Dr. Pollett


Recently, photon therapy (laser)has been discovered to help those with various types of pain. Several doctors in USA have completed studies with patients suffering from back/leg/hip/knee pain, diabetic neuropathy, myofascial pain and TMJ.

One Canadian doctor has also been using photon therapy (aka laser therapy) which consists of a thermal imaging processor and a photonic stimulator device to help RSD/CRPS patients. This page is a profile of Dr Pollett and his work. His interview with PARC is eye-opening.

In 1966, Dr Pollet received his medical degree from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia and began a general practice in Nanaimo, B.C. He then returned to Halifax, Nova Scotia where he began a general practice. While working at various hospitals, he also gained experience in general medicine, obstetrics as well as anaesthesia and surgery. After completing his training in Anesthesiology in 1978, he commenced anesthesia practice in Sydney, N.S. After visiting several Pain Management Clinics in USA he began seeing pain referrals.

From 1989-95, he functioned as staff anesthetist (Canadian term for Anesthesiologist) at Sydney City Hospital, Sydney Community Health Centre (formerly St. Rita Hospital) and New Waterford Consolidated Hospital. This constituted approximately 60% of his practice. The remainder of his working time was devoted to developing a pain management clinic for Cape Breton Island. By that time he was receiving approximately three-hundred new referrals per year at the clinic, mostly for chronic benign pain.

In 1994 the clinic was transferred to the Northside General Hospital in North Sydney. Since November, 1996, he has been operating a full time pain clinic at the Northside General Hospital in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada."

DR POLLETT SAYS: "In 1997, I arranged for 3 patients to try photonic stimulation, a non-invasive experimental treatment for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) and other painful conditions. This was developed by a Pittsburgh chiropractor, Dr Constance Haber. The treatment was very successful and I acquired the second of these devices in the world in July, 1998.

Since then I have treated several hundred patients with this device and found it to be a powerful tool which may revolutionize some aspects of pain therapy. I was invited to speak about my results in December, 2000 at the 3rd International CRPS (RSD) Conference presented by The Neuropathic Pain Research Institute at the Grosvenor Resort in Lake Buena Vista Florida.

I also frequently present video conferences on chronic pain for Nova Scotia physicians under the auspices of the Continuing Medical Education division of Dalhousie University Medical School.

UPDATE 2016: Dr Harry Pollett has retired after years of dedicated service.



Aug. 2/3 2008: Dr Pollett and his staff took part in the RIDE TO CONQUER CRPS . Dr Shulman, our cyclist, stopped in N Sydney for a tour of the CRPS clinic and a pit stop. From Northside General Hospital, he boarded the ferry for NFLD for the last leg of his journey.

June 18, 2006

At the request of PARC, Dr. Pollett came to Ontario. He did a great presentation on CRPS: diagnosis and treatment which included conventional treatments, future treatments, Hyperbaric Oxyen Therapy (HBOT) and PHOTON THERAPY. We also had a wonderful DVD on photon treatment presented by Dr Kobrossi. Dr Rhydderch (Hamilton Pain Clinic) discussed CRPS: symptoms, diagnosis and treatments. Details in our summer 2006 issue of PARC PEARL. You missed it!


UPDATE: April 2004:

For an interesting article, please read"ENDING PAIN WITH LIGHT" by T. Klaber, Alternative Medicine 1999 which includes a photon case study. Here is an excerpt regarding the use of photon for CRPS:

"....Individuals suffering from CRPS can be even more sensitive. Usually caused by physical trauma to the nerves, nothing more than a light breeze on their skin can provoke excruciating pain."(page 1)

"On this page you see the image [thermographic images of patient's feet] of a patient suffering with CRPS possibly brought on by an arthroscopic surgery performed in 1994. All conventional treatments failed. As pain increased and atrophy set in, he became totally disabled. ....He was confined to a wheelchair and had to be lifted on and off the plane in a cherry picker. After three successive treatments with the photonic stimulator, he was able to walk with a cane. He walked through three airports on his way home. A one year follow up demonstrated continued improvement with no pain medication or additional treatment". (page 3 Klaber) To read a page from "Ending Pain with Light", click on Klaber.

