How often does one have life changing experiences? I had one recently.
First, a bit of history. I have had back, shoulder and neck pain for a few years now. I have seen chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists. I have changed mattresses, seating positions, tried exercises, breathing routines etc. Nothing helped. The pain could be triggered by anything - sleeping, sitting, walking, weight exercises etc. I gave up weight training, tennis, running etc.
This is the story of how it changed.
I have been living at my mother-in-law's place in Long Island for the past month. There, I discovered a book called 'Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection.' The book is written by Dr. John E. Sarno, who has extensive experience in treating pack pain.
The basic premise of the book is this: the neck and back pain so common in the world now, is caused by any physiological condition in most people; in other words, there is nothing wrong with your back! The condition is called TMS (Tension Mytostis Syndrome). As you might have guessed, that has to do with tension. But how could tension cause back pain?
I always understood that tension played a major role in my back pain. But I did not understand how tension could cause back pain. Was I tensing muscles too much? Maybe that is why my back, neck and head always hurt in stressful situations like giving major presentations?
It turns out that it isn't so. With all the advances in medical technology, we do not understand a major part of the body very well: the mind. According to the book, the mind actually plays a trick with us. Rather than making us face unpleasant emotions like anger and anxiousness, it distracts us by causing back pain through mild oxygen deprivation in the back muscles.
So how does one go about and fix this problem? One simple way is to get rid of the tension! Of course, if that was required to be done, the doctor would achieve success in less than 1% of the patients. Tension, stress, anxiety and anger are part and parcel of emotions one feels. So then what?
The answer is - just call the bluff! Talk to your brain. Tell it that its trick will not work. That you know the true cause, and will not be fooled. Remind yourself of this every day. And when the pain starts to get better, start all physical exercise you gave up, again!
When I first read this, I thought - well this is utter crap! Its more like science fiction than anything else. Talk to my brain? Do you think I am crazy?
I had nothing to lose, so I tried it anyway. I read the book three times. Reviewed these reminders every day. I believed I was going to get rid of my back pain. Things started improving, and I started to run on the treadmill, started doing weights.
It's been about four weeks now. I am not completely pain free yet, but the pain is almost un-noticeable; almost 80% less than before. I still get bouts of pain. Recently, an event caused me lot of worry, and I immediately felt intense back pain. But I reminded myself that the pain was because of the anxiousness. By the evening, the pain was completely gone.
This experience has changed my life. I was worried about how the back pain would affect my upcoming job and travel at McKinsey. My mind is much at ease now, and I am optimistic that I can keep the pain at bay through the trials and tribulations of a consulting job.
Wish me luck!
P.S. I noticed one cool thing. If you google 'McKinsey Summer Associate,' my blog entry
comes in as result #5, right after McKinsey's website and glassdoor.com. Awesome!