Norm Shealy is known for being one of the world's leading experts in pain management. He was among the first physicians ever to specialize in the resolution of chronic pain. He founded the treatment of Biogenics in 1971, and the first comprehensive pain and stress management facility in the country, The Shealy Institute, a respected world-wide for its innovative and successful rehabilitation approaches.
Shealy took a few minutes of his time to talk to me about the role of medicine today and his work in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Bill Reddy: Can you tell me a little about yourself and your journey with acupuncture and Oriental medicine?
Norm Shealy: I started spontaneously doing acupuncture in 1966. I just went around and put a needle in the center of pain and inserted a needle above and below and added electricity to it, and it seemed to work. In 1972, when I met my first real acupuncturist, he told me that in Japanese acupuncture, this was one of the ways they always did acupuncture, although they didn't use electrical stimulation. When the first Chinese delegation came to this country early in the 70s, they asked to come visit my clinic. Somehow they knew about my work. It turned out, they started hooking electricity up to needles in about 1966 also. Then of course later I took a couple of courses, one from Felix Mann in London in 1984 and one from Joe Helms and actually refined what I was doing. But, intuitively and otherwise, I've considered acupuncture to be one of the best treatments I know for a number of things.
BR: I wholeheartedly agree. I really enjoy our tradition of medicine. Acupuncture is not a panacea, but it sure is nice adjunctive therapy for a number of problems.
NS: You know, William Osler, the so-called father of American medicine as late as 1912, wrote in his book that the treatment of preference in Lombago is acupuncture and he described putting a "body needle" which was a solid needle in Bladder 26 to treat lower back pain.
BR: Yes, I actually read that. I thought it was funny that he was considered the father of American medicine, yet his reference to acupuncture has never really surfaced.
NS: Let's face it – throughout history, the establishment has always been, at best, resistant, and at worst, totally intolerant of change.
BR: That is a very valid point.
NS: It goes back hundreds and hundreds of years. William Harvey discovered the circulation of blood and was essentially exorcized from the medical profession. Ignaz Semmelweis could not get idiots to wash their hands after doing an autopsy on a woman who died of puerperal fever and then went up and delivered babies. That, to me, was such a lack of common sense that it is not at all surprising to me, and I think today, for instance, in American medicine, the use of statin drugs is at least as ignorant and dangerous as the people who wouldn't wash their hands after doing an autopsy on a person with puerperal fever. Doctors are serving the pharmaco mafia. You may quote me. I think that 99% of physicians suck today in following recommendations from the pharmaco mafia without using any type of common sense.
BR: Can you share a little bit about biogenetics and how it applies to optimal health?
NS: In 1972, I first learned about both biofeedback and autogenic training and as I began using both of those, I began looking at the broad field of self-regulation. I read about 350 books and I came to the conclusion that certain principles, not all of which are in any one original source, but bits and pieces are scattered throughout the literature over dozens, if not hundreds of years. So, the first item in self-regulation is to be present, to be here now. The second is to learn to relax because you can accomplish about 50 percent of what you can do with self-regulation just by relaxing. But, then you do need to learn, I believe, how to get into the awareness of what I called the central feedback from the body and then sense/feel where you are carrying tension. Then you need to consciously let go of it. In other words, we tend to walk around armored and then, no matter how relaxed you are and how much you do, if you don't clean up your own unfinished anger, guilt, anxiety or depression, the minute you come out of a relaxation state, you're back into a state of fight or flight. You need to learn to balance your emotions, and that is really to deal, at an aware level, with your anger, guilt, anxiety and depression. Only when you do that are you really ready for spiritual atunement. So, those are the steps that I incorporated into what I call biogenetics. Actually, that is when I got my PhD in psychology, essentially developing that program and testing it on hundreds of people was my contribution to what I call biogenetics.
BR: I think acupuncturists will definitely enjoy that because it is very lock-step with our philosophy. As you know in Chinese medicine, the kidneys hold fear and the liver holds anger. So, you start disrupting these organ systems and then all of a sudden you're going to be presenting the symptoms associated with those organs.
NS: Well, my favorite treatment that I learned from Felix Mann was what we call the treatment for non-violent madness. There are a number of acupuncture points that work far better than a shot of valium.
BR: How is your clinic structured? What kind of practitioners do you have there?