UPDATE: July 2003

Since 1998, Dr Pollett has been treating CRPS patients with photon therapy. Based on treatment statistics in his clinic, the success rate is 60%.

UPDATE: Sept. 2002

"Infrared Light Therapy in the Treatment of Chronic Pain" in Today's Therapeutic Trends has been published in the fourth quarter issue. We congratulate Dr Pollett on his hard work! Review in upcoming PARC PEARL.


Editor's Note: While we realize that not everyone with CRPS will have this dramatic improvement, there is a proven 60% success rate for photon(laser) treatment. Photon is non-invasive treatment and has a higher success rate compared with another invasive treatment e.g. spinal cord stimulator success rate is about 42% for upper extremity and 47% for lower extremity (Kemler 2000).






Our Maritime doctor in Cape Breton, talks about chronic pain and his approach to treating RSD/CRPS. Since 1996 he has been operating a full time pain clinic at Northside General Hospital, North Sydney, NS. He treats RSD patients on a daily basis and maintains that there is a 1 in 60 lifetime risk of developing RSD/CRPS.
He discusses promising new treatments.


Q. Should all doctors have training in treating chronic pain? Why?

A. All doctors have some training in treating chronic pain. Problem 1 is that there is not very much of it. Problem 2 is that every hour of teaching medical students is fought over vigorously by various departments each of which has their own agendas and priorities. Increased time for teaching chronic pain means less time for teaching something else. Problem 3 is that there are a wide variety of ideas as to how pain should be managed. It would be easy for the curriculum to be hijacked by pharmaceutical companies since they control most of the money which is used for

Q. What is your approach to treating a chronic pain patient?

A. The most important initial principle in treating a chronic pain patient is to make a correct diagnosis. The second principle is to accept what you see if it appears that the initial diagnosis is wrong or the treatment isn’t working.

It is not the patient’s fault.

Q. What part should the doctor and patient play in the treatment process?

A. Ideally the treatment process requires close collaboration between the doctor and patient. A physician should recognize that although he/she has been trained to recognize and treat many diseases he/she might have only a superficial knowledge of a particular disease.

The patient, whose life has been turned upside down by one particular disease, may have spent a great deal of time, effort and money to acquire a deep knowledge of that particular disease. Unfortunately, much of that knowledge may be anecdotal, or from questionable sources. The patient may also have a poor understanding of the anatomy and physiology or their disease, giving them an unrealistic understanding of what they do know.

It is important that realistic goals and expectations be discussed at the beginning of therapy.

RSD/CRPS is a poorly understood disease even by “experts”. There is a saying that if a disease has many treatments, none of them are any good.

Many RSD/CRPS will find one treatment to be their “miracle cure”, sometimes after years of failures. The same treatment given to the next patient, whose disease appears to be identical, may result in total failure.

Q. How did you become interested in treating CRPS?

A. I became interested in treating chronic pain when I was doing family practice and realized how little I knew about it. Later, as an anesthesiology resident in London, Ontario, I saw my first RSD patient.

:I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of a disease which could cause so much damage."

Q. What is your approach to treating patients with RSD/CRPS?

A. My approach to treating patients with RSD/CRPS is the same as any other chronic pain patient.

First, one must confirm or make the diagnosis. I have the advantage of having an infrared camera, which is helpful in confirming the diagnosis. If the patient meets the correct criteria, I explain to them what is going and what they can expect.

Many of them are relieved that finally someone believes them.

My own thoughts are” If you only knew what you could be in for.”
I then explain the possible treatment modalities. Because some are covered by Medicare and some are not, the patient participates in deciding how to proceed. I make them aware that there is a strong possibility that none
of the possible treatments may succeed and that even if a treatment appears to be successful, the disease can return at any time and require further treatment.

Many patients require ongoing treatment to keep the pain level low. If the treatment is stopped, the pain level immediately rises. I stress the importance of maintaining mobility in the affected limb(s).

Q. What percentage of your clinic patients are RSD/CRPS patients?

A. On a given day there are probably between 5 and 10 RSD/CRPS patients in the clinic out of a total patient count between 35 and 50. This does not mean that between 10% and 30% of my patients have RSD. It just reflects the fact that RSD/CRPS patients need to be treated more frequently.

