In these conversations, I talk to members of the chronic pain / TMS community, to discover what worked for them in their stress illness recovery. Watch the video above or click through to YouTube using the button below the video, to watch there if you prefer.
In this episode, I talk to Erika Hoffman, who shares her story of discovering TMS and recovering from a myriad of long-standing chronic pain symptoms, including lower back pain, leg and foot pain, daily headaches, anxiety and palpitations. Erika explains how after only 2-3 days of being introduced to the work of Nicole Sachs namely her JournalSpeak expressive writing practice - and listening to Nicole's first podcast in her car, she felt a drastic and immediate improvement in her pain and anxiety by 80-90% - WOW! Erika also talks about her own career as a Physician Assistant and how at times she has felt conflict between what she practices every day with her patients and what she now knows about TMS. I felt really inspired hearing how Erika is working hard to incorporate her knowledge and experience of mind-body medicine into how she works with patients!
Watch her interview above, or read about her story and testimony below in Erika's words:
I've had TMS since age 16, about 20 years. However looking back I have seen other traits of TMS growing up to include anxiety, chest pain, insomnia, and foot pain.
The primary issue was lower back pain since a teenager after a dance injury. This pain progressed to leg and foot pain with paresthesia after a diagnosed disc herniation in 2010. Additional pain symptoms of neck pain, daily headaches, TMJ, severe foot pain, general tight muscles, anxiety, palpitations (in which I underwent surgery for), recurrent tonsillitis/strep throat infections as a child, IBS symptoms.
Since starting my work I have noticed symptom imperative with some of the forms above but also additionally tinnitus (ringing in the ear), pelvic pain, numbness and tingling in random muscle groups, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, increased palpitations, and anxiety attacks.
I feel I fit the TMS personality to a tee. I am a "goodist" along with perfectionist and always wanting to please or be liked by others. I also feel very big emotions and tend to take on other's issu0e, which affects me deeply. I'm very empathic.
I found Nicole Sach's work in September 2020. I was going to pelvic floor physical therapy after my second child. I had a postpartum complication needing surgery and was recommended this therapy. I was discussing with her about my low back issues but honestly felt it was just "who I was" and had stopped talking about it over time. She told me "you don't have to live in chronic pain". She introduced me to Dr. Sarno and Nicole's work. I got in my car after that appointment and put on Nicole's 1st podcast and never looked back.
Current modalities I am using: JournalSpeak, just started her "Free From An Anxious Life" course, podcast listening (The Cure for Chronic Pain, Curable's Like Mind like Body), Facebook group support, Dr. Sarno's books, meditations (Insight Timer, my favourite is Sarah Blondin. She just speaks to my soul and says things I have always wanted to hear), exercise, yoga, affirmations, behavioural therapy (with a licensed therapist), and MyTMSJourney.com for so many amazing resources and articles.
Prior to this, I have tried every treatment possible for my pain: Medications of all classes, physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy, active release technique, acupuncture, braces/orthotics, taping, topical creams, injections to include trigger point, SI joint, epidural steroids, prolotherapy (too many sessions to count), platelet lysate epidurals.
The belief that I am not broken was key to my recovery. Indifference to the pain and to not allow the fear of my pain drive my life. Acknowledge that it is okay to be where I am in life and know that I have the tools to improve my pain and develop into the person I always have inspired to be.
After 2-3 days after listening to Nicole's 1st podcast and starting my JournalSpeak practice, I saw drastic, immediate improvement. I was about 80-90% pain and anxiety-free! It was definitely an "awakening" as it is referred to. I was nearly pain-free for about 2 weeks. I had a bad back pain flare after picking up my infant son which challenged me to realize that this is just the BEGINNING of my journey and that's okay. I was indifferent with the pain and it resolved in 2 days. Since then I have had some increased stress with work life, COVID, and daily life issues and I have seen my symptoms returning gradually and at varying degrees.
There have been many breakthrough moments in my journalling along with smaller milestones. The typical family issues growing up with a TMS personality that I realized I internalized those emotions. Wanting to be the "perfect child, student, mother, wife".
One of the biggest moments was a night I was journaling about my feet pain I discovered that I was holding on to so much anger from dance as this "caused my back pain" and in turn my disabilities later in life. I was so angry at my coaches for lack of support and other issues. I was angry that my feet were failing me as I am a healthcare worker and need my feet to do my job. Also, my form of exercise at that time was walking. I literally felt the pain melting away from my feet during this. I meditated following and the next morning I was able to walk without pain for the first time in years!
Journaling is a daily practice. I still have back, neck pain with headaches to varying degrees. My anxiety has increased recently and I am working on this with Nicole Sach's anxiety course.
One of my main struggles is that TMS theory really goes against a lot of what I practice. I am a physician assistant. I have worked in pain management specializing in back pain, orthopaedic surgery, emergency medicine and now currently urgent care. I have always been the one to feel empathy towards my back pain patients and used my experiences with treatments to help others. I am the prescriber of their physical therapy, medications, injections or myself performing these injections on my patients. I struggle with the authenticity of my work at times and the western model of medicine. I now believe there is an integrative way to think and know these have their place in medicine but alongside mind-body medicine. I am currently working to achieve this at a higher level with looking for other physicians and providers like me. I have been asked to hopefully speak on a panel for pain management in the next couple months to share my insight and work with mind-body medicine and how TMS work as healed me. I have purchased a textbook "Pyschophysiologic Disorders" for practitioners and hope to do more training to implement this work with my patients.
Don't give up! Do not fear the pain, embrace it as your body is telling you your emotions need attention and love. You are not broken, you were made this way and you are beautiful. Offer yourself love and compassion for who you are and what you have been through. Allow yourself to be present and know you are not alone in this journey.
What an inspiring story and so interesting to hear from a practitioner on how their journey will inform their practice moving forwards. I hope you enjoy this video and testimony! If you'd like to submit your story for this series, please click here, whether you're comfortable on camera or not, I would love to hear from you.
Check out my Recovery Journey Roadmap if you would like more details about exactly how I became chronic pain free. Find out more about my Yoga for TMS classes that we discussed in this episode and follow me on Facebook or Instagram for more resources and updates on everything chronic recovery.
In order to protect your privacy we require that you verify your email address. We have sent you an email with further instructions. As soon as you have verified your email please return here and then click the button below.
To receive new content and updates, please sign in using one of the following options...
To save and rate your favourite articles and subscribe for new content updates please sign in using one of the following options...
Important : Do not choose this if you are not on your own computer or device.