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Neural Therapy and Its Role in the Effective Treatment of Chronic Pain

Neural therapy is a powerful treatment that can be quite effective in resolving autonomic nervous system dysfunction and pain, especially in the complex pain patient.
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Neural therapy is an injection treatment that stimulates healing. Developed in Europe in the early 1900s, neural therapy has continued to grow in use. It is an effective treatment for chronic pain, especially when practiced by a well-trained physician. Neural therapy is also a wonderful complementary procedure for use with prolotherapy, a treatment that stimulates healing of ligaments, tendons and joints. Gerald Harris, DO, has been practicing prolotherapy and neural therapy for almost 20 years. He is a leader in the field of neural therapy, having trained with world renowned Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, in the early 1990s. Dr. Harris’ quest to help his chronic pain patients led him to develop the Harris Method of Pain Treatment that integrates both neural therapy and prolotherapy to maximize patient results. In this article, Dr. Harris presents a thorough, organized and stimulating review of neural therapy history, concepts and practice.

Chronic pain is a major problem in our society not just because of its prevalence, but also because of the general lack of effective treatment for patients afflicted with chronic pain. When I was in medical school learning how to treat these pain problems, diagnosis and treatment was reduced to an algorithm or “recipe.” I dutifully memorized these algorithms and when I began practice, applied them as I was taught. While I would go through the algorithm, unfortunately most of the time the patient would be only slightly improved, and sometimes they would even get worse! I began a long quest for more knowledge by attending numerous conferences, seminars and workshops that had to do with pain treatment. One of the most effective treatments I encountered was a technique developed in Europe called “neural therapy.” This treatment is designed to repair dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system—that part of the nervous system responsible for the “automatic” functions of the body. When used in conjunction with other techniques, such as prolotherapy, I have found neural therapy to be very effective in resolving even the worst cases of chronic, seemingly intractable, pain. This article will discuss neural therapy, its history, background, technique and application. I will also discuss my protocol, the Harris Method of Pain Treatment, which provides a sequence for treatment of the chronic pain patient, along with case reports of typical patients treated.

The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

To understand neural therapy, it is important to understand what the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is. Once outside the brain, the nervous system has two basic divisions: the somatic (voluntary) nervous system and the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. The somatic or voluntary nervous system is the part most people are familiar with because it controls voluntary movements such as walking, talking and movement of limbs. The autonomic (involuntary) nervous system, on the other hand, regulates internal body functions such as immune function, blood pressure and circulation, hormones, digestion, body temperature, heart rate, breathing, urination, sexual function, menstruation, and other automatic body functions. If the ANS is injured, these internal functions will not perform at optimum levels and ultimately lead to disease and chronic pain.

History and Theory of Neural Therapy

Neural therapy is a gentle, healing technique developed in Germany that involves the injection of local anesthetics into autonomic nerve ganglia (grouping of nerves), peripheral nerves, scars, glands, acupuncture points, trigger points, and other tissues.1 Two German physicians practicing in the early 1900s, Ferdinand and Walter Huneke, are considered the founders of neural therapy.2 Neural therapy is one of the best-known natural healing methods in Germany where there are more than 5,000 practitioners. It is now also practiced in other countries in Europe and the United States. Neural therapy is based on the theory that any trauma, infection, or surgery can damage the autonomic nervous system and produce long-standing disturbances in the electrochemical or electromagnetic functions of tissues.3 If there is a disturbance of the autonomic nervous system, the resulting dysfunction can last indefinitely unless repaired. When the autonomic nervous system is injured or not functioning correctly, various consequences result. An example is blood flow going out of synch with demand in an area that needs it, such as a soft tissue injury, thus resulting in incomplete healing. It has been reported that “a correctly applied neural therapy injection can often instantly and permanently resolve chronic long-standing illness and chronic pain.”4 In my experience, it usually requires more than one treatment to reach this end. However, the phenomena of a “lightning reaction” (instant reaction) has been noted by researchers and physicians over the years.5

Development of Neural Therapy

Neural therapy evolved and developed along with the discovery of local anesthetics. The first local anesthetic, cocaine, was discovered to have anesthetic effects by the famous Sigmund Freud. Dr. Freud shared his knowledge with his friend, ophthalmologist Koller, who was the first physician to perform eye surgery using a cocaine solution in 1884.6 Because of the addictive and toxic qualities of cocaine, a search for a safer local anesthetic ensued and resulted in the discovery of procaine (introduced under the trade name “Novocain”) in 1905 by Einhorn.7 In 1906, Spiess and Schleich discovered that infiltration of procaine into a wound greatly enhanced healing. This extreme healing lasted much longer than the duration of action of the actual anesthesia. The famous French surgeon, Leriche, was the first to successfully treat a migraine headache with a local anesthetic nerve block injection and who called Novocain (procaine) “the surgeon’s bloodless knife.”8 In 1925, the brothers Dr. Ferdinand and Walter Huneke—both sons and grandsons of physicians—discovered the healing aspects of procaine without any prior knowledge of the work of Spiess, Schleich or Leriche. This occurred by accident when, in 1925, Ferdinand Huneke gave his nurse, whom he had been treating for rheumatism, an I.V. infusion of procaine and her previously therapy-resistant migraine disappeared. This “lightning reaction” impressed Dr. Huneke who realized he may have found a new therapy for pain. He named this new therapy “Healing Anesthetics.” Ferdinand Huneke, along with his brother, Walter, first reported the results of their research into the healing properties of local anesthetics with the publication in 1928 of “Unknown Distant Effects of the Local Anesthesia.”9 The Hunekes reported that reaction to the injections could help organs at a distant site and described this phenomenon as a reflex. The publication of the book “Cybernetics” by Weiner in 1948 led to more clarification about neural therapy in that the main concept of that book is that the body functions as a whole and that every disease, every scar, and every treatment affects the whole body system.10

Last updated on: December 13, 2011
First published on: July 1, 2009