Q. What treatments does the clinic offer for RSD/CRPS patients?

The treatments in my clinic can be divided into two groups:

Specific and non-specific.

Specific treatments consist of nerve blocks such as stellate ganglion blocks and lumbar sympathetic blocks and Bier blocks using an occlusive tourniquet to keep a ganglionic blocking drug such as guanethidine or Bretylium
in the affected limb for a period of time. These treatments are exclusively used for RSD/CRPS and are of no value in other chronic pain diseases.
I have seen some studies which claim that Bier blocks are of no value. In most of those studies only two or three blocks were done and since the patients weren’t “cured” the treatment was said to be of no value. I have a number of patients who get several days pain relief with each block, but the duration of pain relief does not increase. However, by doing repeated blocks, the patient can be kept at a low pain level most of the time. This way they can undertake most of the activities they want to do.
Non-specific treatments are those which can be used for other chronic pain conditions as well.

The most useful ones for RSD/ CRPS are infrared photonic(laser) therapy, intravenous lidocaine therapy and oral medications.

Infrared photonic therapy has been used in my clinic since 1998.

I have reviewed my results on a number of occasions and found that about 60% of RSD/CRPS patients get significant improvement.

About 7% improve to the point that no additional treatment of any kind is necessary. Most of the patients who have been treated successfully require ongoing treatments from time to time, but the intervals between treatments can be months or even years.

In about 40% of patients the photonic treatment fails completely. I have had some patients where I have wondered if the photonic treatment has accelerated the RSD/CRPS process, but I think (hope) that in those cases the treatment was unable to stop a rapidly advancing process.

I consider photonic therapy to be non-specific because it is also useful in treating diabetic neuropathy, myofascial pain, rheumatoid arthritis and other painful conditions.

Intravenous lidocaine is widely used in my clinic. It reduces pain levels in over 80% of pain patients for several days at a time. I consider it a control rather than a cure, but it allows me to use lower doses of opiates and other pain medications.

Opiates do play a role in treating RSD/CRPS. They are effective but they carry a lot of socio-political baggage. Also, many patients dislike the feeling of being” doped up”. Other pain medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-depressants and anti-convulsants are part of the pharmaceutical package which can be used to treat RSD/CRPS. Most patients prefer the minimum amount of drugs possible because of the sedation, side effects and expense involved. Other medications which can be helpful are vasodilators such as verapamil(Isoptin) or drugs which increase red blood cell flexibility such as pentoxyfylline(Trental) . I have one patient whose RSD is controlled by Trental alone, but for most patients these drugs are just an adjunct to other therapy.

Q. What do you see on the horizon as promising drugs or new treatments for RSD/CRPS?

A. I have been looking into drugs such as ketamine, which has been used successfully in other clinics. Its main problem is difficulty in administration. Ideally, the patients should be admitted to an ICU for the first week of treatment. They can be treated as an outpatient but should be kept in a darkened room and closely monitored for a four-hour intravenous treatment. I don’t presently have the facilities to do this and if I do acquire the facilities, I’m not sure if I would be funded well enough by Medicare to afford it.
Dorsal column stimulators are a new/old treatment for RSD/CRPS. I don’t do them myself but have sent three patients elsewhere for this treatment. So far no success.

Q. Do you have any comments?

A. RSD/CRPS is a fascinating condition because even though it has been described for 150 years, there are still clinicians who deny it exists.

The bias is most notable in older orthopedic surgeons, possibly because they were taught that if you treated an injured limb improperly, the patient could develop “Volkmann’s Ischemic Contracture”, another name for RSD/CRPS.

Rather than admit fault, they preferred to deny the disease.

Ironically, it probably was not their fault. It just seems that some limbs will develop RSD/CRPS no matter how trivial or serious the injury.


RSD/CRPS can be compared to golf. Just as a beginning golfer can sometimes get a hole-in-one, a neophyte pain physician can sometimes “cure” an RSD/CRPS patient with a simple nerve block. From then on he’s hooked, but it may be quite a while before he duplicates his success.

