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Healing From Chronic Back Pain – The Blueprint For A Full Recovery

Written by: Mia Khalil, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Mia Khalil

“Do you have back pain?” I remember asking this very question to every single person I knew or crossed paths with as I was desperate to find a cure for my debilitating and life-altering persistent pain. I was in my early forties, a very active, positive, and recently divorced single mother of two young children.

Happy mother with her sin & daughter enjoying the cold water falls

My pain story: From bad to debilitating

My back pain started in November 2010 after a strenuous workout session. I sat down on the couch and couldn’t stand back up. I felt paralyzed. While this initial acute episode subsided with the use of strong muscle relaxers, I started to experience regular spasms, and the pain spread across my spine, affecting my neck and my shoulders as well. It was hard for me to sit, sleep, walk, shop, cook, clean, exercise, and mainly, enjoy my life.

My lumbar and cervical MRIs showed a whole array of spine diseases, mainly diffuse degenerative disc disease, disc desiccation, impingement of nerve roots, stenosis, bilateral facet arthropathy, disc protrusion with annular tear, multilevel disc bulging, and other abnormalities I can't even pronounce. I tried everything under the sun – from steroid injections to alternative treatments. Nothing helped. Back surgeons and other health professionals told me that I had no chance to heal and that once the pain became unbearable, I would qualify for surgery. Six years later, I was browsing the web looking for answers and landed on the book "Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection" by Dr. John E. Sarno. After reading the book, I experienced a full recovery. The pain simply vanished in two days and never came back! You can read my full story here.

“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.” – Maya Angelou

Overcoming chronic pain: Five critical steps

Looking at this event in hindsight, equipped with all the information I now know about how to diagnose and treat Mind-Body Syndrome (MBS) – also known as Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) – and having worked with numerous people who struggle with so many manifestations of the MBS, I was able to extract the blueprint of my own healing and the critical factors that led to such a fast recovery. While the recovery process may look different for everyone, below are the five critical steps to overcoming the vast array of Mind-Body conditions, or Psychophysiologic Disorders.

Step 1 – Education and knowledge: Looking beyond the body

When I experienced my first episode of back pain in 2010, I had no idea about the Mind-BodySyndrome and how it affected the body. The only answer I had to explain all my symptoms and limitations was a faulty spine. Every doctor, surgeon, or specialist I saw confirmed the diagnosis and prescribed the solutions within their own area of expertise: physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, injections, and so forth. When I read Dr. Sarno’s book, I was able to understand my condition beyond the structural damage in my spine, and thus consider a different kind of treatment. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the psychosomatic, or Mind-Body, approach to healing chronic pain. Moreover, the latest research in neuroscience has shown that every single sensory–related experience is created by the brain, including the experience of pain. Dr. Howard Schubiner’s website and the TMS Wiki are great places to start educating yourself on the subject.

Step 2 – Beyond the shadow of a doubt: Accessing the power of belief

Going through the pages of Dr. Sarno’sbook, I felt as if I was reading my own story. It made so much sense! Somehow, I was able to connect the dots between specific life situations and stresses and the pain I was experiencing. For example, I would be able to ride a bike for an hour without pain, only to experience a high level of pain later that night. I’d wake up to a mid-back spasm as regularly as clockwork, which would release as I would start moving around. The pain increased during stressful situations and decreased when I was having an enjoyable social time. In short, I could see the inconsistencies and the story behind the pain and understand the language and the message of the pain. By the end of the book, I had no doubt left in my mind that my pain was indeed due to the MBS, and not to the structural damage in my spine. Since I had explored all other options, treatments, and methods with no success, I was ready to see and accept the truth. I felt deep joy, excitement, and hope, and for the first time in years, I believed I wasn’t sentenced to life! Click here to learn more about common Mind-Body symptoms.

Step 3 – Emotional release: Feeling safe to look inside oneself

For many of us, it is much easier to tolerate physical pain than to face emotional distress. We use repression and denial so we’re able to keep going, to push through life. Learning about how unprocessed emotions show up in the body and cause physical pain from Dr. Sarno’s book, I decided to purge old stagnant anger, fear, sadness, shame, and guilt. I prompted myself with questions like “What am I angry at? What am I scared of? What am I guilty about?” In the beginning, I got surface-level answers. As I was letting myself go deeper and deeper, I was surprised to witness so many of my stories rising to the surface. I allowed myself to cry. I allowed myself to scream. Most importantly, I told myself that it was safe to go through this emotional cleansing and that I would be OK. This allowed me to access the transformative power of feeling safe and to dig as deep as I needed to. The emotional purge left me exhausted and I felt so much lighter. It felt as if a huge weight was lifted off my chest.

