Can mind-body medicine techniques heal tennis elbow? Yes! Along with herbal medicine, these techniques can heal, with practice. So what causes this pain? Is it “overuse?” Does that make sense? What about our mental state when we use a joint? Does that play a role?
This is a comment on “A Rubber Twist on Treating Tennis Elbow Pain” on Morning Edition 25 July 2011. Both conscious and unconscious thought may play a role in both the cause of the pain, as well as its treatment.
Updated: 4 Sept 2014
NPR reporter Allison Aubrey talks about a new kind of treatment for tennis elbow pain. She interviews a friend, Larry Holzman, who got tennis elbow from playing his guitar, and his physical therapist, Barton Bishop. He shows Larry a simple test for tennis elbow as a “cause” of his pain. He also has Larry use a Thera-Band FlexBar to twist to gradually strengthen and lengthen muscles crossing the elbow. Lifting weights, it seems, tends to cause pain at the same time as the contraction . The Flex-bar does not do this. However, some therapists are not convinced that the Flex-bar is the solution, regardless of the recent article published showing its effectiveness.
My Comment Posted at NPR
Overuse causes pain? No, doesn’t make sense at all. Toxins cause pain. It is difficult to understand where the pain is exactly in this report. Is it in the muscle, tendon, ligament, cartilage, entire joint capsule, or bone? That does make a difference. It is hard for people to tell the difference between muscle pain and tendon pain, but not impossible. Using Muscle Reflex Testing (MRT, aka Applied Kinesiology), you can find out what the unconscious brain is detecting (see my blog post, “Mind-Body Medicine and Joint Pain” at https://marthalhyde.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/mind-body-medicine-and-joint-pain/).
In all activities that Larry claims causes the pain, his elbow is bent. That position is important here for reasons not having to do with the biomechanics of movement, but the biomechanics of non-movement–pooling of toxins under the skin at the elbow can cause local damage there, and the damage and toxins can cause the pain when he moves. Just think about your elbow position during various times of the day and you will find out that most of the time you are sitting down, it is bent. Most of the time you are standing or sitting, or even lying down, whether you are doing something with your hands or not, it is bent, and the inevitable pull of gravity on fluid under the skin will be down toward the elbow.
Joint Pain: What Causes It and How to Get Rid of It
Sometimes there is a strong emotion associated with a particular joint pain. You only begin to notice all of the associations with pain when you start to focus on the pain and ask questions, as when you use Muscle Reflex/Response Testing. You might discover that every time you go out to play tennis, you feel angry over something. It doesn’t have to be the same reason, only the same emotion. Now how could that possibly be a reason for joint pain? You can’t figure this out unless you ask your brain what led to this association.
Let’s create an example. After a series of questions (starting with “when”, then “where”, “who”, “what”, and “how,” in that order), you discover that this pain first appeared when you were 12 years old. You hurt your elbow during a Little League game, and it was never the same afterward. You wonder why. But why questions cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”, as required in MRT. So you have to come up with questions that will lead to an answer to a “why” question. Following the menu above, you find out that the game took place when your family lived in a particular city, and your best friend “for life” was playing on the opposite team. You suddenly remember you felt angry at the time because his/her family had moved to another neighborhood and he/she had to join that team. You and he/she were supposed to play on the same team for life! The memory of that day comes flooding back. Your best friend was pitching and he/she struck you out. You threw the bat down, it bounced up and hit your elbow.
Oh, now you know “why.” You tell your brain to disconnect the synapse between anger and the cell that represents that memory. You don’t need to feel angry anymore, now. That emotional connection is only doing harm. You have to ask if any other emotions are still connected to that memory, and if that memory has anything to do with other physical problems you have. You want to find all connections to that event and heal what time hasn’t.
I used several mind-body techniques to:
- discover that toxins were causing my pain,
- remove the toxins
- repair the damage caused by them
These techniques include Muscle Reflex Testing (MRT 1.0-a (Applied Kinesiology): How it Works, MRT 1.0: Using MRT, ), visualization techniques, and mindfulness techniques. They all operate at the interface between consciousness and unconsciousness.
The unconscious brain controls a lot of what we call basic metabolic processes in the body. Our conscious brains do not need to know the details, but the unconscious brain does. So, when clothing touches our skin when we first get dressed in the morning, we are barely conscious of the feel of the fabric, and lose that consciousness within seconds. Our unconscious brains still “feel” the fabric as long as it sits there. We are totally unaware of ions rushing all over the body under the skin when we wake up in the morning. They haven’t been moving very far at all the entire time we were asleep, unless the brain wants them to during dreaming, with the risk that we will wake up. These mind-body medical techniques allow our conscious brain to find out what the unconscious brain knows. It’s not that this doesn’t happen at times, anyway. In fact, that is mainly what our emotions are for (Emotional Representation in the Brain).
There are subtle differences in quality of the pain. Location of the pain is important–it determines what the method of treatment is. Exercise will help with muscle pain, but not ligament or tendon or cartilage pain, where non-exercise time is most important. Using MRT you can also find the cause of the pain. I write about various aspects of joint anatomy and physiology in my blog postings What is the Hypodermis?, in the section “Emotional Links to Joints” in Emotional Representation in the Brain, and in Science Says Diets Cannot Fight Chronic Pain.
