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Healing Chronic Pain and Depression Naturally

Apr 25, 2016 ● By Carrie Jackson

Norman Shealy, M.D.

Dr. Norman Shealy is a neurosurgeon and world-renowned expert on management of chronic pain and depression. In 1971, he founded the Shealy Institute, a center for research and treatment of chronic pain, in Missouri. Shealy works with his patients to understand the connection between their body, mind and spirit, and how their nervous system is directly related to their perception of pain. He gives seminars and presentations all over the world, and will be speaking in Northbrook on May 21.


Why is chronic pain so difficult to manage?

Chronic pain, or pain that lasts more than six months, does not usually respond to conventional medicine. When I was doing my residency back in the 1960s, doctors were cutting people’s spinal cords and giving them lobotomies to treat chronic pain, which was making people worse, not better. In order to heal, people need to focus on holistic health—treating the mind, body and spirit. I founded the American Holistic Medical Association in 1978 to help transform conventional healthcare into a more holistic model. Chronic pain is largely regulated by the body’s nervous system, and holistic medical techniques combined with mindfulness techniques like meditation, yoga and focused breathing can help keep the nervous system healthier than with drugs.


What is the connection between chronic pain and depression?

It’s very cyclical. People who have a history of chronic pain are more susceptible to depression, and people with depression are more likely to develop chronic pain. I see the body as a temple where the soul is incarnating. The most important factor in being healthy is a positive attitude. Someone with depression and anxiety most likely has unfinished business from a past life that they need to work through. This can traumatize their nervous system, which causes them to experience chronic pain. I often do past-life regressions with patients who are having difficulty moving forward.


How can holistic medicine help chronic pain?

Essential oils can greatly reduce pain and depression. I’ve created a very targeted blend that enhances DHEA, oxytocin and calcitonin, and reduces free radicals. I also developed two techniques that work on nerves—dorsal column stimulation [DCS] and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation [TENS] and are now used around the world. We are starting a medical renaissance with ancient wisdom and new holistic tools and treatments to allow people to live their lives fully and pain-free.


What are some things people can do on a daily basis to reduce chronic pain?

The most basic thing that I tell my clients is to practice autogenic training—a desensitization and relaxation technique developed by a German psychiatrist. When people get stressed, their adrenaline levels overact and they go into a “fight-or-flight” mode. Thinking simple phrases, such as, “My arms and legs are heavy and warm,” retrains the nervous system and gets the body to calm down, thus reducing the perception of pain. Diet is also important. Most people eat junk, which adds to inflammation and pain. There’s probably monosodium glutamate even in fast food coffee. The average American consumes their weight in sugar every year and only eats 2.2 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. People should get the majority of their vitamins and nutrients every day from actual food, not supplements.

Also, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, is important. Combined with seven to eight hours of sleep a night, it allows the body to recover from stress and time to restore. You can’t take care of other people unless you’re taking care of yourself, and I believe that our whole purpose of being on this Earth is to help others. When you take care of your body, it allows your spirit to thrive.


For more information, visit Shealy will be presenting Awakening to Wholeness: Integrating your Body, Mind, and Spirit at Techny Towers Conference & Retreat Center, in Northbrook, on May 21. For event information, visit


Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect at