ON NEURALGIA, iTS CAUSES AND ITS REMEDIES BY BURNETT
IN Germany, a number of years ago, I was one morning standing at the side of a celebrated professor of medicine, surrounded by a crowd of patients, watching his procedure, listening to his words of wisdom, and taking mental notes. One of the poor folk had pleurodynia, and seemed very particularly anxious to impress upon the professor the important fact that the pain was a neuralgia, and this he did so volubly and persistently that the professor finally retorted rather testily, “Of course your pain is a neuralgia; did you ever know a pain that was not a neuralgia? every pain is a neuralgia.”
And, equally of course, the professor was right in so far as pain is necessarily nerve pain. For the practical purposes of this little treatise I shall understand by neuralgia any sharp paroxysmal pain that, apparently, constitutes in itself the entire case, i.e., where there is no demonstrable pathological change or anatomical cause. I do not maintain that neuralgia is a strictly scientific term, in as much as I hold that every neuralgia has a positive pathology if we only knew it, for our not knowing the materies morbi does not get rid of its presence.
But what the word neuralgia lacks in scientific accuracy it fully makes up in practical utility, for nearly everybody knows what neuralgia is or is held to be. This being so, I will tarry no longer over the word, but plunge at once into my subject.
The authority I propose to follow is that of homoeopathic literature as well as my own experience where it has run on newer lines, and I will begin with the statement that Aconitum napellus is, probably, the most frequently indicated remedy in the scientific treatment of neuralgia.
This is as well known in homoeopathic practice as the fact that woollen socks tend to keep one’s feet warm. But some people who wear woollen socks have nevertheless cold feet, and in like manner a good many persons with neuralgia have taken Aconite and still kept their neuralgia. There is no such a thing as a panacea or specific for all sorts of neuralgia, a sure proof that there is neuralgia and neuralgia, or, in other words, every neuralgia has a pathology of its own. Aconite is most frequently indicated when the pain comes from a cold, rheumatism, or active congestion. Acidum hippuricum, however, runs it very close, and quite outs it when the neuralgia is primarily arthritic.
I am not sure but Sulphur comes next in rank to Aconite, and Dr. Cooper praises it very warmly in ague and malarial neuralgia.*(Sulphur as a Remedy for Neuralgia and Intermittent Fever, by Robert T. Cooper, M.D., 1869.) It is Hahnemann’s great antipsoric, and is also as such very frequently indicated.
A very reliable indication for Sulphur is, further, where the pain comes from the suppression of a psoric or diathesic eruption. A very striking case of neuralgia of the heart-angina pectoris neuralgica-was once cured by me with it. I am almost ashamed to use it again, as it has already served me more than once in print, but my excuse must be that I cannot afford to lose the lesson it teaches in the antipsoric treatment of neuralgia.
So I will trot it out once again :-
NEURALGIA OF THE HEART CURED BY SULPHUR.
In connection herewith one may remember the known neurotic origin of certain cutaneous affections.
One Sunday morning, some ten or twelve years ago, a gentleman ushered his wife into my consulting room because she had been taken with an attack of angina pectoris in the street, on her way to church. Though only a little over thirty years of age, if so much, she had been subject to these attacks of breast- pang of several years : they would take he suddenly in the street, nailing her, as it were, to the spot, and hence she no longer went out of doors alone, lest she should faint away or fall down dead, as was apprehended.
An examination of the heart revealed no organic lesion, or even functional derangement, and I could not quite see why a comparatively young lady should get such anginal attacks. She had been under able men for her angina, but it got no better, and no one could apparently understand it. I prescribed for her, and saw her subsequently at her home, to try and elucidate the mater. I let her tell me her whole health-history from her earliest childhood.
She said she was getting to the end of her teens, and was preparing to come out, but she had some cracks in the bends of her arms that were very unsightly; these cracks had troubled her from her earliest childhood. Erasmus Wilson was consulted; he gave her an ointment which very soon cured her skin, and the patient came out socially, made a hit right off, and got married in due course. She had always been very grateful to Erasmus Wilson for curing her arms, for otherwise, “How could I have appeared in short sleeves?”
But there soon followed dyspepsia, flatulence, dyspnoea, and palpitation, and finally the before described attacks of angina pectoris threatened to wreck her life. More over, she had borne one dead child. As I have already said, there was no discoverable cardiac lesion, and from the lady’s health-history I gathered that this cure of her skin (though to me the one important point) was of no causal importance.
I gave my opinion that her skin disease had never been really cured, only driven in by Wilson’s ointment, and that her angina was in reality its internal expression or metastasis. No one believed it, however. I began to treat her antipsorically, and very soon-I think it was less than a month from the Sunday morning visit-the old cracks reappeared in the bends of the elbows, and from that time on she had no further attacks of angina at all, and thenceforth she bore living children.
There is a small work on cutaneous affections written by me, entitled Diseases of the Skin from the Organismic Standpoint, in which I use this case to illustrate the constitutional nature of skin disease. And now, from the standpoint of neuralgia, the rapid cure of the pain stamps it fairly, I think, as neuralgic. In the language of the biopathology of Hahnemann, it speaks eloquently for the truth of psora, or at least for the practical clinical value of the general conceptior, call it a diathesis if you will.
It also aids me in teaching my readers this cardinal doctrine, viz., that we need a number of different remedies to cure the various species and genera (kinds) of neuralgia, and in the choice of the right remedies lies the art of its medicinal cure.
I should like, before we go any further, to point out the very important difference between curing a neuralgia from the bottom, which is the task of homoeopathy as shown in this small book, and stopping, deadening, lulling, or killing a neuralgia by means of allopathic medication, which is what nearly all the world believe in, and certainly nine doctors out of every ten practise it, fundamentally bad and harmful though it be.
The pain of neuralgia is not in itself the disease, but it is the voice of man’s sentients calling out for help; it is a telegraphic message from the within of the body sent along the nerves, and speaking at the outside at a spot, dolorously demanding assistance, perhaps telling of an approaching danger in the inward parts from the presence of an enemy lurking within; this pain-expressing voice which we call neuralgia is a telegram with painful news.
What does allopathy do with neuralgia? How does allopathy treat the faithful truth-telling neuralgic nerves?
Let us see. I will not be my own authority on the doings of my allopathic brother chips, but will rather go to their highest authorities, and see what their authoritative statements, as to the proper treatment of neuralgia, are; for instance for hemicrania (Eulenburg: Cyclopaedia of the Practice of Medicine, by Von Ziemssen, vol. xiv. p. 23), “Among the great number of remedies administered empirically, the preparations of iron, quinia, and caffein are by far the most popular, and certainly not without reason, although the universal (? Burnett) agreement in praising them seems to show that they have usually been adopted without clear views, or even with quite wrong views of their action.
The preparations of iron, especially the carbonate, so much praised by Hutchinson, Stokes, and others, are hardly specifics against migraine, but may serve to improve the constitution of anaemic and weakly persons who are victims of migraine as of other forms of neuralgia. In recommending quinia, as also such analogous remedies as quinoidin and berberin, the anti-periodic effects of the remedy have been chiefly regarded; and the tolerably regular recurrence of the attack leads one to hope for corresponding success with the remedy. But experience shows that the use of quinia, no matter in what form, does not ordinarily affect the regular periodicity of the attacks, especially when they occur at wide intervals, but that a considerable dose of quinia (from seven and a half to eighteen grains), given once or more often, may sometimes shorten an attack, or arrest it at once.”