Cheers! Harry Pollett

Warm thanks to Dr Harry Pollett for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this important interview on Canada Day 2004.


Helen Small, President of PARC, visits Northside General Pain Clinic run by Dr Pollett and his staff in North Sydney, Cape Breton. She takes part in the photon(laser) treatment program starting May 17, 2005.


Helen returns for more photon treatment. So far so good!

Helen wishes to thank the wonderful staff at Northside General Hospital for all their humour, concern and medical care.Leaving after treatments were over, was like LEAVING HOME. Lori, Velda, Lynette, Tanya and Jennifer, you are the best! Oh, yes, the doctor too. (Big grin!)





by Harry F. L. Pollett, M.D. FRCPC
Cape Breton Healthcare Complex
North Sydney, Canada

Diagnoses Treated:
  • Back Pain - 21 Patients
  • RSD - 13 Patients
  • Tension Headaches - 10 Patients
  • Leg/Hip/Knee Pain - 10 Patients
  • Myofascial Pain - 5 Patients
  • Diabetic Neuropathy - 4 Patients
  • Chest Wall Pain - 3 Patients
  • Post Herpetic Neuralgia - 3 Patients
  • TMJ - 3 Patients
  • Abdominal Wall Pain - 1 Patient
Treatment Results Diagnoses Treated:
  • Back Pain - 21 Patients (11 helped by other means before treatment with Stimulator)
  • Back Pain - 21 Patients (at end of treatment with Photonic Stimulator)
  • Back Pain - 21 Patients (at present time - September, 1999)
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) - 13 Patients RSD - 13 Patients (at end of treatment with Photonic Stimulator)
  • RSD - 13 Patients (at present time - September, 1999)
  • Tension Headache - 13 Patients (10 patients helped by other means before treatment with Stimulator)
  • Tension Headache - 13 Patients (at end of treatment with Photonic Stimulator)
  • Tension Headache - 13 Patients (at present time - September, 1999)
  • Leg/Hip/Knee Pain (at end of treatment with Photonic Stimulator)
  • Leg/Hip/Knee Pain (at present time - September, 1999)
  • Diabetic Neuropathy - 3 Patients (1 patient helped by other treatments)
  • Diabetic Neuropathy - 3 Patients (at end of treatment with Photonic Stimulator) Diabetic Neuropathy - 3 Patients (at present time - September, 1999)
  • Myofascial Pain - 5 Patients (4 patients were helped by other treatments before Photonic Stimulator)
  • Myofascial Pain - 5 Patients (at end of treatment with Photonic Stimulator)
  • Myofascial Pain - 5 Patients (at present time - September, 1999)
  • Change in Work Status
  • Concerns
Treatment Results
  • Minimum Number of Treatments - 3
  • Number of Patients Treated - 105
  • Number of Patients Surveyed - 81
Back Pain: 21 Patients (11 helped by other means before treatment with Photonic Stimulator) Treatments Included:
  • Trigger Points
  • I.V. Lidocaine
  • Epidural Steriods
  • Chiropractor
Back Pain - 21 Patients (at end of treatment with Photonic Stimulator)
  • Worse after treatment - 5 Patients
  • Unchanged after treatment - 7 Patients
  • Slightly better after treatment - 4 Patients
  • Significantly better after treatment - 5 Patients
Back Pain - 21 Patients (at present time - September, 1999)
  • Worse after treatment - 4 Patients
  • Unchanged after treatment - 5 Patients
  • Slightly better after treatment - 5 Patients
  • Significantly better after treatment - 7 Patients
(4 patients were helped by other treatment before Photonic Stimulator)
Treatments included:
  • Physiotherapy
  • Trigger Joint Injections
  • Sympathetic Nerve Blocks
  • I.V. Lidocaine
  • Bier Blocks with Guanethidine or Bretylium
RSD - 13 Patients (at end of treatment with Photonic Stimulator)
  • Worse after treatment - 1 Patients
  • Unchanged after treatment - 1 Patients
  • Slightly better after treatment - 2 Patients
  • Significantly better after treatment - 9 Patients
RSD - 13 Patients (at present time - September, 1999)
  • Worse after treatment - 2 Patients
  • Unchanged after treatment - 3 Patients
  • Slightly better after treatment - 3 Patients
  • Significantly better after treatment - 4 Patients
  • All better - 1 Patient



