When and where did neural therapy originate?
Neural therapy was pioneered in 1925 by Drs. Ferdinand and Walter Huneke in Germany. They observed that infiltrations with local anaesthetics (e.g. procaine, discussed below) in affected tissues could exert healing effects in their patients.
What does neural therapy address?
Neural therapy addresses imbalances in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), a component of the nervous system that is outside of conscious control. On a larger scale, the ANS regulates body functions such as heart rate, breathing rate, hunger, thirst, etc. On a smaller scale, the ANS helps to regulate cellular function and communication between cells. The ANS also influences the manifestation of pain, swelling, and muscle spasm in areas of trauma (or areas related to a site of trauma).
How do autonomic nervous system (ANS) imbalances occur?
ANS imbalances occur due to some type of trauma. For example:
- an ANS imbalance leading to pain in the shoulder might be due to an improperly healed scar from a past shoulder surgery incision
- an ANS imbalance leading to neck pain might be secondary to a past car accident that resulted in whiplash
- an ANS imbalance leading to chronic digestive issues might be due to continual ingestion of foods that the digestive tract is sensitive to (i.e. which will lead to chronic inflammation in the gut)
Normally when trauma occurs the body goes through the expected healing process and the damaged tissue is brought back to health. However, when this does not occur – such as when tissue is not reformed in the right way, not healed completely, or when the tissue is continually exposed to the same trauma – an ANS imbalance can manifest, leading to chronic symptoms.
How does an ANS imbalance affect the body?
ANS imbalances affect the body in two possible ways:
- They can cause pain, inflammation, swelling, spasm, and/or weakness in an area of the body (e.g. in the low back, neck, shoulder, knee, etc)
- They can lead to underfunctioning of some tissue(s) in the body (e.g. lowered function of the adrenal glands, thyroid, liver, heart, lungs, immune system, etc)
#1 Explained: excess pain, inflammation, etc, typically follows OVERstimulation of the nerve fibres responsible for those symptoms…in this case, the ANS is not able to inhibit such signalling.
#2 Explained: underfunctioning tissue typically results from UNDERstimulation of the nerve fibres that regulate them…in this case, the ANS is not able to stimulate tissues adequately.
How does neural therapy correct ANS imbalances?
Neural therapy corrects ANS imbalances by “resetting” the ability of ANS nerve fibres to transmit signals properly. Dysfunctional ANS fibres are typically “hyperpolarized”, meaning that they cannot operate properly because they are overwhelmed due to previous or ongoing trauma. This “resetting” is achieved through the administration of procaine, a locally-acting anaesthetic agent. Procaine is a sodium-channel blocker, allowing it to further hyperpolarize the ANS nerve fibres. When the procaine wears off, the polarization heads back to normal levels, ideally passing the previous hyperpolarized state and returning to the proper level. Thus, in essence, procaine is the finger that hits the reset switch for the ANS fibres. Please note: in practice it typically takes more than one procaine injection to fully “reset” the ANS fibres; indeed, each treatment should reduce the hyperpolarization more and more until proper polarity is achieved.
Is procaine safe?
Yes – the only contraindication to using procaine is an allergic sensitivity to it (in which case lidocaine is used instead).
What happens when the ANS imbalance is corrected?
In the case of pain, inflammation, spasm, etc, those symptoms should reduce (if another issue co-exists with the ANS imbalance) or resolve completely (if the ANS imbalance is the sole underlying issue). In the case of underfunctioning tissues, their function should improve.
What is a typical treatment like?
After performing a physical exam to determine the underlying issue(s), the patient sits or lies down and the area to be treated in sterilized. Injections are typically done intradermally (i.e. into the skin), which is the most superficial type of injection possible (anyone who has had a TB test has had an intradermal injection). For other conditions, especially those involving large muscle groups, injections are done into the muscle itself. I prefer to use the smallest gauge of needle possible (30G) for maximal patient comfort – indeed, the 30G needles are approximately the same size as an acupuncture needle.