Recovery Recovery from sciatica, tennis elbow, chronic fatigue, and much more.

The Pain Reprocessing Therapy Forum is created by people who have recovered from chronic pain and other symptoms using the techniques of Pain Reprocessing Therapy. Reading recovery stories can be a great source of hope for people recovering from their own symptoms. If you have already recovered, please consider sharing your story here. Just make an account and post your story using the sign up button in the upper right of this page. For help, please use our contact form.

Tim Wells

New member
--- Summary---​

What's greater than the gift of health? I went from being a person who felt like there was something wrong with their body ... to a healthy, normal person (whatever normal is).

The mind-body treatment pioneered by Dr. John Sarno and carried on by others like Alan Gordon has transformed my life. I've recovered from:
- Sciatica that resulted in back/hip/leg pain,
- Tennis elbow (RSI) and
- Chronic fatigue - which left me with dizziness and cold/flu-like symptoms.

For those who are interested, I provide more detail on my struggles and recovery from these three conditions in the "My Story" section below. You may want to skip ahead to one of these sections. In addition to the three health challenges listed above, there have been other conditions that are so diminished now they are no longer issues in my life. These include things like acid reflux, chronic bronchitis, insomnia, and IBS.

It's difficult to summarize how I recovered in a few sentences, so that's why I provide additional detail the sections below. But generally speaking, recovery is a process that involves changing the way we think and feel about chronic pain and certain health conditions. We learn to reduce the fear associated with our pain and symptoms, and as we do, we rewire the neural pathways that trigger pain. It requires tapping into our feelings, allowing yourself to experience those feelings in a safe way. In time, the pain and symptoms become less important and subside. In many cases (including mine), they go away entirely. I know this sounds fantastical and too good to be true. But all I can say is, it honestly works.

If you are new and want to know how to get started, I'd suggest going to the TMS Wiki and doing some research there. It contains a wealth of information. I'd recommend finding some books or a program you connect with and applying them in a systematic method. Some methodologies that I can personally vouch for were developed by Alan Gordon, LCSW, Dr. Howard Schubiner, and of course the grandfather of it all - Dr. John Sarno. But there are other options, including TMS doctors, therapists, coaches, other books, and even an app for your phone. There are also two, completely free, self-guided programs on the TMS Wiki. In addition, I've found mindfulness meditation very helpful. Just don't try to do too much and find what works for you.

In my experience, recovery is not an easy path, nor is it always smooth. It requires commitment, time, and a certain level of faith in the process. But it's also a tremendously rewarding process that provides benefits beyond your pain and health. It includes learning to care for ourselves out of self-love and kindness. Don't put too much pressure to do everything perfectly. But instead, practice from a place of hope ... and maybe even a bit of joy.

--- My Story ---​

Part 1 - Back / Hip / Leg Pain (Sciatica)
I woke up one morning with pain and tingling shooting up and down the side of my body. It felt like someone was pulling on a drawstring that ran from my left foot, up the side of my body, all the way to my left hand. The epicenter of the pain was in my left hip.

It was the early 1990s and I was a road musician, a one-man-band traveling alone through the mid-west playing small town hotel bars and staying in the rooms they provided. It was a lonely, isolated life that was not conducive to optimal happiness or mental health. For weeks at a time, I was away from my young son who I missed terribly and felt very guilty for abandoning.

The sciatica started then and was a constant struggle for the next 15 years. During that time, I went through two years of chiropractic, which did no good. Then I saw a neurologist who put me on Amitriptyline and physical therapy. This helped a little, but only marginally. Around this time, I'd grown tired of earning a meager living playing music. So in 1994 I earned a bachelor's degree, then a CPA, and went to work in government; primarily in IT. I learned to live with the pain by taking large, unhealthy doses of Ibuprofen and avoiding standing and walking for extended periods. The pain ruled my life in many ways and hung like a dark cloud over my future. I even feared that one day, I may have to use a wheelchair. An orthopedic surgeon suggested that eventually I have spinal fusion. Thank God I never proceeded with that.

My first exposure to Dr. Sarno and TMS was in 2006 where I read the blog of a young woman who'd recovered using Dr. Sarno's methods. Then I saw the Dr. John E Sarno - 20/20 Segment, which provided initial excitement and optimism. I'd been suffering for over 15 years and suddenly there was hope!

