A Journey of Pain and Healing
Chronic pain can be a relentless battle, affecting not just your body but also your mind and overall quality of life. In this episode, we dive into a compelling success story of someone who conquered proximal hamstring tendinopathy (PHT) through a unique journey that led to the exploration of the mind-body connection in pain.
Meet Jen: A Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy Sufferer
Our story begins with Jen, an avid runner who embarked on her running journey about seven to eight years ago, with a more consistent focus in the past five years. Like many dedicated runners, Jen set her sights on achieving a personal record (PR) in a half marathon. However, little did she know that this journey would take an unexpected turn, leading her down a path of chronic pain.
The Initial Stages of Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy
In late 2020, Jen decided to challenge herself by training for a half marathon with the goal of setting a new personal record. She pushed her limits, engaging in rigorous training and pushing herself harder than ever before. As her training progressed, she began experiencing a persistent, dull ache in her left hamstring. Initially, it didn’t hinder her running significantly, but she noticed it more when she sat for extended periods. Instead of addressing this early sign, she continued with her training.
The Turning Point: A Painful Speed Workout
Jen’s journey took a painful turn during a speed workout on a treadmill. While running, she suddenly felt an intense, shooting pain in her left hamstring. The pain was excruciating, and she even noticed her hamstring contracting forcefully. Despite the agony, she completed the workout. Unfortunately, her decision to push through exacerbated the issue.
After the workout, Jen’s discomfort intensified, and even stretching worsened her pain. Recognizing that something was seriously wrong, she sought help from a physical therapist who diagnosed her with proximal hamstring tendinopathy (PHT). Initially, she believed that a few weeks of exercises would suffice for recovery, but her condition proved to be far more complex.
The Marathon and Its Aftermath
As Jen’s treatment progressed, her condition showed signs of improvement leading up to her first marathon. She successfully completed the marathon, but her post-race soreness was unusual. She attempted to alleviate it through yoga, only to experience a severe flare-up. This was the beginning of a series of setbacks.
Navigating a Frustrating Road to Recovery
Over the next few months, Jen diligently followed her physiotherapist’s recommendations, incorporating various exercises and strength training into her routine. However, her pain persisted, fluctuating between a persistent, annoying ache and more intense discomfort. She found some relief on days when she engaged in strength training, but her overall progress remained elusive.
Around May or June, Jen decided to shift her focus from ambitious athletic goals, such as training for a half Ironman, to prioritize her rehabilitation. She reduced her running to gentle, easy-paced sessions and committed to a regimen of strength training three days a week. Despite her efforts, she noticed limited improvement.
The Puzzle Deepens: A Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy Flare-Up
In November, while experiencing a week of illness, Jen encountered an unexpected setback. On a day when she was scheduled to reduce the intensity of her strength training due to illness, she experienced a severe flare-up of her symptoms. This incident left her baffled as she had not increased her running volume, altered her training routine, or introduced new sources of stress.
The Mind-Body Connection
Jen’s quest for answers led her to explore the mind-body connection in pain management. She encountered the work of Dr. Sarno, who introduced the concept of Tension Myoneural Syndrome (TMS). Dr. Sarno’s theory suggests that pain can result from psychosomatic processes rather than structural damage.
Understanding Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy & Tension Myoneural Syndrome (TMS)
TMS proposes that emotional factors can play a significant role in pain perception. It suggests that pain signals can be sent by the brain due to perceived danger, even when there is no physical damage. For Jen, the realization that her pain may be linked to neural pathways and the brain’s perception of danger was a turning point in her journey.
The Impact of Hyper-Focusing on Hamstring Pain
Jen acknowledged that her hyper-focus on her pain and relentless tracking of symptoms may have contributed to her pain loop. Constantly assessing her discomfort and obsessing over it may have reinforced neural pathways that signaled danger to her brain, perpetuating the pain cycle.
The Connection Between Running and Pain
When you’re talking about an injury like proximal hamstring tendinopathy, the relationship between physical activity and pain can become deeply intertwined. Imagine going for a run and constantly evaluating your pain levels. Each time you run, your mind associates running with pain. This repetitive connection can become deeply ingrained, even after the injury itself has healed. So, even when the physical damage is no longer present, the pain can persist while running.
This association isn’t limited to running; it can extend to other activities like sitting on a firm surface, driving, or walking upstairs. When you hyper-focus on the pain and continuously reinforce this pattern, your brain’s plasticity allows it to link these activities with pain. Over time, this connection can become so strong that merely thinking about the activity can trigger pain, even in the absence of any physical issue.
Exploring the Journey to Healing
Now, let’s dive into a personal journey of someone who battled proximal hamstring tendinopathy. This individual’s experience sheds light on the complexities of the condition and the steps they took to find relief.
A Shift in Belief
The journey began with a shift in belief. Initially, the individual struggled to accept that their pain might not be purely structural. They had seen medical professionals, had X-rays and MRIs, and even received steroid injections, all to no avail. It was a moment of realization that there might be more to their pain than meets the eye.
Exploring Mind-Body Connection
To explore the mind-body connection and its potential impact on their condition, the individual turned to an app called Cureable. This app focuses on various aspects of mind-body pain, including journaling, meditation, brain training, and exercises. While the app offered valuable insights, they realized that their hyper-focus on the pain hindered their progress.
Embracing the Mind-Body Approach
Taking a more holistic approach, the individual delved deeper into the mind-body connection. They read books, researched, and ultimately found a doctor who specialized in diagnosing patients with TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) or mind-body pain. This specialist recognized the classic signs of TMS in their case and recommended journaling and seeking a TMS therapist to address the emotional aspects of the condition.
Facing Emotional Baggage
The therapy sessions uncovered a significant revelation: the role of the individual’s personality traits and past experiences in shaping their emotional responses. They discovered that as a child, they had suppressed emotions due to challenging circumstances at home. These unexpressed emotions had unknowingly festered within, contributing to their pain.
Another pivotal aspect of their journey was coming to terms with their perfectionistic tendencies. As a driven, type-A personality, they had set impossibly high standards for themselves in various aspects of life, including running. This constant pressure and fear of failure fed into their mind-body pain, creating a vicious cycle.
Changing the Mindset
Despite making progress in their mind-body journey, the individual faced a final hurdle. They experienced pain during strength training, which had become associated with danger in their mind. To overcome this, they employed a clever strategy of renaming strength training to “muscle training and conditioning.” By reframing their perspective and focusing on positive aspects, they gradually broke the cycle of fear and pain.
Conclusion: A Journey of Hope and Healing
Jen’s journey with proximal hamstring tendinopathy has been one of endurance, frustration, and self-discovery. While her initial pursuit of physical solutions yielded limited results, her exploration of the mind-body connection opened new doors to understanding her pain. By recognizing the role of neural pathways and the brain’s perception of danger, she began to shift her belief system and break.
The journey to healing from proximal hamstring tendinopathy is complex and multifaceted. It requires a shift in belief, exploration of the mind-body connection, and confronting past emotional baggage and personality traits. Through perseverance and the guidance of a skilled therapist, one can navigate this challenging condition and find relief. By embracing a holistic approach and changing the mindset, individuals can break the cycle of pain and regain control of their lives.
If you’re dealing with proximal hamstring tendinopathy or a similar condition, consider seeking professional guidance and exploring the mind-body connection to unlock the path to recovery. Remember, healing is possible, and your journey may hold the key to a pain-free future.