Doubt is one of the most popular battles those with tension myositis syndrome, or TMS, deal with. By nature and in school, we are taught the onset of pain equates to structural damage. However, that is not always true. Most chronic pain cases are deemed stress or trauma-induced.
Although we inherently focus on the body's structure concerning pain, chronic pain is a biopsychosocial disorder that requires a holistic approach. Unfortunately, most patients are prescribed physical-based treatment for years, regardless of the failure of 100% long-term relief. The lack of translation in care to treat chronic pain as a biopsychosocial disorder leaves patients frustrated, exhausted, and repeatedly disappointed by physical-based therapies.
Once diagnosed or self-educated about TMS, many people find it challenging to trust the mind-body approach to reverse chronic pain symptoms. Changing your belief system and perception of pain can confuse, worry, and doubt, especially for those who have been disappointed by chronic pain treatments in the past. In addition, because the mind-body approach to resolving mind-body symptoms is psychologically based, it forces patients to heal unresolved, repressed mental and emotional pain. This process takes time and can seem scary for those who don't see a shift in symptoms immediately.
Changing pain perception and behavioral patterns takes time. It is natural to have doubt and fear when a new treatment doesn't provide immediate relief. However, hundreds of thousands have resolved pain problems like fibromyalgia, migraine, IBS, chronic back pain, pelvic pain, and so on by committing to the mind-body approach and doing the work to heal overall human pain. Keep reading this blog to learn more about TMS, how the doubt of a TMS diagnosis affects treatment progress, and how to move forward with faith in the mind-body approach.
What is TMS?
TMS, also known as Tension Myositis Syndrome or mind-body syndrome, is a psychosocial disorder. Real physical symptoms occur due to psychosocial distress. Although this type of chronic pain is caused by repressed emotions, unresolved trauma, chronic stress, a dysregulated nervous system, and fear-based behavioral patterns, the pain experienced is 100% real.
The emotional and behavioral triggers mentioned above correlate to the brain's ability to trigger chronic physical pain. Pain is a danger signal. All pain is processed in the limbic system, the same area of the brain that processes emotions. Being constantly exposed to feelings, thoughts, and social settings that cause the nervous system to feel threatened and unsafe can cause the pain processing centers to get stuck on overdrive. When the nervous system overworks and becomes stuck in fight, flight, or freeze mode, it becomes confused and processes neutral sensations as dangerous. Thus, alerting the brain of more danger signals causes an increase in fear, overwhelm, and physical pain.
The process above describes the Pain-Fear Cycle that leads to neuroplastic pain, or TMS. Perceived fear caused by emotions and behavioral patterns causes real physical pain. According to the PPDA, about 40% of chronic pain cases are stress-induced or trauma-induced. Therefore, when physical pain symptoms are triggered by a person's stress level, perception of pain, pain-avoidance behaviors, and other non-pain threats (discussed below), it is a sign the pain is neuroplastic, temporary, and curable!
What is TMS Doubt?
TMS doubt is not only about one's hesitancy to believe their physical pain is caused by psychological distress rather than a structural issue. Personality traits and behavioral patterns also nurture TMS doubt. For example, those with TMS doubt often deal with personality traits that cause doubt in character, self-efficacy, self-esteem, resourcefulness, and acceptance from others.
TMS doubt is one of the first hurdles many chronic pain Warriors face. Some commit to the mind-body approach because they believe in pain science research, TMS success stories, and personal experience of pain shifts. On the other hand, some gain a small amount of faith in their TMS diagnosis as a last-ditch effort to live pain-free. Many chronic pain Warriors have tried everything under the sun to eliminate pain. All in all, people have different reasons for adopting the mind-body approach.
TMS treatment looks quite different than western medicine chronic pain therapies. The first part of resolving pain is to focus on fixing the mental, emotional, and spiritual pain to calm the nervous system and reduce triggers. The second part is to rewire the brain by challenging behavioral patterns and pain perception of danger signals as neutral sensations.
Do you have to get rid of doubt to heal from TMS?
The good news is you do not have to get rid of TMS doubt to heal fully. From personal and professional experience as a chronic pain coach, I have learned that everyone's healing journey is different. Each person requires an extra level of faith and time to see changes in their physical well-being. For many with TMS, physical symptoms occur due to unresolved trauma, repressed emotions, and personality traits that lead to fear, worry, and self-doubt. For TMS Warriors, the most critical first goal is to recognize the behavioral patterns and belief systems that challenge and decrease one's overall well-being.
As a chronic pain coach, I believe creating a safe space for each patient to feel comfortable expressing their doubts, worries, and hesitant feelings is essential. This allows them to practice being unapologetically themselves and also leads me to understand where the core of their fear truly lies.
Even if a client has just 10% believe that their pain is TMS, that amount is enough to begin healing as a whole. By having partial belief in TMS, a person is also admitting to having a degree of hope and faith in a better future for themselves. With this small amount of faith, I can guide clients to focus on mending the different areas of their life that trigger mental, emotional, and spiritual pain.
After we establish partial faith and accept partial doubt, clients begin creating goals aligned with their core values. With as little as 10% faith in the mind-body approach, clients are led to rediscover a positive, exciting outlook on life regardless of pain, focusing less on physical sensations and decreasing hypervigilance over time. Pain coaching helps clients slowly begin engaging in life, socializing, participating in hobbies, regaining independence, and anything else they once put on hold due to pain. Enjoying life again and reducing one's focus on pain sensations nurtures a healthy, regulated nervous system and rewires the brain to resolve mind-body symptoms for good.
How to Overcome TMS Doubt
One of the things you can do to overcome TMS doubt is to gather evidence. You can begin doing this by creating a self-evidence sheet. In Dr. Howard Schubiner's book, "Unlearn your Pain," he walks you through how to create an evidence sheet of your pain experience. Building an evidence sheet consists of the following:
Identifying the shifts in levels of pain,
Changes in types of pain,
Pain location moving, mirroring the opposite body part, etc
Pain worsening in triggering environments unresolved traumas
The pain improves when you are distracted or doing activities you enjoy
and many more circumstances
Once you find a program that helps you to work through fear, pain perception, and unresolved emotional pain, you are on your way to becoming pain-free! There are many different tools suggested by neuroscience influencers like Dr. Sarno, Dr. Schechter, Alan Gordon, Dr. Schubiner, and so on. These include mind-body tools like:
Reintroducing activities and movement
These methods work in helping clients rewire the brain and soothe the nervous system. But, of course, some techniques work for some better than others. And that is entirely normal. The goal is to find something that feels comfortable for you and that you can easily commit to, especially during flare-ups. And when symptoms begin to fluctuate and decrease, it is essential for chronic pain Warriors to be patient and understand that healing is a journey. Change is tough and challenging. When the brain is trained to react to and perceive pain differently than mind-body practices, it is common to experience an extinction burst. And when a flare-up becomes bad or is prolonged, it is easy to fall into fear and increase TMS doubt. However, no matter what, stick to it. Use your evidence sheet to boost your confidence and commitment. And know that TMS doubt's job is to trick you back into your old habits with fear tactics.
You deserve more to life than just surviving pain. No matter how much doubt pops up in your head, choose to continue with the mind-body approach because it will help you to live better as a human being. Many people that make it to the other side of chronic pain say that TMS was a hidden gift. TMS forces us to do the work to feel better, think better, communicate better, and recombine with the things and people that bring us joy.
To start chronic pain coaching, click here to schedule your complimentary consultation! Spend 45 minutes with me, coach Amari, where I help you identify the behavioral patterns and limiting beliefs keeping you stuck in your chronic pain journey.