Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Conquering Chronic Pain: The emerging field of mitochondrial medicine is helping to explain underlying chronic pain conditions, says Mary Peterson.

May 31, 2017 09:14AM ● By Mary Peterson

The emerging field of mitochondrial medicine is helping to explain the process of energy depletion that underlies chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome and myofascial pain, along with disease processes like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lyme, diabetes, and others.

The mitochondria are organelles in all cells, with the exception of reood cells, that produce ATP, the cellular energy “currency” of the body. The brain, heart, skeletal muscles and liver have high energy needs. If factors like stress, poor nutrition and exposure to toxic chemicals are present, then the normal aging decline of mitochondrial function accelerates. The system breakdown tends to express at the genetic weak link for the individual.

Like a battery that doesn't hold a charge, when the mitochondrial function declines enough, pain or illness begin to appear. In chronic pain patients, there may be an intolerance to exercise, fatigue, headaches, anxiety or depression, along with sensitivity in the connective tissue. Instead of responding to treatments with steady improvement, the system has difficulty holding the progress and exhibits fluctuations in symptoms, creating a chronic condition.

In future years, a blood test will be available to measure mitochondrial vitality. In the meantime, listen to the messages from the body when making life changes and work with a healthcare team. The battery can be recharged and symptoms drop away. It takes determination and consistent effort over time, but living with increasing comfort is the payout.

Mary PetersonMary Peterson, PT, MS Ed, has worked with complex pain patients for more than 25 years. For more information, call 480-998-1646.



Jon Kaiser, M.D., a pioneer in mitochondrial medicine, details ways to improve the health of energy-producing cells and thus decrease pain and move away from illness.

1. Stay hydrated with spring water

2. Eat a healthy diet. Mitochondrial cells are nutrient dependent. Go to the produce department and get six different fruits and vegetables per day. Eat clean.

3. Stay active. A sedentary lifestyle creates stagnation in cells, which ages them. At the same time, people that have recovered from chronic pain scale back their activities to the point where they avoid flare-ups and feel rested. Then they gradually grow their activity level as their health improves.

4. Reduce exposure to environmental toxins. has the latest evidence-based research on chemicals and health. Make wise choices in what to bring home.

5. Minimize medication induced mitochondrial damage. Several classes of drugs have shown to decrease function: antivirals, antibiotics, NSAIDS. Chemotherapy and statins are among them.

6. Address stress. Our body is working to get our attention so we can transform our life and heal it. Work with a mental health professional/coach to find what makes us happy and find a mission in life.

Upcoming Events Near You