"Marketing Researchers Show a Healthy Skeptic"
energy medicine h ealth Can it really A t the tender age of three, Judy Moseley of Dallas, Texas, was in the chiro- heal you practor’s office trying to fig- ure out why she couldn’t turn her head. The year was from the 1950, not exactly the pinna- cle of alternative medicine’s popularity. But Judy’s mom inside out? had some good experiences with chiropractic care her- self and was trying anything to help her daughter. “It wasn’t until many years later that I was diagnosed with a fusion of my third and fourth cervical vertebrae. At least then we knew what was wrong, even though all the neurologists and orthopedic surgeons I saw after that couldn’t offer any help,” Moseley says. The day of reckoning came in 1987 when Moseley suffered major trau- ma to her head and neck in a snowmobile accident. The muscle spasms and headaches that followed were unbearable. “I was much too sore to see a chiropractor, and just about the time I had decided to find a building to jump off of, a friend told me about a shiatsu massage therapist who also did acupressure therapy.” Thus began Moseley’s love affair with energy medicine. The term “ener- gy medicine” is being used today to describe varied healthcare practices, ranging from contemporary versions of primordial, shamanic healing to powerful electromagnetic imaging technologies in high-tech hospitals. Energy-based therapies from alternative or complementary medicine include acupuncture, acupressure, aromatherapy, homeopathy, massage, polarity therapy, therapeutic touch, Qigong, yoga and many more. Moseley’s long and winding road to this form of alternative health care is not uncommon. “Unfortunately, I usually see people when they are at their wits’ end—when everything else they’ve tried has failed,” says Donna Eden, energy medicine therapist and author of the book, Energy Medicine. “They come to me desperate, as a last-ditch effort to help themselves.” In 1997 alone, U.S. citizens spent $27 billion on alternative healthcare. BY VICTORIA L. FREEMAN, PH.D. By 2010, some estimates indicate that the per capita supply of alternative PHOTOGRAPHY: RON AMATO physicians will increase by 124 percent, while a growth rate of only 16 per- MODEL: KIM CLARK cent is expected for conventional doctors.6 And many medical research experts predict that energy medicine will lead the growth curve over the next several years as healthcare searches for a new identity. energy 89 Each chakra is associated with specific organ systems and emotional states. So energy medicine practitioners believe that physical or psychological “wounds” with emotional consequences often lead to physical illnesses. “In a broad sense, any diagnostic or therapeutic tool that uses energy in any form is energy medicine. But by this def- inition, all medicine is energy medicine because anything you do with another human being involves an exchange of energy,” according to Dr. James Oschman, author of Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis. Oschman, a cellular biologist and physiologist, believes “energy medicine the energy behind specifically refers to diagnostic and therapeutic methods that directly utilize energy medicine specific forms of energy such as magnetism, electricity, light, sound, X-rays, chemical energy, kinetic energy (movement), gravity and radiation.” At the heart of bioenergetic or ener- Examples in conventional medicine include radiology (X-rays, MRI, ultra- gy medicine is the principle that every- sound), kinesiology, physical therapy, laser treatments and radiation therapy. thing in the physical world (including According to an ancient medical the human body) and everything in the psychological world (thoughts, feelings, a controversial text, The Yellow Emperor’s Canon of emotions) is a manifestation of energy. history Internal Medicine, needles (acupunc- Health is a result of an uninterrupted ture), moxibustion (heat) and lode- flow of energy, and illness results when stones (magnetism) were used by medical practitioners up to three or four thou- energy is blocked or imbalanced. Like a sand years ago. Fast forward to the early 20th century and you’ll find that med- sophisticated railway network, energy ical textbooks were devoting chapters to the use of magnetism and electricity to flows through the body down path- treat neurological and emotional disorders.5 ways called meridians, according to Unfortunately, the early 1900s also saw extravagant and unsubstantiated energy medicine philosophy. claims over the effectiveness of some electromagnetic devices like the If meridians are the tracks, the seven “Dynamiser” and the “Giant Power Heidelberg Electric Belt.” The backlash from chakras are the fueling stations. In her these and similar claims resulted in severe damage to energy medicine’s reputa- book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s tion as a legitimate medical field. Wisdom, pioneer in women’s alterna- So even though recent decades have produced scientific evidence of energy tive medicine and OB/GYN physician Dr. medicine’s effectiveness (like FDA-approved electromagnetic applications to pro- Christiane Northrup describes the role mote healing of bone fractures that have not responded to conventional medi- of chakras as “… energy centers that cine) and given birth to superior diagnostic aids such as magnetic resonance connect our nerves, hormones and imaging (MRI) and positive emission tomography (PET scanning), the field and emotions. Their locations run parallel to those who practice it continue an uphill battle for recognition in medical circles. the body’s neuroendocrine-immune One of the longest-running debates in energy medicine can be traced back to system and form a link between our the philosophical argument of mechanism vs. vitalism. Mechanists believe “… energy anatomy and our physical life obeys the laws of chemistry and physics and will ultimately be totally anatomy.” explained by those laws.” 4 90 April 2003 Those from the vitalist camp are convinced that life will never be explained by tiated marketing ploys to entice peo- normal physics and chemistry. Rather, their belief is in élan vital, “… a mysterious life ple away from traditional doctors. force that is separate from the known laws of nature and that distinguishes living Gorski says, “There is a tendency to from non-living matter,” Oschman says. Today, energy medicine practitioners call this portray people like me as arrogantly life force Qi (pronounced chee) or prana. ignoring what energy therapists are In other words, we’re talking about fundamentally different perspectives on the doing or throwing it off, but that’s not nature of life. In the absence of definitive science, many researchers and physicians at all what I’m doing. What I’m saying do not believe in the basis for or effectiveness of energy medicine and won’t until is if this stuff is real, then it’s very, very