Monthly Archives: March 2014

Neuropathic Pain Updates … and around we go!


I woke up yesterday and realized it has been about two weeks since my last post. Sorry about this and apologies for the delay.

Last week my Dad went on a scouting mission throughout the sprawling metropolis of Kunming to investigate what the local medical community knew about hyperbaric oxygen therapies.

Together with Wenjun Liao (“Jenny”) who is our translator and now very good family friend, Dad visited several major hospitals and was able to find a particular barometric oxygen pressure chamber that I would be able to slide right into.

Medical School

Chamber 1

Chamber 2

Now that we’ve successfully found a workable hyperbaric chamber in Kunming, I am waiting to hear back from my brother Mattias, who is touch with doctors in the U.S. seeking to devise a treatment protocol that would be safe and possibly effective for me. For example, we need to understand how deep I will go down, how long I will stay under and at what pressure, how many times a week to enter the chamber, how much oxygen should be administered, etc.

While barometric chambers of many sizes and designs are manufactured in China and are seemingly in pretty wide use, the concept of using such a device for neuropathic pain associated with spinal cord injury is a new idea over here.

In this regard, the particular experiments that caught our attention were carried out by a professor working at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

While I wait for the protocol details, I’m still taking the Alpha Linoic Acid (“ALA”) supplement at 600 mg daily, and I think this might be working at some level. In the last 2 to 3 weeks, for example, I would say my neuropathic pain levels have been reduced by about one or two levels from when they had been stubbornly for many months.

Now when I wake up in the morning I generally start with a neuropathic pain level of about 6 to 7 (1 = slight pain and 10 = practically unbearable pain) and generally by late afternoon the pain levels creeps back up to between an 8 to 10 depending on if there’s something irritating my body that day.

During my lithium therapy, to give you an idea, I was at a constant 9 to 10 level 24 hours a day for weeks on end. So, level 7 pain on a consistent basis over the last two weeks, while still really uncomfortable, is nonetheless a welcome reduction.

On the other hand, I cannot be sure if the very recent pain reduction is due to the ALA supplement, because I have recently also made some pretty significant changes to my diet. This is a classic example of the experimental risk of changing more than one variable at a time, but in effect that’s what I’ve done.

Here’s what’s up.

I recently finished reading a book that I highly recommend to literally anyone who can read and has the least interest in their own health. The book is titled “Grain Brain” and was written by an exceptionally experienced Florida neurologist named David Perlmutter. I have the Kindle edition, which makes reading for me really handy.

I’d already been eating pretty sensibly, being a vegetarian/vegan and staying away from any and all processed foods/refined sugars. So now I’ve decided to go gluten free and cut from my diet most sugars, even including most fruit.

Since gluten has an outsized neurological impact of which I’d been unaware before reading Dr. Perlmutter’s book, I would like to see if eliminating gluten and greatly reducing even fructose sugar has any effect on my sleep patterns, which are just terrible.

In addition, I’m interested to see if I am in fact sensitive to gluten, which may or may not affect neuropathic pain.

Interestingly, it turns most people have measurable gluten sensitivities even if they do not show immediate intestinal symptoms. Instead, the risk is longer-term neurological impact, culminating in dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Again, I HIGHLY recommend this remarkable book.

Finally, I have just re-launched myself with Dr. Les Fehmi’s Open-Focus meditation technique. I’d gotten knocked off track during January and February on account of my horrific experience with lithium carbonate. Will keep you posted.

All-in-all, then, I’ve undertaken a number of new experiments this spring as we stay focused on trying to find workable solutions to my persistently high, and frequently debilitating, neuropathic pain.

Otherwise, things are all pretty quiet here on the China front, where recent spring weather has been summer-like. Presently I’m holding down the fort in Kunming with just my two loyal my caregivers and, of course, our much-appreciated and loved Jenny. My dad is presently in Hong Kong having a busted tooth repaired while my Mom is back in North America for some R&R.

