Doctor delivers holistic message

Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A world renowned neurosurgeon and expert in pain management told more than 50 people at Kenai Peninsula College on Thursday evening that he plans to treat 100,000 patients each year for 10 years in hopes of selling his ideas to the medical profession.

"I have tried for 30 years to sell this to the medical profession and not one physician took it up," said Dr. Norman Shealy, developer of TENS, a form of electrical nerve stimulation that relieves people of chronic pain.

"I spent hours today speaking to physicians at (Central Peninsula General Hospital), and I'm sure at least one will take this up," Shealy said.

A believer in holistic medicine, Shealy said it is important to use varied treatment procedures, and it is necessary to look at the patient in his or her entirety, not just at the point at which they are in pain.

When he was in residency at a Massachusetts hospital, Shealy said he decided that neurosurgery to manage pain was not working. His goal became trying to find a way to relieve pain without damaging the patient's neuro-structure.

In 1965, he found pain could be eliminated by stimulating the spinal chord. He proved the theory using lab animals and presented it to colleagues at a medical conference in 1966, but a fight nearly broke out between believers and nonbelievers, who pointed to the fact the tests had not been performed on people, he said.

He began using the dorsal spinal column stimulator on volunteers over the next few years, leading to the development of TENS transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.

The procedure uses low-voltage electricity on the surface of the body and has been successful in removing pain in 80 percent of chronic pain sufferers, he said.

That's when he decided to restrict his practice to the study of pain management.

The author of 285 publications, including 21 books, Shealy began incorporating other disciplines into his treatment regimen, including acupuncture, massage and a technique he developed called Biogenics, a self-regulation technique for achieving well-being.

"I introduced these things to people to enable them to throw the switch themselves so they could turn off the pain," he said.

As he sees it, everyone is born with a cup that contains certain amounts of tolerance and propensities for such things as diabetes. In fact, he believes 30 percent of what stresses people is inherited.

"Some people are born with cups that are frail; others have cups seemingly made of stainless steel; but every cup has a hole in it a defect," he said.

Then people add stressors such as sugar, nicotine, alcohol, monosodium glutamate (MSG). Other nonchemical stressors include television, inactivity and poor nutrition.

"You have to look at everything," Shealy said.

His treatments have focused primarily on people suffering from migraine headaches and chronic back pain, but he also uses the techniques to treat people with depression.

He does not hold back in his criticism of the use of drugs to treat depression.

"The drugs suck," he exclaimed loudly.

"The best drug out there is only 7 percent better than a sugar pill.

"Seven percent is something. But, halitosis is better than no breath at all," he said sarcastically.

"We have found we can get people out of depression in two weeks without drugs," he said.

Shealy's regimen of treatment employs two devices, one called the Liss Stimulator, which sends electrical charges into acupressure points on the body, and one called the Shealy RelaxMate II, a device that looks like a pair of sunglasses, which sends pleasing flashes of colored light into the patient's eyes.

"When we combine these two devices, we get 85 percent of people out of depression in two weeks," he said.

He also recommends his book, "90 Days to Stress-Free Living."

He said the stimulator retails for $895 and the RelaxMate for $150. The entire cost of the treatment program is $1,200.

Although his method is not covered by any medical insurance or by Medicare, he said it can be compared to using an antidepression drug such as Prozac, at $1,500 to $1,800 a year for a prescription.

Because of Food and Drug Administration rules, the Liss stimulator is available only with a prescription from a licensed physician.

The RelaxMate is available on the open market, but only for relaxation purposes, he said. He directed people to the Internet to shop for the glasses.

In addition to using electrical and photo stimulation, Shealy also said he believes in introducing a spiritual dimension into the medical practice.

"Because religions fight so much among themselves, you can't just hang out a shingle and say, 'I'm a spiritual doctor,'" he said.

"You have to introduce it gradually."

After describing the development and application of his technique, Shealy took the seminar attendees at the college through a balancing exercise, asking them to mentally examine various parts of their anatomy, form a spiritual connection and, "Know that you are a child of God."

The seminar was sponsored by several health care organizations on the Kenai Peninsula including CPGH, Serenity House, Central Peninsula Counseling Services, Central Peninsula Health Centers, Frontier Community Services and the Alaska Center for Creative Renewal.

Afterward, CPGH Chief Executive Officer David Gilbreath said the hospital plans to offer similar community outreach educational programs in the future.

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