I was very hopeful. I lived and breathed Dr. Sarno's concepts for months. I bought a couple of books, an audio book, and a video tape featuring Dr. Sarno. I frequented TMS discussion forums. I immersed myself in this world; I "drank the Kool-Aid" as they say. I journaled daily. When the pain came, I'd focus on my feelings and emotions rather than the pain. Sometimes I'd yell at my brain and tell it to "knock it off." This was in the days before somatic tracking and other more modern techniques available today. Regardless, it worked. The pain decreased shortly after I began applying Dr. Sarno's concepts, but it did not go away entirely. There were good days and bad. Finally, after about five months the pain went completely away. It has not returned since 2006.

Part 2 - Tennis Elbow / Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)
About a year before discovering Dr. Sarno, and in addition to the sciatica, I began suffering with tennis elbow in both arms. It was a painful RSI brought on by typing, which is something I did all day long in my accounting/IT job. One day, I remember a couple of co-workers whispering and pointing at me because I had my left leg propped up on a chair for the sciatica, and both arms wrapped in tennis elbow braces. I think this was their awkward attempt at good natured teasing, but it made me angry at the time.

I began using voice recognition software on my computer, which back in 2005 was very clunky and unreliable. Nothing like the Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa of today. This was another source of embarrassment at work when co-workers walking by would hear me talking to my computer.

Nothing seemed to help and I began seeing an orthopedic surgeon. He was convinced that surgery would help and his optimism persuaded me. So I had the surgery and long story short, it did no good. The surgeon's frustration was palpable that the operation didn't ease my pain. I felt like some of that frustration was pointed at me. This was when the light bulb went off!

Around this time, I had found Dr. Sarno and my sciatica and back problems were improving significantly. For whatever reason, I didn't think my tennis elbow was TMS too. Maybe it was the optimism of the orthopedic surgeon or maybe I was just to new to TMS to understand how pervasive it can be. Regardless, when the surgeon became frustrated with my lack of recovery, something clicked in my head and I became fully convinced that the tennis elbow was TMS too. It was like a religious conversion.

I began reading Dr. Sarno and other materials, and applying the exact same principals to my elbows as I had to my sciatica. In short order, both elbows got better, including the elbow with surgery and the elbow without. A couple of doctors told me that my tennis elbow would likely return. It's been nearly 15 years and it never has.

Part 3: Chronic Fatigue - Dizziness, Cold and Flu-like Symptoms
I thought I had this TMS thing figured out. After all, it was 2016 and I hadn't had any chronic pain issues for nearly ten years. But it turns out that for some of us at least, TMS is a life long endeavor and I'm okay with that.

I began to notice a phenomenon of heavy fatigue a couple of days after vigorous exercise. The actual day of the exercise I felt fine, even good. But a day or two later, I would feel so run down that it felt like I had a cold. The fatigue would last for two or three days. If I rested, it would eventually subside. I was now in my 60s, so some of this may have been due to aging. But the fact that it came on a couple days after the exercise and the way it hung around for so long didn't make sense. I suspected it was a form of TMS.

This went on for several years and I muddled through. Then in early 2021, I began to experience dizziness along with cold/flu-like symptoms. The symptoms drug on for weeks and months. As noted, I thought was probably some form of TMS, but I wanted to rule out anything serious. So I visited the doctor on three separate occasions. Each time, the doctors were left scratching their heads. One prescribed a round of steroids, which had little effect.

The fact that the doctors 1) didn't seem to know what it was, and 2) weren't raising alarms about a serious problem, gave me confidence that it was, in fact, TMS. It was time for me to get serious about addressing this.

I started reading Dr. Sarno's books and began visiting the TMS Wiki and forums again. After reviewing Alan Gordon's Pain Recovery Program (free on the TMS Wiki), I decided to begin working it in earnest and really jumped in with both feet. I simply replaced the word "pain" with "symptoms". I went through the program taking copious notes. Then, I decided to re-write the program in my own words. I actually did this three separate times. I know this sounds a bit obsessive and even a little crazy. But there are critical concepts in Alan's work and I wanted to beat those concepts into my head. In my experience, recovery from TMS is not a passive activity. It requires taking the bull by the horns.

Around the same time, I also started a regular mindfulness meditation practice. Mindfulness folds together very nicely with a TMS program. It taught me a new, safe way to experience my emotions and body sensations. Mindfulness significantly reduced my anxiety, which is super helpful in recovering from TMS.