Pain Management Attempt # ?: Yellow Submarine


As unfortunate as it is that the Lithium protocol did not work out as anticipated, I have wasted no time moving on with several new approaches to pain management.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

The first new approach involves a supplement called Alpha Lipoic Acid, which is an antioxidant component of many foods and is also naturally made in our bodies. In recent studies, Alpha Lipoic Acid supplements have also been known to reduce pain in various kinds of neuropathy, such as often associated with Type 2 diabetes.  This includes reducing tingling and prickling throughout the body … symptoms common to my neuropathic pain. So I have just started taking 600 mg a day and will continue to do so for at least a month to see if there is benefit.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

My next neuropathic pain treatment plan is more complex.  I plan to use a medical hyperbaric oxygen chamber to simultaneously raise both atmospheric pressure on my body and oxygen saturation of my tissues.

Here is a short paper on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy For Neuropathy.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber




The basic concept goes something like this:

Driving oxygen under pressure deep into tissues reduces pain symptoms.  Hyperbaric oxygen also stimulates the growth of new blood vessels, enabling the body to increase effective oxygen and nutrient delivery.

The patient breathes 100%  oxygen inside a so-called hyperbaric chamber at a pressure greater than sea level.  This device looks something like a miniature submarine.

The air we normally breathe contains 21% oxygen at sea level.  When breathing pure oxygen at pressures higher than normal, additional oxygen dissolves into the blood plasma. This results in increasing the quantity of oxygen transfer to any tissue in the body.

This past week, my parents and brother Mattias went out to dinner in Kunming with Dr. Zhu and Dr. Liu from the Tongren Hospital.  My Dad was trying to explain what we had in mind, but apparently something got lost in translation, as I learned the next day during my workout in the SCI rehab center at the hospital.

First thing in the morning I was approached by Dr. Zhu, walking unusually quickly towards me, hands waving in the air with excitement. She exclaimed that four hours south of Kunming she had just discovered very nice resort on a very deep lake that would be able to take me down several hundred feet in a submarine in order to achieve the pressure I was looking for.  Seems a lot of Chinese submarine research is conducted inland out of concerns for military secrecy.  Also, Yunnan Province is home to by far the deepest lake in China.

Anyway, I was seriously perplexed by her offer and asked why I would need to go for a submarine ride, hastening nonetheless to say how much I appreciated her effort to arrange such an adventure!

So she went on to explain in some detail how she could arrange for me to be hoisted down into the submarine and that the family would enjoy staying at the very nice resort while I went cruising with Chinese submariners.


I did my best to hold a straight face, and finally I worked out that she actually had not understood that I was simply looking for a medical hyperbaric oxygen chamber capable of increasing the pressure on my body as if I were SCUBA diving.

Once I worked out the correct Chinese expression for “hyperbaric oxygen chamber” she immediately started laughing and said “Oh, dear, that is much easier … several Kunming hospitals have these hyperbaric chambers. I thought you needed a submarine specifically!”

I have to admit it would have been pretty cool to have my own personal “Yellow Submarine” to take me down to the depths of a Yunnan lake.

So, next Tuesday my Dad and his Kunming assistant, Wenjun Liao (“Jenny”) are scheduled to go inspect one such facility.  If it looks okay, we’ll start trying to figure out what protocol we need to follow, and then I’m hoping to give this a try.

Meanwhile, starting this weekend I’m resuming my work with Les Fehmi’s “Open Focus” and will report back on how this is working out as I get more experience with the methodology.

On a separate note, my brother Mattias departed yesterday for Hong Kong and the United States after a wonderful visit here in Kunming.  We actually share the same birthday, March 1st, and so we had a joint birthday celebration with a Chinese banquet featuring Peking Duck.

And my two caregivers, Xiao Lin and Xiao Yin, surprised me with a beautiful birthday cake, as you can see below.  I must say, Chinese cakes are amazing, being sweeter than typical Western cakes (hard to imagine, right?) and are typically very elaborately decorated.

Home Party

Xiao Yin, My Mom, Xiao Lin & Jenny

Birthday Kids

Birthday Kids