Neural therapy is a healing technique for attempting to deal with chronic
pain and other longstanding illnesses and conditions. It involves injecting
local anesthetics into autonomic ganglia (nerve cell bodies), peripheral
nerves, scars, glands, acupuncture points, trigger points (points that
produce a sharp pain when pressed), and other tissues and anatomical sites.
There is a doctor in Reno, Nevada that does this. (into the scar tissue,
that is) (complete email below)
Though unfamiliar to most American practitioners--and therefore part of
alternative medicine--neural therapy is apparently quite widely used in
Europe, especially for the treatment of chronic pain. According to its
advocates, such as the American Academy of Neural Therapy, this "gentle
healing technique" can instantly and lastingly resolve chronic problems when
correctly applied (Klinghardt, 1991).
The history of neural therapy began with the discovery of local anesthetics
in the late 19th century. In 1883, the Russian physiologist Ivan Petrov
(1849-1936) laid the basis for the entire field when he hypothesized that
the nervous system exercises a coordinating influence over all organic
functions. Before he developed psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
discovered the anesthetic effect of cocaine on mucous membranes. In 1890,
abdominal surgery was first performed using a 0.2-percent solution of
cocaine. In 1903, a French surgeon first employed cocaine as an epidural
One obvious problem with cocaine, however, was its potential to be
addictive. In 1904, Alfred Einhorn discovered procaine (novocaine), still
widely used in medicine. In 1906, G. Spiess observed that wounds and
inflammations subsided with fewer complications if they were first injected
with novocaine. In 1925, a French surgeon, RenJ Leriche, used this compound
for treating chronic intractable arm pain. He called novocaine "the
surgeon's bloodless knife." In the same year, two German physicians
described another local effect, claiming that an intravenous injection of
novocaine could abolish migraine headaches (Dorman and Raven, 1991; Dosch,
A key development came in 1940, when Ferdinand Huneke discovered an instant
healing reaction--what is now called the "lightning reaction" or the "Huneke
phenomenon." First, Huneke injected novocaine into the shoulder joint of a
woman with a severely painful, frozen right shoulder, but without any
beneficial local effect. Instead, unexpectedly, the woman developed severe
itching in a seemingly unrelated and relatively distant scar on her lower
left leg. On a hunch, Huneke then injected novocaine into the itching scar,
and within seconds the woman obtained full and painless range of motion in
her right shoulder. The woman's scar dated from an operation on an infected
tibia (shin bone). Although the leg operation was a "success," the woman
soon afterward developed the frozen shoulder on the opposite side of her
body. The initial scar had become, in neural therapy terminology, an
interference field (Huneke, F., 1950; Huneke, W., 1952).
By combining the use of local anesthetics with the treatment of such
(inferred) interference fields, Huneke and colleagues created an entirely
new healing system they called neural therapy (Dosch, 1985). Neural therapy
is said to be widely used for pain control in Europe, Russia, and Latin
America and by 35 percent of all Western German physicians.
At first sight, it seems improbable that a scar on the left leg could cause
a pain in the right shoulder or be resolved by an injection of local
anesthetic into a scar at a site so distant from the shoulder. Dietrich
Klinghardt offers several possible explanations for this phenomenon
(Klinghardt, 1991), including one that he calls the "nervous system theory."
Klinghardt's teacher, A. Fleckenstein, demonstrated that normal body cells
and cells in scar tissue have a different electric potential across the cell
membrane. In cells that have lost normal potential, the ion flux across the
membrane stops (Fleckenstein, 1950). This means that toxic substances and
abnormal minerals build up inside the cell. In turn, the cell becomes unable
to heal itself and resume normal functioning. Treatment with local
anesthetic may help restore ion flux for 1 to 2 hours, which could be enough
time for the cell to partially repair itself and resume normal activity.
Another theory is that scar tissue can become, in effect, a "battery" of
about 1.5 volts in the body. This scar "battery" sends forth abnormal
electrical signals that disturb the autonomic nerve fibers (which lack the
protective myelin coating possessed by most other nerve cells in the body).
This electrical abnormality can disturb the overall autonomic nervous
system, leading to systemic, and often severe, bodily dysfunction.
Also proposed is what Klinghardt calls the "fascial continuity theory."
According to this theory, the fascia, or sheaths of connective tissues, are
all interconnected. If scar tissue is present anywhere in this system,
fascial movement can become impaired. Klinghardt claims that back pain, for
instance, can sometimes be completely resolved by injecting a local
anesthetic (novocaine or lidocaine without epinephrine) into a scar, such as
that from an appendectomy or gallbladder operation.
In addition to its antipain functions, neural therapy has been used to treat
allergies, chronic bowel problems, kidney disease, prostate and female
urogenital problems, infertility, and tinnitus (Brand, 1983), as well as
other problems (Pischinger, 1991). Klinghardt contends that although many
diseases and conditions can be successfully treated by a variety of healing
techniques, some conditions can be treated successfully only with neural
If it is an effective method, why is neural therapy not more widely accepted
in the United States? One explanation may be that it does not lend itself to
a double-blind study. According to Klinghardt, "each patient with low back
pain needs to be treated in a different way." In addition, neural therapy
also requires a meticulous injection technique and detailed history taking,
both of which are time-consuming.