Step 4 – Unwavering decision to heal: Eliminating secondary gains

Of course, people want to heal, and no one ever makes a conscious decision to suffer. However, pain can sometimes provide secondary gains that we are not consciously aware of. For example, we might use it as an excuse to skip performing certain activities, attending social events, or assuming certain responsibilities, and perhaps we perceive it to be the best way to receive love and attention. In some situations, it provides the opportunity to get out of a job we hate, or even collect financial compensation. In other words, if we’re finding a good purpose for the pain, the pain will persist. Moreover, a long history of chronic pain can potentially alter one’s perceived identity, in which case, being pain-free would also mean giving up one’s identity. In my case, I was not getting any secondary gains from my condition, and I sure did not identify with the limitations I experienced in my body. And so, getting rid of the debilitating pain became my absolute top priority. I was ready to do whatever it takes to heal. Above anything else, I wanted out!

Step 5 – Freedom to move without fear: Challenging all triggers

At this point, I had learned about the MBS, completely believed that it was my case, connected the dots between my symptoms and my life situation, went through the emotional release, and made an unwavering decision to heal. Great! Now, it was time to STOP treating or babying what was not broken. This step takes tremendous faith, commitment, and courage. This is where mental learning stops and real life begins. I had a lot of “undoing” to do so I started with the obvious. I put my sneakers on and hit the gym. I remember vividly lifting weights, running, and finishing up with a great cycling session. I felt so empowered, and there was no fear left in me. I remember sleeping without support pillows that night and sleeping late into the morning, without being disturbed by that dreadful spasm at dawn!

Over that week, I gave away my inversion table, and sold my neck wedge, foam roller, tens machine, and the special seat I had acquired for work. I challenged every trigger I had, from bending over to jumping up and down. The more I did, the more confident I became. It was a miracle. After being so limited and restricted for 6 long years, I was finally FREE!

Healing is a personal journey

By sharing my personal experience of chronic pain and how quickly I recovered from so many persistent and debilitating symptoms, I hope to inspire you to look beyond the diagnosis, the severity of your symptoms, and the time spent believing that your body is broken. While the process of healing from chronic can be unpredictable, it is your unwavering commitment to owning your journey that will carry you through the process.

Where to start?

I highly encourage you to go through all the medical tests to rule out any clear objective sign of pathology, such as neurological damage, infections, fractures, auto-immune diseases, or tumors. Once lab studies and imaging reveal normal or “normative” findings, such as degenerative disc disease or bulging discs frequently found in patients without pain, it is time to rule out a faulty body and rule in the Mind-Body Syndrome. Your journey should start by learning about the MBS and the science behind chronic pain. You can visit my website to access a wealth of free tools and information: blog posts, videos, books, and websites, a self-evaluation questionnaire, a list of Mind-Body conditions, and guided meditations and practices. Like any meaningful and life-changing process, you will get out as much as you put in.

When education is not enough

Coaching has become increasingly popular in recent years and for a good reason. An experienced Mind-Body coach is like a guiding star on your journey to success, helping you navigate obstacles, stay accountable, and maintain the level of motivation you need to stay on track. Since I've achieved full recovery from chronic pain, I have become passionate about helping people get the same awesome results. I’ve helped many chronic pain sufferers take ownership of their healing journey, make empowered decisions, and completely transform their reality. I use a unique heart-centered coaching approach that reflects not only my personal experience of healing but also includes my training in multiple modalities, such as practical neuroplasticity and the emerging mind-body revolution in chronic pain treatment, Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT), Somatic Tracking, EmotionalAwareness and Expression Therapy (EAET), Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Hypnosis, Mental and Emotional Release® (MER) Therapy, Breakthrough Therapy, Integrative Coaching, and nutrition. You can learn about my credentials here. Whether your recovery takes two days or two years, the most important thing to keep in mind is to never let yourself down and to keep looking for answers. If you’re curious about how the Mind-Body approach can help you on your journey, book a call with me using this form. The Mind-Body Syndrome is common, real, and reversible. Emerging neuroscience recognizes the power of the brain to determine our internal experiences, creating a paradigm shift in how we think about pain, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. It challenges many current treatments and offers the potential for low-cost, patient-centered treatments for ailments that are epidemic in our society. Tens of thousands of people are healing with the Mind-Body approach – you can too!

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

Mia Khalil Brainz Magazine

Mia Khalil, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Mia is a certified Integrative Neuro-linguistic programming Coach specializing in chronic pain recovery. After overcoming her debilitating chronic pain through the Mind-Body approach, she became passionate about helping others achieve similar results. This led her to study practical neuroplasticity and the emerging mind-body revolution in chronic pain treatment, Mental and Emotional Release® Therapy, Breakthrough Therapy, Hypnosis, and other therapeutic modalities. Mia founded her own holistic coaching practice to help people reclaim their power, overcome their limitations, eliminate pain, and live a life of freedom, joy, health, and well-being. Her mission: Create a free world.



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