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What is TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) and how knowing about it helps beat RSI

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TMS is based on the theory that a whole host of chronic pain conditions can have a mind-body rather than physical root, and that they  need to be understood in terms of the whole mind-body system.  Mind body techniques therefore offer the potential for significant pain reduction and even cure.   Recent research has shown that stress (either conscious or unconscious) affects nerve pathways in the spinal cord and brain – and that this results in significantly heightened pain sensitivity.

The theory was first proposed by Dr Sarno a professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at the New York University School of Medicine and the concept has since attracted the support of a number of eminent medical practitioners including Dr David Schechter, Dr Ira Rashbaum, Dr Samuel Mann, Dr Mark Strom, Dr David Clarke, Dr Marc Sopher, Dr Clive Segil and Dr Howard Schubiner amongst others (see the medical practitioners section for greater detail).  A number of peer reviewed studies have demonstrated that the techniques advocated for TMS have a significant effect both in terms of reducing pain and increasing general health.

The Theory

TMS stands for Tension Myositis Syndrome.  It is used as a description for patients who suffer from chronic musculoskeletal and nerve symptoms which have failed to respond to medical treatment.  Most frequently these are manifested as backpain, RSI, fibromyalgia, neck pain and sciatica.   In these patients there is frequently a lack of any evidence of structural damage.  And even when there is some diagnosed structural damage from an MRI scan this may be misleading.  Recent peer reviewed studies (1) (2) caution that spinal abnormalities shown in MRI scans are common even in healthy, pain free individuals and so their appearance in MRIs may be coincidental.

Dr Sarno theorises that the pain, numbness and pins and needles that sufferers feel is a result of mild oxygen deprivation in the blood circulated to the affected region.  This is a process regulated by the autonomic system at an unconscious level, and so we have an unconscious root cause which creates a real physical manifestation of pain.  More recently other doctors like Dr Clarke have been keen to investigate the role of heightened pain perception in the brain itself and how stress manifests itself through physical symptoms as a theory for TMS.

What do I do?
TMS can be cured by the understanding that the pain has a mind-body rather than physical root and by resolving the conscious (and unconscious) stress in your life.  This can be achieved by a mixture of meditation, journaling and addressing your conditioned pain responses.  Meditation allows you to reduce stress levels and to become aware of your though processes.  Journaling simply involves writing on a daily basis about things in your life that have caused stress/anger/pain.  This allows introspective analysis and helps to address unresolved tensions.  Addressing your conditioned pain response simply means breaking the positive feedback pain cycle.  We fear an activity because it causes pain, so the next time we do it our stress levels and awareness are heightened, leading to greater pain sensations and greater fear of that activity.  This cycle can be broken by reconditioning our brains through gradual reintroduction of that activity.

Now If you’re anything like me, you might read this and be rather under-whelmed, after all there’s no top secret technique, no magic pill, just rather prosaic suggestions.  And yet, just focusing on the mind may be enough to reduce or even eliminate your chronic pain.  There is already growing peer review evidence that these techniques do indeed reduce chronic pain and increase general health.  (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)  What matters is that these techniques work.

How much does this cost?

It doesn’t have to cost you anything – you already have all the tools you need for success.  There is a great deal of free information out there about all the techniques you need to use.  The TMS Wiki provides you with information about TMS, and both the PPD/TMS Peer Network Forum and the TMS Help forum allow you to read threads and post comments for advice and information.  Personally I would recommend buying one of Dr Sarno’s books for greater detail into the theory.  And many former sufferers do report that speaking with a professional from the medical community who understands the TMS concept was a great help.  I certainly benefited from this. There are a number of practitioners who can offer support – some of these are listed on this site, and there is a much more comprehensive list here.

Who is this website for?

This website is for people who suffer from long term chronic pain conditions for which they have followed medical advice and not found relief from their symptoms.  It is important to note that it is essential that you first see a doctor about your symptoms – it is possible that they are caused by something serious which first needs to  be ruled out.  Also please remember that I’m not medically trained, I’m just a recovered RSI sufferer who has found relief using the methods outlined on these pages.  Therefore it is essential that you use your own judgment while reading these pages as to whether the TMS diagnosis fits your own case.

Who am I?
My name is Andrew, and I suffered from severe RSI for over three years.  I have seen over a 95% improvement in my symptoms since embracing the TMS concept.  For example, I have gone from being unable to type, write or use a mouse at all without significant long-lasting pain, to designing and putting together this entire website.  The idea that I could sit in front of a computer screen and do hours of computer design would have been absolutely incredible only a few months ago.  So, I want to tell other people about TMS, in the hope that other people might also get relief from their symptoms – and get their lives back, like I have.  You can send me an email on andrew@tmswiki.net – feedback on the site, your success stories, questions, I’d love to hear from you.

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About The Author

Senior Writer

Justin Bennett is the senior writer across the How I Beat sites. With six years experience in mental health encompassing work in homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals and disability employment services and graduate diplomas in counselling and journalism he is passionate about helping others overcome and beat their conditions.

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