Neural Therapy – a Chronic Pain Solution You’ve Never Heard Of!
NEURAL THERAPY: A CHRONIC PAIN SOLUTION YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF!
What if I told you that there is a very effective treatment for chronic pain that has been around since the 40’s, that can correct pain in as little as one treatment, and is taught around the world… but you likely have never heard of it? Intriguing, right? The treatment that I am referring to is called Neural Therapy!
Neural therapy is the application of local anesthetics (e.g. procaine, lidocaine) into various places of the body (e.g. scars, trigger points, peripheral nerves, etc.) in order to reduce or eliminate pain. Although you may have never heard of neural therapy, this treatment is not new – neural therapy has been practiced widely in Europe and South America for over 70 years! In fact, this treatment is even taught in German medical schools.
Neural therapy is an important part of my practice because Canadian’s experience chronic pain all too commonly. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians live with chronic pain, and two-thirds of these cases include moderate to severe pain. Neural therapy may be the answer for many of these individuals!
The concepts behind neural therapy originated in Germany in the late 1800s with the Russian physiologist, Ivan Petrov. However, it wasn’t until 1906, after the development of the anesthetic Procaine that physician Gustav Spiess discovered that infiltration of procaine into a wound greatly enhanced the healing of the wound. Most importantly, this effect lasted much longer than the duration of action of the anesthetic.
Almost 20 years later, in 1925, a French surgeon, Leiche, was the first person to successfully treat a migraine headache with a local anesthetic nerve block injection. He also observed healing reactions produced by local anesthetics administered before an operation, occasionally negating the need for the surgery! He called procaine “the surgeon’s bloodless knife”.
Coincidentally, the same year, brothers Dr. Ferdinand and Walter Huneke also discovered the healing aspects of procaine when Ferdinand gave his nurse an infusion of procaine and her previously treatment-resistant migraines miraculously disappeared. In the 1940’s the brothers theorized that injecting local anesthetics could potentially affect distant parts of the body. When they injected procaine directly into a scar on a patient’s leg, the patient’s shoulder pain reportedly disappeared in minutes!
Today, neural therapy is used by doctors throughout the world to provide relief of chronic pain, headaches, arthritis, and muscle injuries.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The neural therapy theory behind chronic pain is that when neurons are damaged from trauma, infection, or surgery, scar tissue can cause them to heal improperly leading to a dysfunctional autonomic nervous system. When this happens, it can trigger an impairment in the circulation to tissues resulting in limited healing. The scar tissue from injuries can also cause constant pain signals to fire from the neuron when it is irritated leading to symptoms in distant and often, unrelated, parts of the body. The end result is long-standing disturbances in the electrochemical or electromagnetic functions of these affected tissues known as “interference fields” as they interfere with normal function and healing.
The resting membrane potential of healthy nerve cells is -90mV. If that nerve is stimulated, the nerve will lose some of it’s potential energy and the resting membrane potential will increase. Somewhere between -70mV and -50mV, a threshold is passed and the nerve will fire a signal (known as an action potential). After the stimulus is gone, a healthy nerve cell will return to it’s resting potential of -90mV. Unhealthy nerve cells in the interference fields will be starting at a lower resting membrane potential (e.g. -60mV instead of -90mV) which means that a very weak stimulus will still cause the nerve to fire. This has been confirmed by research by Seinhaeusler which showed that there is indeed a difference in the resting membrane potential of healthy nerve cells versus unhealthy ones with unhealthy cells having a resting potential close to the threshold of firing.
The implication of this is that when the nerves are damaged, chronic pain will result because the nerve cells will fire off pain signals with very little stimuli.
When an anesthetic is injected into the damaged tissue found in the interference field, this can induce a lasting change of the nerve function back to normal. The local anesthetic raises the membrane potential threshold of the cell which is how the numbness occurs. During this time when the anesthetic is acting and pain is blocked, the increased resting membrane potential triggers improved metabolism in the cell, getting rid of metabolic waste and toxins, and allowing the cell to shift back to normal function. This can happen instantly which the Huneke brothers called a “lightning reaction”. More commonly, however, the pain gradually resolves over a series of treatments (usually 3-6) where, in each treatment, the cell builds up it’s potential energy again. Over time, the cells will revert to their pre-injured state.
A study published in 2013 that compared the effectiveness of neural therapy (5 sessions) to physical therapy (15 sessions that included treatments such as hot packs, ultrasounds and TENS) in the treatment of low back pain looked into the effects such as the level of pain, disability, quality of life, and psychological status of the patients receiving the treatments. Although both groups received benefit, the improvements were better in the neural therapy group compared to the physical therapy group. Best of all, the effects were seen in a third of the amount of treatments!
WHO CANNOT RECEIVE NEURAL THERAPY
Unfortunately, neural therapy cannot be used in everyone. If you have cancer, kidney failure, myasthenia gravis, or a blood clotting disorder, this is not the right therapy for you. Obviously if you have had an allergic reaction to anesthetics in the past, then you will not be able to receive neural therapy injections. Your doctor will review your medication list with you as some medications may make the therapy unsafe such as blood thinners, morphine use, and certain cardiac medications.
Overall neural therapy is very safe and complications are rare. There is some mild pain experienced when the anesthetic is injected and this pain may last for a few hours in some individuals. There is a risk of bruising around the site of the injection as well as a detox reaction including fatigue, headaches and body aches, but this will go away in a few days.
Occasionally, some people may experience an emotional release after a neural therapy injection. This can start during the treatment and last for a few days afterwards. The theory is that there can be emotions associated with the trauma site that is being injected that are released during the injection. When this happens, I provide my patient’s the space to experience their emotional release and process it.
Written by Dr. Nicole Hartman, ND