Thankful Thursday: the Dr. John Sarno edition

I just got home from a run in which my right hip got SO tight, I was forced to stop running. The pain was close to excruciating. It was definitely in the oh-my-effing-goddess category, and if I hadn’t known about the mind-body connection, I might’ve panicked and thought I’d suffered some horrible injury.

But I knew better.

So I stood there in the street and talked out loud to my brain. I said, “Brain, I get it. You know that I’m under a great deal of stress lately. You know I was just now thinking about how slow I’m running, how tired I’m feeling, how hard life seems to be these days. I was feeling sad-angry-depressed. And then BOOM,  my hip locked up. But guess what? This bogus pain, that is NOT rooted in any kind of physical reality, will only get in the way of me being active and coping with those emotions. Running is what I need to do to live my life. Your job is to make sure I don’t trip on anything. Your job is to process info from my eyes so that I can enjoy the signs of spring and process the bird songs I hear, so I can identify those feathered friends. Your job is to work with my body that absolutely requires movement in order to handle stress. I must be active. Let’s work as a team.”

And then I started running again. I’ll be honest, it didn’t feel great. My hip was still tight, still painful, still annoying as hell. But as I ran, I talked some more. I pointed out to my brain that I was running, that the bogus pain hadn’t achieved the desired effect of making me focus on the pain so that I’d “forget” about the hard stuff in my life. Instead, I was going to continue running so that I could cope with the many challenges that wouldn’t just magically disappear because my hip was locked in muscle-spasm-hell. By the time I finished my run, my hip had loosened. It’s sore after spasming, but there’s no lasting damage.

My brain is being very tricky lately. Last week, I suffered tightness and pain in my neck unlike anything I’ve ever experienced (Zippy could hear the vertebrae click when I tilted my head forward). I have to admit, I got caught up in that one and didn’t immediately recognize it as mind-body stuff for a couple days. But as soon as I started talking to my brain, it loosened up. It’s still not 100% better, but I am being active and living my life. I have not given in to a bogus “injury” that isn’t rooted in any kind of reality.

If anyone’s still reading and is interested, there are forums in which people discuss all sorts of physical conditions that they’ve been able to treat as mind-body conditions. Our brains are very crafty and will go to great lengths to manufacture pain to distract us from life’s stresses, difficulties, and anger-inducing situations. Sometimes we gotta be smarter than our brains.

2 thoughts on “Thankful Thursday: the Dr. John Sarno edition

  1. Hi, this might be long…and I don’t want to hijack your post.
    BUT hear me out.

    I have chronic pain…neck and back and randomly in my feet and legs. I had a car accident in 2001 and am fused in 2 vertebrae in my neck with lovely titanium cages and 6 screws. My neck clicks and grinds and makes all kinds of popping sounds all the time. So fun! I get headaches a lot. I wake up feeling like shit most every day of my life. And not until around 10 am do I stop hobbling around.

    The pain “moves” around my body depending on the weather, the barometer, quality of sleep, alcohol use, activity, what shoes I wore, etc. It affects my moods, my treatment of my family, and my self esteem. Every year or so I get so tired of being in pain that I go to the doctor.

    My docs have looked at MS, neuropathy, seasonal allergies, B12 deficiency, anemia, bone spurs, RA, brain tumors, etc. They diagnosed fibromyalgia last time. I am denial. I was supposed to start taking Cymbalta, but I refused.

    Instead, I try to keep a pain journal where I put down the pain and what is happening that might be causing it. Then, I write what I did to help myself. We have a hot tub, so that helps. I also take a tincture of B12 every morning along with an Advil and a Zyrtec. I also use a combo of CBD and THC salve to massage into sore spots before I go to bed and it really helps. Kind of like marijuana-laced Ben Gay.

    What am I learning about my pain? Sometimes it is stress! But not always.
    Last summer, my hip did what yours is doing, so I had an x-ray and it was a nasty case of bursitis! I got a cortisone shot in Oct. and it’s been good…until recently. The familiar left flank back and hip pain is back! Time for another shot!

    Have you bought new running shoes? Or are your running shoes broken down? Have you flipped your mattress lately? Do you need new pillows? Are you squinting to see far away? Have you been on the computer too much? Are you on your phone too much? Is your TV too far from your couch? Have you been driving too much in traffic? Are you sleeping enough? Have you been hydrating? Those little things are sometimes the cause of my pain! Seriously!

    Yes, the brain is a mysterious thing, but sometimes you have to acknowledge and treat the pain with traditional methods along with mind over body! Man, I hope you feel better, soon. xxoo


    • Hey Steph!

      I had no idea you were dealing with all that. I am so sorry. Years ago I was told I had chronic fatigue, which was SO demoralizing. I happened upon an article about somatic experiencing therapy, and ended up working with a woman in Boulder (Sara Swift). SE is a way to release past traumas (basically, trapped adrenaline) from our systems. Anyway, I completely regained my energy and now have the tools to do that work on my own as needed. And the point in telling you all this is that I need to take the time to do that for myself right now. Life’s been particularly challenging lately and stuff has accumulated in my system again. That, plus, not doing my flexibility exercises, makes me more vulnerable to stuff like my hip spasm yesterday. I’ve been setting my phone timer for 20 minutes while I write so that I get up and stretch/move around/etc, BUT haven’t followed that protocol for the last few days. I was pretty tight when I ran yesterday and that made it easier for me to feel shitty. I’m way past due for a massage and am going to schedule one just to get me back to a healthier level. The good news is, I feel pretty good right now.

      I totally agree with you regarding the need to hydrate and get good sleep, and be mindful of eye strain, etc. When my eyes are over-tired, I feel way worse. Our eyes do so much work for us and sometimes they just get overloaded.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts on all this, Steph. Wishing you a cozy weekend! (It’s snowing here….is it snowing there?)


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