On Neuralgia, Its Causes and its Remedies

When the sensation falls short of the algic quality, de Fromentel uses the word SYNESTHESIE (oV’v, with, together, a’lo0nois, feeling, sentiment, the feeling faculty). Of course every feeling, whether primary or a synaesthesia, when excessive, becomes algic.

Hence I have often thought that the railings, wailings, and complainings against providence for allowing pain to exist in this world are readily reducible to the ignorance of the wailers. For it needs but a few moments’ reflection to see that if we are to possess free sentient life at all, pain becomes a natural sequence, and a beneficent necessity to the end that the pleasure may cease on the hither side of harm, and that the pain may preserve us by its warning.

Why do we not incontinently plunge our hands into the fire? Because we know that pain would ensue. It is the pain (i.e., the certainty of its speedy appearance if we burn ourselves) that keeps us away from the fire, and hence we preserve our flesh unimpaired and ourselves intact. If we were without the possibility of painfully feeling too high a temperature, we should not be safely able even to warm out hands at the fireside. Hence I conclude that WHEREVER THERE IS PAIN THERE MUST BE SOMETHING WRONG. WHY the pain? WHAT the wrong?

Now what is ever and every where considered is the pain per se, which is only the message, and in order that the message called pain may not come, the messenger is maltreated or massacred! Witness the injections, the nerve-stretchings, and the nerve cuttings! And yet the poor nerves are commonly but the faithfully warning speakers of the organism speaking at the appointed part which is most likely to lead foolish man to hearken and to understand.

But, perhaps, some will think I am getting too diffuse about neuralgia, and am thinking a good deal too much of it. Well, let such read the following, which I happened to notice while revising my slip proofs. It is from the Homoeopathic World of March 1, 1889, and runs thus-


” The use of the subcutaneous injection syringe is becoming a curse to fashionable society. Ours is a pain-fearing age, and the only antidotes to pain known to the allopaths are sedatives and narcotics, of which opium and its alkaloid, morphia, are the chief. The introduction of the subcutaneous method of administering drugs has been rapidly taken hold of by the laity, and where drunkards and opium eaters were made formerly by medical advice morphinomaniacs are manufactured now.

Morphia is ordered, and is at first administrated by the doctor by means of the syringe; then the syringe is left with the nurse, and at last with the patient herself-for in the great majority of cases it is a woman. Once in the hands of a neuralgic patient of sensitive temperament and weak will, there is an end to her hope of a cure. Her sufferings will be palliated, but only so long as she is under the influence of the drug; and slowly and surely body and mind and moral character are wrecked by the use of this insidious instrument, which should never be allowed to pass into a patient’s possession.”

Some further considerations on the kinds of pains-neuralgias and synalgias-will help us to not only hearken to the sound of Nature’s voice, but to comprehend the language spoken.

The physiologist M. M. Duval, writing to M. de Fromentel under date of May 1883, very properly calls attention to the advantages that may follow a proper study and appreciation of synalgias. Duval says, “Dans toutes vos observations il s’agit done de rapports de contiguite entre les appareils recepteurs centraux ce’re’braux. Nous ne savons absolument rien de la situation et des rapports de ces centres. Vos observations peuvent devenir Porigine de merveilleuses inductions sur les rapports probables de ces centres… Ces centres doivent former comme une serie de casiers voisins, ou chaque point de la periphe’rie a son representant cerebral : mais les rapports topographiques entre les points pe’riphe’riques n’impliquent pas des rapports semblables entre less points centraux correspondants; vos e’tudes ouvriront une voice nouvelle et inespere’e a la recherche des rapports topographiques de ces points centraux.”

All this is not so new as MM. Duval and de Fromentel seem to imagine. I believe there is an eminent American professor (by name Dr. Buchanan, if my memory plays me no tricks) who has taught all this and much more of the same sort in a fragmentary sort of a way these twenty years or more, and some time ago formulated it under the name of sarcognosy. However, de Fromentel is on the line of true progress, and, personally, I am pleased to meet him.