NS: I tried for 20 years to find a physician that I could turn it over to because I wanted to get out of clinical work and do research and after interviewing one hundred wimps, I gave up. I decided that I just couldn't find anyone with the personality to manage an integrative practice. I had a couple psychologists, massage therapists, electrical technicians, nurses, basically we had a program with the most intense people. Basically, I did a DVD "Medical Renaissance: The Secret Code" in 2006 in which I demonstrated on three patients our entire two-week program because I wanted people to see what you could do and how we did it. So, if people really want to know what went on in our clinic, that is it.
BR: Do you specialize in any particular health complaint or health challenge?
NS: Oh yeah. Mostly I started off, of course, with chronic low back pain which it failed 5-7 unsuccessful back operations. For many years, that was 90% or more of my work. But gradually, as I began to introduce all of these complimentary, alternative, holistic approaches, I began to treat everything. Of course, other than chronic pain, and even more common than chronic pain is depression, my number one focus really for 30+ years was depression with or without other problems. In fact, I believe that 40% of all Americans are clinically depressed, and another 40% don't have measurable depression but they are about two points away from it. They have what I call a sub-clinical depression miasma. Most people are not happy. But it is so interesting because we use all these crappy drugs to treat things that are really not treatable. Antidepressant drugs are one of the greatest farces ever invented. The best antidepressant drug says it is 40% effective. But, they have a 25% complication rate. That means to me that it may be 17% effective. That's note even as good as placebo.
BR: Can you talk a little bit about your LISS?
NS: The LISS -- I am the one that discovered what it is. In the early 70s when I introduced transcutaneous nerve stimulation, everybody in the world wanted me to give the Good Housekeeping seal of approval on their device. Saul came in August 1975 and brought me his device and I couldn't feel anything. I said Saul, take it away. My patients will think it is a placebo. Bring me one I can feel and I'll test it. Well, he brought this device originally that put out 4 milliamps and you really can't feel it most places on the body. But, he brought me one with 10 milliamps and it is still 50,000 cycles per second and it was a good thing I didn't put it on my head because 10 milliamps at 50,000 cycles will throw you across the room. Once I knew that there was output that was doing something, I would turn it down to 1 or 2 milliamps. I just happened to put one of the electrodes on my forehead and I saw flickering lights. I came to the conclusion that it must be doing something to the serotonin. So, a little bit later my physician associate and I at 8:00 in the morning put it on our heads for an hour and we found that my serotonin which was high to start with, went up to five times the upper limit of normal. I have been accused of being a type "A" personality and Jim is sort of a type "B" personality and his only doubled. But, that was the beginning of our work. After that, that is when we began to actually treated – 30,000 people with depression using the LISS stimulator transcranially. I find it infinitely better transcranially than on the body, although in people that were highly sensitive, it could be of use for pain on the body. By itself, with nothing else, the LISS will bring 50% of people out of depression within two weeks with no complications. That is better than any drug in the world. But, if we add to that photo-stimulation, which I also started using in 1975, flashing a 1-7 cycle per second light into the eyes with the eyes closed, those two together would get 85% of people out of depression within two weeks without drugs.
BR: That is pretty powerful.
NS: That is at least twice as good as anything published on any antidepressant drug, and it is 100% safe. Possibly you wouldn't want to use it on someone with an implanted pacemaker or electronic device, but other than that, I know of no contraindication.
BR: Excellent. What are your thoughts on Transdermal Magnesium Therapy?
NS: In the late 80s, I got interested in magnesium and at first I used to give all of my patients five days a week for two weeks a gram or two IV in a Myers' cocktail. For a long time, that is what I did because oral magnesium is exquisitely poorly absorbed. It can cause diarrhea if it goes through the gut in less than 12 hours, you don't absorb it, etc., etc. So, I learned about 15 years ago that if you put magnesium chloride on the skin (not sulfate, I don't know why). Magnesium chloride can be done as a soaking your feet, soaking in a bath, spraying it on your body, or we combine it into what I call a lotion and not only does that restore intracellular magnesium, which is where most magnesium is, within a month, but also interestingly when you give it that way, it raises DHEA or dehydroephiandosterone which does not happen when you give it by IV or orally.
BR: That is pretty interesting. What has been your experience with your patients, in general?