As I re-educated myself through the Pain Recovery Program, and regularly confronted the dizziness, flu-like symptoms and fatigue through mindfulness and somatic tracking (see Alan's program), the symptoms slowly began to dissipate. Eventually, after some ups and downs, it went away. Chronic fatigue is tricky in that it has been more challenging than my TMS pain issues. Sometimes it wants rear its head again when I'm not sleeping well, or if I catch a little bug, or when my allergies flare. So I have to carry the principals with me and call on them often.
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Staff member
Thank you for posting your story, Tim. I think it will give hope and inspiration to many people going forward.

I particularly liked when you wrote the following.
In my experience, recovery is not an easy path, nor is it always smooth. It requires commitment, time, and a certain level of faith in the process. But it's also a tremendously rewarding process that provides benefits beyond your pain and health. It includes learning to care for ourselves out of self-love and kindness. Don't put too much pressure to do everything perfectly. But instead, practice from a place of hope ... and maybe even a bit of joy.
Much wisdom in there...

I'm curious, what suggestions or techniques do you think helped you the most? Do you have any tips for someone who reads your story and really resonates with it?

Tim Wells

New member
Yes, I'd like to echo Lojos' sentiment and thank Forest for all he does for the PRT/TMS community! Also, thank you both for the kind words about my recovery story.

As far as suggestions, techniques, and tips go, here's a few things:

- Have a quiet confidence that you're on the right path when taking the mind-body approach. It has worked for others and there's no reason it can't work for you. Having confidence and faith is challenging when your experiencing symptoms. But that's the point. We are changing the way we think, feel and experience pain and symptoms. Building confidence and faith is a process that comes from immersing yourself in the PRT/TMS universe and the successes you'll experience along the way.

- When you're experiencing the pain and symptoms, direct your attention to your emotions and how your body is reacting. Be a neutral observer of all that's going on inside you. Am I catastrophizing about the pain? Am I worried? Is my chest tight? Is my stomach clenching? ...etc., etc. Learning mindfulness meditation and somatic tracking are helpful for this.

- Keeping one foot in the structural/physical explanation for your pain is NOT helpful. Now, if you're not totally ready to let go of the structural/physical explanation, that's okay! Please do what you need to do. But in my experience, this really started working when I finally and fully accepted the mind-body explanation. And it almost always took me some time to get there.

Of course, this isn't comprehensive. Just a few thoughts. :)


Staff member
Thanks for the kind words, @Lojos and @Tim Wells!

Those are classic tips, Tim. You mentioned meditation a couple of times. I know that many people with more persistent cases of neuroplastic pain/TMS find meditation to be very helpful and sometimes I can even see that coming through in how their writing style changes. (On a related note, Howard Schubiner and Alan Gordon are both very serious meditators. Have you ever noticed that both have a wonderful soothing calmness in their voices? I'm sure there is more to it than meditation, but, while it isn't always a large effect, many scientific studies have documented ways that meditation changes the brain.)

Do you mind talking a bit about your meditation practice? Any tips for someone getting started? While meditation definitely isn't required for most people, I think it's a great adjunct and just a great way to take care of oneself in general.

Tim Wells

New member
Yes, I suspect there is even more benefit to mindfulness/meditation than the research currently shows. The downside is it does take some time and practice. But for me, it's well worth it. I wouldn't want to go back and I almost always end up enjoying the meditation sessions.

As we've said, a mindfulness meditation really folds together nicely with a mind-body healing program, like Alan Gordon's:
  • The most notable benefit for me has been the reduction in anxiety. This is super helpful in getting over mind-body issues, since it is our "fight or flight" response that often triggers a TMS event.
  • Also, mindfulness provides a healthy, non-threatening way to experience and process our emotions. Dr. Sarno told us to think psychologically and mindfulness is an excellent tool for doing that.
  • And finally, somatic tracking is really just another kind of mindfulness meditation that focuses on body sensations and our reactions to them. If you practice meditation, somatic tracking is not hard to get. In fact, I incorporate it into nearly all of my meditations.
But I'm sure there's other benefits, I haven't mentioned.

If you're starting out, I really like the free guided meditations at UCLA, here and here. This is probably where I learned the most about how to meditate. But of course, there are lots of other resources out there.

Right now, I meditate (unguided) approximately 12 minutes per day, most days. I heard somewhere that that is the sweet spot. But in the early days, I did the longer guided meditations at UCLA.
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