The practical physician M.A. Ollivier (Comptes rendus de la Socie’te’ de Biologie, se’ance du janvier 1884) thus spoke at the Socie’te’ de Biologie : “J’ ajouterai que la connaissance des faits e’tudie’s par M. Fromentel dans sa these inaugurale, peut rendre de reels services au clinicien : elle lui permettra de comprendre certains phenomenes pathologiques qui, sans cela, resteraient inexplicables et, dans certains cas, elle lui fournira d’importantes indications therapeutiques. Il serait tres-utile de connaitre la topographie exacte de toutes les parties du corps dont l’excitation peut faire naitre, dans une region plus ou moins e’loigne’e, soit des movements, soit des impressions sensitives. Il semble meme exister une certaine constance dans la production de ces phe’nomenes. Comme exemple d’association de sensations douleureuses je rappellerai le fait de nevralgie reflexe que j’ai rapporte’ a’ la Socie’te’ il y a dix ans Il s’agissait d’une femme qui avait recude sa fille en pleine crise d’hyster’rie un violent coup du poing dans la region du sein. Elle ressentit a’ ce niveau, une vive douleur et, quelques jours apre’s, elle presenta tous les symptomes de la nevralgie cubitale. Depuis cette e’poque, j’ai observe’ la meme nevralgie chez deux dames qui s’etatient heurte’le sein contre une clef, en voulant ouvrir une porte de cave.”

Of course there is nothing particularly new in all this, but its formulation marks a distinct point of progress in general medicine, and tallies exactly with clinical facts as we find them, and as I have often and long maintained, and it lends also a powerful aid to the old-fashioned doctrine of repercussion, and all tends directly to support the teachings of the most eminent homoeopathic practitioners going back now for fully fifty years.

It is not a little singular how the idea of synalgia originated with M. de Fromentel. Let him tell his own tale. But no; I find our author too diffuse, and hence I will give the gist of his words. Young folks re very frequently afflicted with acne- simplex, sebacea, pilaris, and then come his words : ” or, tout recemment, j’e’tais porteur d’un petit bouton acneique, parvenu a’ l’e’tat de pustule et situe’ sur la peau qui recouvre le sternum, au milieu d’une ligne horizontale oui joindrait les deux mamelons, un peu plus voisin cependant du mamelon gauche que du droit : je me mis a’ l’e’corcher avec l’ongle, ce qui me cause une douleur aigue, quoique legere) et presqu’ aussitot je ressentis un e’clair douleureux dans la region lombaire gauche, ou’ la peau offrait, chez moi, la plus parfaite integrite’. Saisi par cet elancement d’une intensite’ bien superieure a’ la sensation douleureuse que me procurer le grattage du bouton, je laissai celui-ci en repos; mais, quelques instants apre’s, lui ayant donne’ un nouveau coup d’ongle, le memo trait de douleur se fit sentir au milieu de la region lombaire, toujours du cote gauche, et cela autant de fois que je renouvelai l’experience et jusqu’ au moment ou’ j’eus completement dilacere’ la pustule d’ acne.”

Thus here we have a pain produced in an acne-spot on the sternum, and a second pain connected with it, and arising from it, but this second pain is felt in the middle of the left side of the lumbar region. The sensations are associated; the sensations are painful…. they are synalgias.

Perhaps a better example of a synalgia could hardly be needed that the very first case I give in this book (p.6, and I refer to it again here, because it must be manifest that the treating of the skin disease which Erasmus Wilson was so much lauded for curing was really not curing at all, but only Nature- gagging. However, Nature would not have it, and protested loudly (neuralgically) till Sulphur unlocked the door, and let the tell- tale eczema come back to its old habitat.

Of course I do not suggest that the idea of synalgiae is new to the world, though it be to do Fromentel : the initiated know well that the conception is part and parcel alike of Rademacherian organopathy and of Hahnemannian homoeopathy. And synaesthesia (synesthesie) is only the Hellenic form of consensus. What the great Rademacher so much insists upon in his magnum opus, and expresses with the term Consensueller Art, is precisely the same as what de Fromentel calls synalgie, and what I here understand by synalgia, i.e., a pain, an algia not originally of the place in which it is felt.

James Compton Burnett
James Compton Burnett was born on July 10, 1840 and died April 2, 1901. Dr. Burnett attended medical school in Vienna, Austria in 1865. Alfred Hawkes converted him to homeopathy in 1872 (in Glasgow). In 1876 he took his MD degree.
Burnett was one of the first to speak about vaccination triggering illness. This was discussed in his book, Vaccinosis, published in 1884. He introduced the remedy Bacillinum. He authored twenty books, including the much loved "Fifty Reason for Being a Homeopath." He was the editor of The Homoeopathic World.