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PNI Applied

The application of the Science of Psychoneuroimmology (PNI) gives great new hope to those who suffer from chronic pain and/or chronic fatigue. PNI is a multi-disciplinary field which also utilizes basic science from fields such as immunology, immunophysiology, neurobiology, endocrinology, psychopharmacology, social psychology, neurochemistry, and many others. PNI provides: new explanation of how and why pain and/or fatigue can become chronic, and what is truly successful treatment. As anyone who has chronic pain or fatigue knows, treating chronic pain the same as acute pain does not work. Reducing chronic inflammation by changing Health Behaviors works.


PNI gives evidence and theory that the source of chronic pain and fatigue is frequently chronic inflammation. Chronic pain and/or fatigue are often symptoms of chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can affect any organ. Improving Health Behaviors reduces inflammation. Health Behavior can be greatly improved through the application of PNI to daily lives. This application needs to be highly individualized. Personal responsibility, social support, and education are the keys for real change. When concretely applying PNI to the problem of chronic inflammation-pain-fatigue there are at least six kinds of Health Behaviors which when changed can have a dramatically positive affect:
  1. Social connection
  2. What we do to achieve a personal sense of purpose and meaning
  3. Patterns of emotional and cognitive reaction
  4. How we use our bodies to perform activities of daily living
  5. What we do or do not put into our mouths.
  6. Our Spiritual life has a significant affect.

Applied PNI is the current frontier in the struggle against chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is now also being targeted as the underlying process in diseases such as Heart Disease, Diabetes, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritic Diseases, and Asthma (Time Magazine. February, 23, 2004).

Indigenous peoples all over this planet have always held that our health is a function of how we live (in relation to the natural, social, material, and spiritual world). What is so exciting for those who suffer from chronic inflammation, and somewhat revolutionary for Western science, is that PNI is providing theory and experimental studies which see with the most recent technology, cell-organ function affected by perception-emotions-thought-behavior and visa versa.

A Definition and Some History

PNI focuses on the interrelationship of emotion-thought-behavior, and bodily function (physiology and anatomy), as well as how these interactions affect health. The discovery of, and research on, the bi-directional interactions of Immune, Endocrine, and Nervous Systems by PNI provides the current scientific basis for understanding connections between behavior and health.


George F. Solomon, M.D., a psychiatrist, started the first “Psychoimmunology Lab “at the Palo Alto Veteran’s Hospital (associated with Stanford University) in 1964. He is often considered “a founding father” of PNI. He coined the term “Psychoimmunolgy” in the 1950’s from his observations of how profoundly personality affected disease including the body’s response; the Immune System. Dr. Gallup was fortunate enough to have direct contact with Dr. Solomon in the mid-1970’s, which significantly affected Dr. Gallup’s practice, approach, and ability to help people.

In 1984, Candace Pert, Ph.D. (brain biochemistry, and clinical neuroscience, discovered the opiate receptor) and Michael Ruff, Ph.D. (immunology) presented the fledgling PNI field a basic scientific language based on the model of neuropeptides and their receptors. This occurred at a scientific conference on “Endorphins and Opiate Receptors in the Periphery,” in Rome. It was at this conference that the term “Psychoneuroimmunology” (PNI) was officially taken. Peptides (chemicals produced by the body) and their receptors are a major way the Immune, Endocrine, and Nervous Systems (and all systems) communicate with each other. Peptides are chemicals which when received by a cell can change the action of that cell. They travel through various body fluids such as blood. This information network links all cells and organs. These understandings have helped provide a qualitative leap opening theoretical and experimental doors. Prior to PNI, Western medical science had held that the Immune System was the only body system that was not in communication with the nervous system. In fact, anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) are peptides made by immune cells wherever they are in the body, including the brain.

In PNI, Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue are part of “Sickness Behavior.”

Sickness Behavior is a result of immune cells making pro-inflammatory cytokines such as Interleukin 1Beta (IL-1B). The affects of IL-1B or other pro-inflammatory cytokines on other cells, such as nervous system cells, can result in sickness behavior such as pain, fatigue, depression, impaired memory, and impaired muscle function such as reduced coordination and strength. Cytokines are peptides which circulate through body fluids such as blood. They usually then target the most vulnerable organ or organs.

Healing Must be Initiated from Within

Reducing inflammation by changing our behavior puts the focus on cause rather than only symptoms (sickness behavior). There are now giant clues which point towards specific tools to be used, and behaviors which when changed can dramatically reduce or eliminate chronic inflammation and symptoms such as anatomical changes, pain, fatigue and depression. Changes in Health Behaviors; change in Lifestyle, is often the best, and sometimes the only way, to successfully treat the chronic inflammation which causes the pain. Learning the Health Behaviors which stimulate the body to produce anti-inflammatory substances, while reducing the production of pro-inflammatory substances is what can truly lead to lasting change and dramatically improved quality of life. Developing an individualized program is the method.