NS: I've got hundreds and hundreds of people reporting it brings down their blood pressure, it takes care of the muscle spasms, their cramps in the legs, their irregular heartbeat. Magnesium is deficient in a vast majority of Americans. We need it because it is involved in 350 different enzymes. So, I have found this to be better than trying to do it orally. If you are going to try to do it orally, magnesium torate works better than any of the others, but it takes 6-12 months to replenish the intracellular level rather than 4-6 weeks with transdermal.
BR: Can share some of your clinical results with your five sacred rings?
NS: Well, that began to come in the mid-90s. I just began to receive this information and I began to dig out the points and test them. So, the first one was the ring of fire. Ring of fire has 12 specific acupuncture points which, when stimulated with the human DNA frequency, which is 54-78 billion cycles per second, we raise DHEA. It takes 6 to 12 weeks. You get about half of what you're going to get at six weeks, but it takes 12 weeks with daily stimulation which you must do while not watching the evening news. We had two people who didn't get any response in six weeks and I told them to stop watching the evening news and then they got a response. But, we found that it increased DHEA just doing that 30-100%, average 60%. So, whatever you started with, it would increase on average 60% from the baseline. I ultimately found that the transdermal magnesium will increase it another 60% average and natural progesterone cream will increase it another 60% average. And, that a combination of vitamin C and MSM will raise DHEA another 60%. So, if you do all three of those, on average you will get about 240-250% increase over whatever the baseline was. For most people, that is still not getting them to the best of the world, but it is a heck of a lot better.
The next ring that came was the ring of Air. All I was told when I was getting the information would that it would lead to "simultaneity of thought" which to me is intuition. I learned way back then that if increased neurotensin which is a natural neuroleptic also antinociceptive and then last summer I suddenly had a brainstorm that I bet it would also raise oxytocin. I found one article in the literature saying that when neurotensin went up, it released oxytocin. Then last fall, we did the ring of air with electrical stimulation of 54-78 billion cycles per second and a billionth of a watt and it does raise oxytocin. Meanwhile then I created a blend of essential oils that I call Bliss, and that raises oxytocin. So, it takes 30 seconds to apply instead of 21 minutes. We are having fabulous results with that for depression, anxiety, autism. It is phenomenally normalizing in mood.
The third ring that I got was the ring of water. It normalizes aldosterone. In other words, the two clinical abnormalities of aldosterone are too much or too little. What we found is if you're too much, it brings it to normal; if you're too little, it brings it up to normal. The only other thing I've ever seen do that is the LISS stimulator transcranially. Some people with depression have too much serotonin and some people don't have enough. Stimulating transcranially will normalize it. But, aldosterone of course, is involved in congestive heart failure, in edema, and in a whole bunch of things. So, I've got an oil I'm about to test to see if I can stimulate the ring of water with a blend of different aromas because people won't spend 20-21 minutes doing a ring.
The fourth one was the ring of earth. The ring of earth strikingly raises calcitonin. If you're thyroid function is not normal, you're not likely going to be able to raise calcitonin easily. We have found that people with a temperature below 98.6 in mid-day or later aren't going to get a good response. But, if you've got a normal temperature stimulating with electricity the ring of earth, which is 13 other points, with the 54-78 gigahertz, it will raise calcitonin and it is excellent for pain. Calcitonin is 40-60 times as strong as morphine. I just finished a couple weeks ago the blood test using another blend of oils that I'm putting together for that. I don't have the results yet. I expect them any day. But, if I can do this with an oil, it is going to be a lot easier because people will spend 30 seconds.
Finally came the ring of crystal and the ring of crystal, used daily with the gigahertz stimulation, will reduce free radicals 85%, which is infinitely better than any supplement that I know. But, again, people won't do it. So, as a matter of fact, we are right in the middle of testing a mixture of oils for the ring of crystal to see if it will reduce free radicals well enough that people can get by with a 30 second application instead of a 21-minute one.
So, we've got phenomenal clinical experience with the ring of fire. It will markedly improve 70% of people with rheumatoid arthritis who failed conventional medicine; 75% of people with migraines; 80% of people with diabetic neuropathy; 70% of people with depression; 70% of people with chronic low back pain. So, it clinically has more applications than any of the others. But, the ring of air, for instance, for depression and anxiety, autism, seems to be superb. The ring of water is more applicable to congestive heart failure and things like that. Interesting, we have found if you stimulate again electrically at this point, the ring of fire and the ring of water (I call it boiling the fat), people will lose weight very nicely. The ring of earth is primarily for chronic pain, but also to keep your bones strong. Of course, the ring of crystal's great impact is cutting free radicals because they are the result of oxidation that ultimately ages us, wrinkles, and kills us.
