In an exciting, new study, Japanese researchers found an innovative, effective, and non-invasive way to help stroke victims cope with pain. The new technique doesn’t involve drugs or surgery. In fact, it represents a whole, new approach for relieving pain, as I’ll explain in moment. But first, let’s look at why we even needed a whole, new approach for this common problem…
Mainstream medicine fails to treat pain effectively because it follows an old, simplistic model of the human body. They think all drugs, herbs, vitamins, and procedures interact in a physical-mechanical way with the body’s cells. In other words, they think of our cells operate like old-fashioned “lock and key” mechanisms, based on 17th century Newtonian mechanics. Thus, they talk about receptors on/in cells that receive therapeutic substances like a docking station on the starship Enterprise. These receptors magically open doors to cells and cellular processes.
But for the past century, fundamental sciences–such as physics and quantum mechanics, biology, and ecology–have begun to look at energetic interactions. These energetic interactions form the common basis for health and healing. So, in this view, all the other therapies just access the body’s energy in ways that influence health and healing.
With this new understanding about energy, the medicine of the future will learn to bypass invasive drugs and surgeries. They will go straight to the source of energetic healing.
But not everything has to await the future.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is already available now.
TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. Doctors use TMS to help treat depression, anxiety, migraines, and now–pain.
For the procedure itself, doctors place an electromagnetic coil against your scalp near your forehead. The electromagnet used in TMS creates electric currents that stimulate nerve cells in the region of your brain involved in pain.
The new study involved 18 patients who had experienced a blood clot or bleeding in one side of the brain, called unilateral ischemic or hemorrhagic strokes. Several weeks into recovery, patients began to experience severe hand or leg pain because of brain damage from the stroke. Indeed, stroke can cause severe pain sensations, such as uncomfortable numbness, prickling or tingling, as well as other pain.
All the patients in the study received repetitive TMS treatments–called rTMS–to the primary motor cortex for at least 12 weeks. After 12 weeks of rTMS, 11 patients achieved satisfactory-to-excellent pain relief. (Researchers defined “satisfactory” relief when a patient achieved a 40 to 69 percent reduction in pain scores. They defined “excellent” relief when a patient achieved a 70 percent or greater pain reduction.) The six study patients who continued treatment for one year achieved permanent pain relief.
The researchers for this study urge neurologists and pain management specialists to take an interest in this effective method, which has minimal side effects. In fact, none of the 18 patients reported any serious side effects from the weekly sessions. And just two patients reported short, transient, and slight discomfort of the scalp.
I’m not surprised to see this important research come out of Japan. Since the 1990s, the country has been an active center for the study of electrical brain stimulation.
You can learn all about the various uses of electrical brain stimulation and other biophysical treatments in the new edition of my medical textbook, Fundamentals of Complementary & Alternative Medicine.
As I explain in my textbook, a growing body of research shows non-invasive electrical stimulation can even help improve physical rehabilitation after stroke. In fact, some experts believe electrical stimulation helps the brain form new neural connections to take over functions from damaged brain tissue.
Of course, acupuncture also helps support rehabilitation after stroke as well as manages pain. Essentially, acupuncture modulates energy, so these observations make sense. It also makes sense that Japanese researchers would take such a keen interest in TMS, since Chinese acupuncture also heavily influences the practice of medicine in Japan.
Unfortunately, these approaches get far less attention in the U.S.
When I ran the Jefferson Center for Integrative Medicine 10 years ago, we suspected you could achieve health and healing by going straight to the energetic sources. Of course, we knew the mainstream minions would never replace their drugs and surgeries with simple, safe, and energetic healing. But to my disappointment, many of the “alternative” practitioners didn’t have much interest either in energetic healing. I suppose they weren’t ready to give up their herbs, needles, potions, and procedures.
Of course, we are still learning how to use energy for healing. You can learn more about using an energy-based approach to understanding pain in my book with Mike Jawer called Your Emotional Type. And my new book on this topic–called Healing Your Pain, with Sebhia Marie Dibra–comes out later this year.
“Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Once a Week Induces Sustainable Long-Term Relief of Central Poststroke Pain,” Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface June 2015; 18(4): 249–254