When a person starts to use the joint more, suddenly, as in taking up tennis, there will be a sudden demand for ions by the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This attracts lots of calcium and phosphate ions to those areas. If sudden start of exercise causes it, why doesn’t the person suffer from “tennis shoulder,” “tennis wrist,” “tennis digits” pain? I strongly suspect, when you check how we spend most of our time, it will be sitting with elbows bent. Toxins run under the skin and can pool there, causing damage to tendon, ligament, joint capsule, cartilage, muscle, and even bone (learn about the chemistry of toxins in the body Toxins.)
At rest, metal toxins will attach to proteins (there’s a lot in the connective tissue at the joint), and we won’t feel them. However, when you start to exercise that area, the sudden rush of phosphate, caused by the exercise, interacts with metal toxins. Metal phosphates will irritate pain nerves in particular. This why most of tennis elbow pain would not be in the muscle, but in the connective tissue surrounding the joint. We feel the pain because muscle is pulling on this connective tissue when we exercise. Continued and appropriate exercise appears to ease the pain because all that exercise tends to dissipate the toxin. It doesn’t get rid of it. This means that it will pool again in the joint when we sit and do other things, with bent elbow. If we stood all the time or had our hands below our elbows all the time, the toxins would pool in the hands and feet, causing joint and muscle pain there for the same reasons.
COX-2 and COX-3 Enzymes
Since toxic ions pool when we are at rest, they can damage the carefully mapped out channels in the hypodermis, where special cells may reside, to control the flow under the skin. Arthritis may be caused by toxins, not COX-2 and COX-3 enzymes. These enzymes are important for controlling the flow of proteins in cartilage, which, even though it has a large amount of water in it, cannot move proteins easily because of the high amount of protein in the fibrous matrix. This is how COX enzymes are critical for protein transport.
However, COX-2 and COX-3 have been implicated in the inflammation seen in arthritic joints. Certain medications remove these enzymes and pain is reduced. The joint suffers from poor protein supply as a result. These enzymes, whose secretion increases when the joint is in pain, may be acting homeopathically by increasing the pain caused by toxins so that the body’s immune system is activated.
The purpose of the immune system is to fight a foreign invader, generally another organism. The toxins produced by bacteria are dismantled by immune cells. However, man-made toxins are not and can damage immune cells (e.g., Shrivastava 2002). So sending immune cells to attack man-made toxins does no good at all. When doctors call arthritis an “autoimmune” disease, they are referring to what seems to be our own bodies fighting a war with our own cells, and they should not. It never occurs to them that maybe our immune system is doing what it was supposed to do, get rid of toxins, but it cannot work against man-made toxins.
The COX-2 and COX-3 enzymes may be acting homeopathically because they are doing exactly as happens in the inflammation cycle, already. In the inflammation cycle, certain cells release chemicals (cytokines) that cause more pain, not less, and thus, trigger the attention of the neuro-immune system to send the “shock troops”, the neutrophils, to the inflamed site. Obviously, because there are man-made chemicals causing the pain to begin with, the arrival of neutrophils does nothing but deplete the immune system’s troops, and the pain ratchets upward.
Getting Rid of Toxins
How do you get rid of toxins? Doesn’t the liver do that? No. The liver only detoxifies (breaks down) organic toxins, and complex molecules to components. It then sequesters toxic elements there, e.g. cadmium, some aluminum, lead. All other, and excess, chemical elements get released back into the blood to be redistributed back to the hypodermis. Only if they happen to attach to calcium do they go to the gut for excretion. If they happen to attach to bromine, chlorine, or boron, they will go to the kidney. Some toxins cannot get into the blood vasculature, which is necessary to get to the liver, because the toxins damage blood vessels. Therefore, the body has no way to get rid of those toxins. The only recourse it has is to sequester them in place.
The brain has programs for sequestering the toxins inside connective tissue and will do so readily (it uses programs devised to handle embryonic metabolites that would harm the development of other organs). The toxins get sequestered near joints and inside bones because that is the location of most of the strongest connective tissue.
The first method used by the body is a strong local response which makes soft connective tissue sacs around the toxins, which are kept in place by the action of nearby cells which secrete attractive ions. This is a well-known phenomenon to transplant surgeons, called “encapsulation,” or forming a “granuloma.” Any foreign material becomes surrounded by epithelium and connective tissue to separate it from your own tissue. When you start to exercise, they come out because many of the connective tissue sequestering sacs get broken with exercise. The final sequestering is inside bone where the body can build bone walls to hold the stuff “permanently”.
However, as we age, many of the mechanisms holding those toxins in place start to break down. Stress causes this breakdown, either by stopping the ionic “fences” the brain set up, or by not repairing and re-sequestering these toxins. As we age, we face more stress, because every new traumatic memory gets associated with an old traumatic memory, and anything associated with that memory. So we accumulate a lot of “baggage,” simply because the brain likes to find associations whenever it can.