BR: How, precisely, so you stimulate the acupuncture points?
NS: We do it in pairs. So, first with the ring of fire, we start kidney 3. Then we would go for the next setting to CV 2 and one of the UB22's, and then we go to CV 6 and the other UB22, and then we do PC6, and then we do LI 18, and then the final would be GV 20 with CV 18.
BR: And all of that would be happening simultaneously, once you got it set up then you begin the e-stim?
NS: We've done it – it is very tedious to do all 12 at one time. You can do it. You can put links. But it takes almost as long to hook up all the electrodes as it does to do a pair at a time.
BR: So, you just go from one pair to the other and you let it fly for a minute?
NS: We use a digital clock, you start on a minute, and then at three minutes, you move the electrode. So, you may miss 15-20 seconds. It appears that you need about two and a half minutes, but it is so difficult to measure two and a half minutes – we just do three minutes, three minutes, three minutes. That is why for the ring of fire it is 18 minutes, and for all the others it is 21.
BR: In terms of big picture across the nation, what is your vision of integrated medicine if everything were right in the world?
NS: I was bright eyed and bushy tailed in 1978 and I really thought that what we were doing when we started the American Holistic Medical Association was not only adding spirituality to it, but also looking at the broad field of alternatives. Over the years it has been called a half a dozen things – the latest fad being integrative medicine. It reminds me of I think it was George Burns Shaw said, "Christian is a great idea – too bad it hasn't been tried." Integrative medicine is a fabulous idea, but most of the places doing it are doing a shoddy job. They had hot stone massage and one or two things and they don't make it comprehensive. So, I think piecemeal – it is like a blue plate special – it is not very good. It could be, but at this point, I haven't seen a major change in the vast majority of clinics of hospitals – I think they suck.
BR. So, instead of looking at it from a picture of what is your wish, what is a more realistic view of what could possibly be done in our lifetime?
NS: What I call a "comprehensive" (I've used that term since the early 70s), approach looks at the wide variety of what I now call energy medicine approaches. Everything is energy – drugs is energy, surgery is energy. I include those because I think they should be used in about 15% of people. But, they are not what I would call integrative. They are specialties. In the other 85% of patients, I think they would be far better to avoid conventional medicine because I am convinced that more people are harmed when they don't have an acute illness and have intervention with surgery or drugs that are helped. So, with chronic disease – 80% of people can get their blood pressure under control by getting at a normal weight or most of them can do it with autogenic training – it is that simple. I've just finished this week a program on 30 people with hypertension, half of whom are on up to three drugs for hypertension and still have hypertension. Well, I'm bringing it under control with an herbal preparation and those that herbal preparations doesn't work, I'm converting them to autogenic training. One of the earliest failures using the herbal preparation about a month ago, I just sat her down, and after the second week she hadn't gotten any improvement and I taught her autogenic training. Her blood pressure dropped immediately. She came back Tuesday and her blood pressure is 125 over 80 with nothing but autogenic training. So, I think one has to be comprehensive and you have to be at least aware of what the patient will do. When I invented or discovered the rings, I thought wow – this is great. But, most people won't do it.
BR: I feel that acupuncture and oriental medicine in this country is slowly gaining momentum.
NS: It is. It took a chiro practice 80-90 years to even stop most of the nonsense of the AMA trying to suppress them.
BR: Are there any thoughts that you'd like to share, either about integrative medicine or just anything to our readers?
NS: To me, I've reached the conclusion a long time ago, but it is actually beginning to be my major theme, self-health is essential. If you don't take care of yourself, you are a drain on society. In this country, we can say at this point that a minimum number of people do that. Three percent of Americans have the basic four habits that are essential for life itself. We get 10% of people who exercise adequately. We get 80% roughly who don't smoke. And, the average American is consuming less than half what they need in fruits and vegetables. A big study taken place several years ago evaluated 150,000 people, and 3 percent have all four habits. So, the most important thing is developing the basic habits of health and take care of yourself and then self-regulate. Just take care of yourself. Health begins at home.
Bill Reddy serves on the Executive Committee of the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC), and has supported the AOM profession on a state and national level. He practices in Annandale, Virginia.