A few months ago my colleague, Dr. Jinnie Cristerna, and I gave a lecture at the University of Chicago on the real and potential applications of bio-field therapy in medicine. Bio-field therapy is also known as “energy” medicine. Energy medicine is based on the theory that healing can be made easier and faster by balancing the amount and flow of energy (bio-energy) in the body. Every culturally based medical system in the world, and possibly throughout history, uses some form of energy based therapy including Western medicine. Over the past twenty years its use in medicine has become so popular that energy medicine is available at many medical centers across the country.
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The basis of energy medicine is based on the theory that the physical expression of illness is the result of erratic energy flow: there may be not enough energy; the energy may be blocked; there may be too much energy. Enhancing and balancing the energy flow promotes the innate healing abilities of the body. Indeed, the entirety of traditional Oriental medicine, especially acupuncture, is based on adjusting the flow of bio-energy.
Lifestyle is the most common culprit in creating dis-harmony in a person’s energy system. Chronic stress, poor diet, lack of sleep and exercise all cause the body’s energy system to work harder and ultimately unable to completely repair. This combination ultimately results in the expression of some illness. Thoughts that are destructive – fear, insecurity, self doubt, etc. also impede the easy flow of energy. It is possible that people create their own illnesses by the negative nature of their thoughts (Appl Psychol Health Well Being. 2016; Psychol Health. 2015).
Although bio-energy is one of the five classifications of alternative medicine by the National Institutes of Health, to many energy-based healing is thought to be either a placebo effect, “all in your head” or outright fraud. Yet, there are over sixty publications in the traditional medical literature describing the effects of bio-energy on bacteria, cancer cells in the test tube, laboratory animals and humans. Energy-based healing has become so popular in the United States that for some medical illnesses like cancer almost forty percent of patients have used it as part of their therapy.
Energy healing increases (sometimes decreases) and balances the flow of a person’s bio-energy. Anyone can increase and balance their own energy through meditation, rhythmic exercise or specific breathing patterns used in qigong, tai chi and yoga. However, most energy-based healing requires someone to add to or adjust the energy flow in someone else, usually a person with an illness. Energy-based healing often involves the energy practitioner laying their hands on or just above the body of the recipient. Energy passes through the energy system of practitioner into the energy system of the recipient. Where the energy comes from is a point of much discussion however the recipient often feels something happening…sensations of heat, vibration, lightness, heaviness, peace, etc.
There are numerous energy therapy approaches like Reiki, qigong, Therapeutic Touch, color and sound, Quantum Touch and others. Many energy healing systems are a three step process involving an energy source (God, nature, the universe), someone loosely classified as a “healer” and the person looking for some level of healing, the recipient (client or patient). The healer acts as a conduit through which energy flows from the energy source into the person to be healed. Some energy healing practices can be self administered. Qigong and Reiki are two examples of energy based healing that can be self administered as well as involve a healer.
Reiki, Therapeutic Touch and Healing Touch are the most common energy therapies available in hospitals, medical centers and cancer centers. Even though most of the medical research has focused on energy therapy reducing the side effects of cancer therapy, there is robust medical research demonstrating that energy-based healing may benefit most medical conditions including joint pain (Holist Nurs Pract. 2017), depression (Psychiatry Res. 2016),complex regional pain syndrome (Iowa Orthop J. 2015) and osteoarthritis (Geriatr Nurs. 2013). Energy based therapy may also benefit Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015). It is well tolerated and rarely with side effects (usually mild). Now, there are some medical studies that do not show benefit from energy healing but those studies do not erase the numerous medical studies showing a measurable benefit. My clinical experience with energy healing is quite positive and I regularly prescribe it as an “add-on” therapy for many medical conditions.