You can take some herbs, and/or instruct the brain on how to get rid of the toxins. Both methods require inactivity, and careful monitoring of diet and other behaviors to promote simple diffusion of toxins out of sequestered locations, attaching to carrier ions that make them safe, and to blood vessels. Inevitably, the entire process will let toxins out to do damage locally. Much time has to be spent repairing damaged tissue as well, after having removed some toxins.
Some herbs are very good at detoxifying, but only on particular toxins in the hypodermis, not in bone, e.g. Kudzu root, because it is very high in calcium, enabling it to combine with metal toxins and others and then get into the blood to go to gut or kidney.
If you really, really want a pill to take, and avoid all the training that mind-body medicine involves, then of all the “detox” herbal concoctions you could take, kudzu root (genus Pueria), is probably the best choice. It grabs onto toxins which are attracted to calcium. You may have to take a lot, depending upon your exposure level to the toxin. When some jerk was using very strong acids and enzymes in the lab next door to mine, without using a chemical hood, those toxins were burning my lungs so strongly I was in serious pain. I had to take about 15 capsules of kudzu, all at once, to get rid of the toxin. I suffered no side effects from that high a dosage. Although kudzu is very high in calcium, it also has beneficial enzymes which accompany the calcium to the absorption site, probably ensuring that only the calcium gluconate makes it across the gut mucosa. That may make kudzu root a better choice than taking calcium supplements, which may have the wrong form of calcium for this purpose.
Teach the Brain
Generally, the best method is to instruct the brain on how to get rid of the toxins. This is exactly the same as you do when first learning how to do anything. Most of the time we think of these nervous system programs as motor programs, where we see ourselves move in particular ways as a result of learning. Others are just programs that regulate how we remember, e.g. learning to study for chemistry tests are different from learning how to do math problems. However, the same templates for learning cognitive and motor skills are used for learning how to move toxins out of the body. Just as you can teach yourself Spanish from a book and audio tapes, you can teach your unconscious brain how to detect a toxin, how to make other ions attach to it to prevent damage, and how to move it out of the area into a blood vessel.
Yes, the unconscious brain knows that some chemicals are dangerous to the body. That is why it sequesters them, or moves them to places where it has been successful in getting rid of them in the past (liver, lungs, nose, anus, the latter two used in the embryo). However, moving the toxin to these locations does not guarantee passage out of the body (as already discussed above for the liver), and they will pool there, causing damage.
A strong case in point is a smoker’s lung. The damage is done there, not just when inhaling cigarette smoke, but also in the pooling of dangerous toxins from the cigarette, at the bottoms of alveoli. Another case is the heroin addict’s lung, if he/she inhales it, as shown in the figure above showing us talc encapsulation or granuloma in the lung. The body encapsulates particles of the talc often used to “water down” the heroin sold on the street.
The unconscious brain is not good at coming up with programs of its own for removing the kinds of toxins that did not occur in the environment before man evolved. That includes a lot that come from deep in the earth, only to be exposed to air when humans started to mine the earth for minerals.
Pain’s Connection to Emotions
It is important to realize how pain is associated with your emotions and memories of past events, even though those events have little to do with the present, at least as far as you can see. Once you start asking the brain what it is unconsciously associating with that pain in conscious thought, and that includes the biological details like tissue type, locations, and all past memories, you can begin to discover that there is a good explanation. You can use MRT (or Applied Kinesiology) to find out these details. See my blog posts discussing how to use mind-body medicine to remove toxins Using MRT: Removing Toxins and Emotional Trauma and Toxins. I also present a personal example at Finding Toxins and Repairing Tissue. Even if you haven’t gotten exposed to toxins in the emotionally traumatic fashion I was, it illustrates how you have to take into account the role of the nervous system’s programs for sequestering toxins.
Pain Perception, Tolerance, and Healing
When I was a child, I was often amazed at how often older people felt physical pain. I was unaware of how much pain I felt was not supposed to happen in one so young, simply because no one ever spoke of getting bruises for no reason, for blood vessels popping under the skin of my hands suddenly, causing a strong burning sensation, of the sheer agony of the pain resulting from bumping my foot. We often just accept that we will have more pain as we get older. I certainly did, not knowing that the increased stress I had, as I got older, happens to all humans with age.
We do not have to accept it, but we do need to ask why. Sometimes we can get answers using Muscle Reflex/Response Testing (Applied Kinesiology) that are surprising. As we keep asking questions, we will find answers that make a lot of sense and get us on the track to solving the problem. This especially helps when dealing with pain of any type, but especially joint pain, and in particular, tennis elbow pain. By finding out what our unconscious thoughts are we can understand how our conscious thoughts may mislead us as to the cause of the pain we feel. When we take into account the “when, where, what and how” of the pain, we get a much deeper understanding of how our bodies work, and how our brains can heal them.
Shrivastava,R., Upreti, R.K., Seth, P.K., & Chaturvedi, U.C. (2002). Effects of chromium on the immune system. FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology, 34(1), 1-7. [Freely Available].
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