There are two sets of images here. The one entitled Hot RSD is of a 40 year old woman with a history of RSD after an automobile accident in June, 1997. She delayed her treatment because of pregnancy until the spring of 1998 at which time she was treated with a series of Bier blocks with guanethidine. These were unsuccessful and when she was first imaged with the Bales infrared camera in August, 1998 she had a hot swollen (R) arm which was twice the size of her left arm. Nevertheless, her fingers were very cold. She was treated with the photonic stimulator between then and the end of October, 1998. The initial images in August, 1998 are in the top row. Follow-up pictures were taken in February, 1999, approximately four months after completion of treatment and they are shown in the bottom row of images.


The second set of images is entitled Cold RSD (R) . There are three rows of images. The top row were taken in January, 1999, prior to commencing treatment of any kind. The patient, a man approximately 45 years old, preferred to commence treatment with conventional treatment which is covered by provincial medicare. He had a series of (R) lumbar sympathetic blocks, which only gave temporary pain relief, followed by a series of Bier blocks with guanethidine, which also gave temporary pain relief. Follow-up pictures taken in July (our hottest on record) showed that although he had slight warming of his thighs, his feet if anything, were colder than they were in January! Although both feet look cold, almost all his symptoms were in his right foot. He had four treatments with the photonic stimulator in July and the bottom row of pictures were taken in September, about six weeks after completion of treatment. I think the results speak for themselves, but the patient reported about a seventy percent reduction in symptoms.

Thanks to Dr Pollett for allowing us to include these cases.


St. Catharines Standard Wed. October 3, 2001. A6 For the Standard
College president cuts ribbon with a laser as leading-edge tech programs launched
WELLAND: Niagara College provided a glimpse at the future Tuesday with the official launching of Ontario's first undergraduate programs in the emerging field of photonics.
"The launching of the photonics program places Niagara among higher institutions in Ontario as a leading edge in technology", said Niagara College President Dan Patterson, who used a laser to cut the ribbon to open the labs.
"We're really excited about that because at the end of the day what is most important is that we provide the best opportunities for our students and for our industry. Photonics is the next multi-trillion dollar industry."
Photonics involves the generation, transmission and utilization of light information and energy.
The two and three year diploma programs were developed through a partnership with Photonics Research Ontario and Algonquin College to train technicians and technologists for employment in the photonic sector.
Photonics is being applied in virtually all industries, businesses, and households, ranging from laser eye surgery to the scanner at the supermarket or the fibre-optic cable that provides high-speed Internet service. Because of this wide range of applications, there is an urgent need for trained photonics professionals in most industries from laser technologies and machining to the manufacturing, telecommunications, medical, biotechnical, imaging, optical and microelectric sectors.
"There has been an overwhelming response to the initiative from the industry and, more importantly, from the students" said Dr Gerard F. Lynch, president and CEO of Photonics Research Ontario. "The first graduates of this program will build a solid foundation that has the capacity to launch Ontario as a global hub in photonics, but to do so we need trained people."
Companies move where there is technology and trained, capable people, Lynch added.
"Without both we will not be successful in the economic agenda for the coming century. This program launches us into establishing the core of trained people that will be required for the photonics industry to expand in Ontario."
The photonic project was funded in part through a $3.5 million Strategic Skills Development grant from the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. It will provide curriculum development, space renovation and the acquisition of more than $1.7 million of laser and related photonics equipment, including laser welders, advanced optics equipment, fibre optics equipment, and advanced electronic equipment at both Niagara and Algonquin Colleges.
Jay Yatulis, the program coordinator, is looking forward to the challenge.
"We've got the first group of students coming through and they are absolutely pumped. They are really excited about the program," said Yatulis.

(reproduced with permission)



Where can I find Photon Therapy in Canada? It is also known as laser therapy.

Our recommendation is to try laser and see if it helps.


Ther are clinics all over Canada.





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