but I can see now how stress, muscle tension, and anger can cause TMS pain. One sad note, a good friend of mine on the ski club thinks that it was all a put on. My wife says donít let it bother you, if I hadnít seen it I never would have believed it.