Chronic Pain: It’s Not in Your Head, It’s in Your Brain!

The formal definition of pain as coined by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) is “A noxious sensory and emotional experience.” This means that something not only hurts because your body feels it, but also hurts because it is a negative experience as perceived by your brain. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than three months or pain that does not dissipate in an acceptable amount of time for a particular healing process to occur.

Chronic pain specialists work to minimize the severity of pain and its interference on activities of daily living, regardless of whether the pain is due to normal aging and degenerative processes or an injury, such as a surgical procedure or trauma. My approach is to identify, as specifically as possible, the “pain generator.” This is the area of the body—be it muscle, bone, nerve, fat, ligament, etc.—that is causing the pain. Unfortunately, this is usually not a very straight forward process because there may be multiple pain generators and external factors influencing pain and the perception of pain.

In order for a person to experience pain, a succession of events occur. Initially there is “Nociception,” or the injury itself, then there is “Transmission,” which is the pain signal carried by the nerves. Lastly, there is “Processing,” which occurs in the brain.  The brain is the ultimate judge of whether the offending injury hurts or not. Over many years, the study of pain has revealed that these events are not straight forward either. At each level of the pain pathway, there are different factors that can change the overall cycle or procession of the pain signal. As a pain specialist, I try to block the pain at as many points as possible. For example, most medications are used to try to block pain at the level of the injury or nociception. The most common medication that I use for this is the anti-inflammatory type of medication such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen. If medications fail or a patient isn’t a good candidate for a medication regimen, then I try to intercept the pain at the transmission level. I use nerve blocks and steroid injections and other techniques to “calm” the nerve and slow down the pain signal.

The most important aspect of the pain pathway is the processing of pain or what the brain thinks about the information that it is receiving. Studies have shown that not everyone experiences pain the same way; even movies, books and anecdotes will tell you that one person’s pain may be another person’s pleasure. The good news is that despite what doctors and medical therapies may not be able to do to alleviate pain, the brain can.

Research studies done on the psychology of pain have proven that the brain changes in response to pain and that pain can be alleviated by the brain changing in response to specific treatment “exercises.” We now realize that patients have much more control over a very real phenomenon that occurs in the brain to cause chronic pain. For example, it is well known that depression and anxiety reduce the pain threshold and those individuals who suffer from those disturbances are at greater risk of any type of pain becoming chronic. We have also identified that patients who tend to “catastrophize” medical issues and ruminate on the potential negatives of situations are highly likely to develop chronic pain and disability. These emotional states actually make the body and the nervous system more susceptible to pain. On the contrary, similar studies have shown that patients who are in love or who have positive thoughts and hopeful outlooks on their medical conditions are much less likely to suffer with chronic pain.

Cognitive and behavioral therapy is a type of psychology treatment that helps the brain learn to modify and change the pain signal that is coming in from the body. It is real medical therapy and we are just beginning to understand how truly powerful a tool it is in chronic pain management.

Sugar: Health Enemy #1

I always like to look back at our evolution to test what “modern medicine” has come up with. Many of the scientific findings today come from junk science and basing medical protocols on their findings can be fatal. Because of junk science findings, sponsored by sugar industry bribes, sugar has not been condemned as the poison it is.

Let’s go back to before the development of present day farming and distribution.  Our only source of sugar was primitive fruits and berries, which were warm season treats. Even then they weren’t refined. Humans get their energy from sugars, fats and proteins.  Cancer can only use sugar for its energy and dies without it.  Thus, our primitive winter diet resulted in the death of almost all cancers in the human body. 

Sugar also ranks high on the inflammatory index of foods. In other words, eating sugar puts your body in condition of inflammation, and as it turns out, inflammation is the single most important cause of nearly all diseases.  So, instead of winter being a healthy season, it becomes the flu season plus whatever other diseases we invite in.  Then, when you add empty-calorie junk food to inflammatory foods and poisonous additives, the immune system is left without the resources to fight back.

If this is not enough to get your attention, maybe vanity might bring some sense to the irresponsible.  Crap food interferes with proper digestion causing fewer nutrients and healthy candida yeasts, resulting in more of the products to be stored as fat. Using vanity even further, bad foods create bad complexion, accelerated aging of the skin, and accelerated aging of the body.

To sum it all up, our irresponsible eating habits are taking away any chance of having a long, healthy, active and fulfilling life. The irresponsible have a saying: “Youth is wasted on the young,” when the truth is, we can continue to have youthful bodies and minds as long as we live responsibly and care for ourselves.

Another killer I have found in my practice that can seriously decrease the quality and length of life is legal, iatrogenic (medically caused) drug abuse.  I use no drugs in my pain clinic and many times find that the patient’s pain is due to the side effects of prescriptive and over the counter drugs.  The present popularity of treating the symptom and not the patient is resulting in not only the masking of possibly serious symptoms, but the creation of other health problems due to side effects, which almost all drugs have.

It is time that all of us, especially the medical industry, drop greed from our treatment plan and realize the magnificence of God’s creations and concentrate on what can be done to stimulate and encourage the body’s ability to heal itself.

Getting back to my first point: many f these problems would not exist without sugar!


Is Neuropathy on Your Nerves?

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition in which there is damage to the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. This can result in pain, tingling, loss of feeling, and inability to control muscles. As with any other condition, there is no “one size fits all” remedy for those suffering from this malady and treatment may vary depending on the cause and severity. However, many individuals find relief using natural remedies.

Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition that affects people in every walk of life. It is estimated that 20 million Americans and 60% of diabetics suffer from this disorder. There are hundreds of different kinds of neuropathy, the symptoms of which include burning, tingling, weakness, numbness, paralysis, and dull to excruciating pain – especially in the limbs.

Although many neuropathies have no known cause, neuropathy is often associated with another condition, such as: Diabetes, HIV, shingles, toxins, autoimmune disorders, neurological conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome, and malnutrition. Statin (cholesterol) drugs and chemotherapy can also cause neuropathy.

While medications can sometimes help with the symptoms, they cannot be relied upon to restore the health of the nerves. Most often the drugs that treat Neuropathy leave the sufferer feeling intoxicated and hopeless to lead a normal active life.

Understanding the Nervous System

Nerves carry the electrical signals that allow us to move, feel, breathe, digest, detoxify, respond to our environment, and much more.  Nerves are the electrical wiring of the human body. Plain and simple, if the nerves do not work the body will not work, in some capacity. It is also important to understand that unlike other tissues, the primary blood supply to nerve tissue is actually located WITHIN the nerve itself. So, if a nerve becomes impinged or compromised, so does the blood supply to the nerve. Without proper blood supply, the nerve does not receive the energy and nutrition that are needed for the nerve to heal. Over time neural impingement leads to a painful chronic condition called Neuropathy.

How can I heal my neuropathy?

  1. Class IV laser therapy. Ending the pain caused by neuropathy requires reversing the cause of nerve damage. Class IV laser therapy is an excellent method for this, because it is presently the only modality that can both reduce pain and heal tissue simultaneously. Laser therapy creates an optimal healing environment that reduces swelling, muscle spasms, stiffness and pain.  As the injured tissue returns to normal, function is restored and pain is quickly relieved.  In other words, NO MORE Pain, NO MORE Numbness, NO MORE Tingling and NO MORE Burning!
  2. Test for nutritional deficiencies. A single nutrient deficiency can contribute to any number of disorders of the nervous system, including neuropathy, migraines and even Alzheimer’s. We use SpectraCell Labs patented micronutrient test to measure the function of selected vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other essential micronutrients within your white blood cells. Standard blood tests do not measure if the nutrient is properly functioning within the body.

With the proper combination of holistic therapies it is possible to heal your nerve pain and in the process feel more alive and energetic than you have in years. Depending on the type and severity of neuropathy we have witnessed patients begin to get relief after the first visit and with continued care receive complete relief long-term.

Dr. Niele Maimone of Align Healing Center in Danville, CA has been active in natural health & wellness since 1999. For more information or to set up a consult call 925.362.8283 or visit


Getting/Staying in Tune: The 15 Minute Rule

As a student in college I remember living by what we used to call, “the fifteen minute rule.” The rule applied whenever a professor was 15 minutes late to the listed start time of class. When fifteen minutes had past and the professor had not yet shown to begin class, students would invoke the rule and leave. Uncertain of any actual credibility, the rule was heralded as unwritten law and nearly every student lived by it.  I like to apply such a rule to my athletes training when it comes to understanding in their body. Below is the beginning of when and when not to consider the fifteen minute rule in your training/workout sessions.

Experienced athletes know that there are going to be days that we call on our body to deliver a certain intensity and/or effort, and it simply won’t respond at a level that we know (or believe) it’s capable of. In fact, there times that it may not respond at all, raising the questions: 1) What the heck is going on today? 2) What do I do now?

The key to being able to answer these questions lies within the ability to differentiate between a mental shut down and a physiological response (or lack thereof) in the body. The mind is a powerful thing; it can will the body to do amazing things, but it can also will the body to not do amazing things—or even ordinary things. It can also trick us into thinking “I’m not strong, I’m not fit”, etc. Enter the fifteen minute rule.

As you begin any kind of exercise session, begin with a good warm up routine as I know everyone does (sarcasm). This should consist of some dynamic stretching, mobilizing and easy aerobic work dictated by perceived effort; add a few short eclectic bursts as a means of activating all energy systems and muscle fibers. Total warm up time should be a total of 10-15 minutes.

If, after your warm up you’ve gotten 15 minutes into the “main set” or focus of your workout session and you’re finding it nearly impossible, it is important to do a quick self- assessment. I like to begin with questions like: How was I feeling before I started my warm up? How did I feel when the day started? What have I eaten today? What activity did I do yesterday and or the day before that? This allows me to peel the onion that hides the answers to the two questions above. Further, I might ask: How was the work day? What’s up at home? What other stressors do I have? These are all valid considerations.

The idea is simple in concept, but not always in application. Depending on how you answer these questions, you will get a clearer picture telling you if it’s your mind or body rebelling. As a rule of thumb, if you are mentally tired, go ahead and work through the session. Chances are you will find as the session progresses, so do you and you will be back to your athletic self by the end of the session. These can even lead to “breakthrough sessions” that we never knew were in us.

On the other hand, if you conclude that your body that is waving a flag in surrender, it is usually best to call it and live to fight another day. Ignoring signs and symptoms from the body has taken down way too many athletes, sometimes for long periods of time.

Learning to differentiate between a rare mental or physical hiccup is an art that requires a quick, honest self-evaluation in that moment. Often times, it is the difference between progress and injury. Stay tuned for more on getting the most out of yourself and staying injury free.