they see enough scientific method research evidence to prove it. important, but if it’s not real, then it’s On the other hand, a growing number of energy medicine researchers, therapists a very, very big fraud.” and consumers have moved past the mechanism versus vitalism debate and are According to Dr. Robert Baratz, pri- comfortable with the present body of scientific evidence supporting energy medi- mary care internist and president of cine. Historical information from other cultures and personal experiences simply the National Council Against Health serve as icing on the cake. Fraud, “Energy medicine is a disserv- ice to women because it diverts them Jockeying for market advantage has away from dealing with real doctors you’re stealing also led to some disagreement among who can deal with real problems. my patients! traditionally trained physicians and People have been batting this idea energy medicine therapists. Like many around for 1,000 years and have yet skeptics from conventional medicine, Dr. Tim Gorski, an OB/GYN physician in to show anything substantive to sup- Arlington, Texas, believes that energy therapists use aggressive and unsubstan- port it.” Finding“Dr. Right” Looking for an energy medicine practitioner in your area? Try these resources: q American Holistic Medical Association (www.holis- ticmedicine.org) Founded in 1978, it’s the oldest professional association of prac- ticing alternative medicine physi- cians. A referral directory is $10. q Alternative Medicine Yellow Pages (www.alternativemedi- cine.com) This is the largest online listing of alternative medicine practi- tioners, covering close to 100 different therapies. Click on “Practitioners Yellow Pages.” energy 91 Baratz also takes offense to the characterization of alternative medi- If you decide to try energy cine as caring for the whole person when the implication is that conven- medicine, here are some tional physicians don’t. “Energy med- icine practitioners are trying to hijack suggestions from industry the concept of a caring provider. They say that attention to the emotional leaders: and spiritual aspects of a person is CHRISTIANE NORTHRUP, M.D. (WWW.DRNORTHRUP.COM) part of their medicine. But they Our words, thoughts and feelings create our energy field. This energy field shouldn’t confuse that issue. It isn’t actually has a “magnetic” quality that draws to us the people, events and part of medicine. It’s part of medical things that match it. This is the law of attraction—and it is a universal law. care, and energy therapists don’t have So to be healthy and vital, it helps to hang around with healthy, vital people a corner on that market.” and think the same kinds of thoughts and do the same kinds of things that Energy medicine practitioners, on they do. It has been said that there is no path to peace. Peace is the path. the other hand, view their contribu- Realize that you have the power within yourself to create the kind of health tion as picking up where convention- and life that you desire, one thought and one emotion at a time. al medicine leaves off. While few would debate the value of traditional DONNA EDEN (WWW.INNERSOURCE.NET) medicine in dealing with acute med- At times when your energy is low, don’t force yourself to get your work ical conditions, traumatic injuries or done. Instead take just a few minutes and relax and stretch. Here is an exercise providing emergency treatments, a to release tension and pick yourself up at a droopy time of day: growing number of people believe alternative practices such as energy q SEPARATING HEAVEN AND EARTH medicine are superior for chronic or Stand with hands on your thighs, fingers spread. Inhale deeply and circle degenerative diseases like cancer, arms out, bringing them together in a prayer pose. Again breathe deeply heart disease or rheumatoid arthritis. and separate your arms, stretching one hand above your head, wrist bent And more common ailments like asth- back and hand flat as if you’re pushing ma or headaches are also increasingly against the ceiling. Stretch the other arm treated by alternative medicine spe- down to the ground, flattening that hand cialists.5 back also. Hold for several seconds and Fusing the two types of healthcare repeat to the other side. into one is the approach taken by Northrup, who many consider a leader in combining Western and alternative medicine. In addition to conventional procedures, Northrup also uses energy therapies such as acupuncture, medicinal herbs, and exercise systems such as Tai Chi and Qigong. “The truth is that every heal- ing system has benefits. You have to tailor the treatment program to the beliefs and condition of the patient,” Northrup says. 00 Month 2003 Not to say that there is no research supporting the effectiveness of this type of healthcare. A recent review of 38 therapeutic touch studies found the practice moderately effective. 7 Other researchers have concluded that TT can decrease anxiety 2 and reduce pain 3 in hospital patients. TT has also been found to promote wound healing in animals 8 and is used in Lamaze classes nationwide to help pregnant women deal better with pain and stress. 6 Some energy ther- When it’s all said hands-off apies seem to spark in search of and done, perhaps healing greater debate than common ground the one thing that others. According both supporters and to physicist and energy medicine skeptic, Dr. Victor skeptics can agree on is that energy medicine’s strongest Stenger, “One of the main aspects of energy medicine benefit lays in its capacity to help people help themselves. that really bothers scientists is when therapists claim they “I know about the debate over alternative medicine and can influence another person’s health by removing so- whether or not it works. I don’t totally understand why all called energy blocks without even touching the patient. these energy therapies have helped me, but I don’t under- That concept runs completely counter to laws of physics stand how prescriptions I’ve taken work either,” Moseley that are now considered facts.” says. “All I know is that I feel better now than I have in In his objection, Dr. Stenger is referring to practices decades, and I’m in charge of my life again.” such as therapeutic touch (TT) where the practitioner The Goodson Parker Wellness Center is a holistic center that moves his or her hands over different “energy centers” offers fitness training, alternative health, spa services and mind of the body but may never actually touch the person. treatments. It provides services for all ages. Stenger says that outside of “therapeutic listening,” REFERENCES the only benefit energy therapists may offer is helping 1 D. Eden and D. Feinstein. Energy Medicine. (Penguin Putnam, Inc., New York, people focus on areas of their body that need healing. 1998). 2 P. Heidt. “Effect of Therapeutic Touch in Anxiety Levels of Hospitalized Patients,” “There is plenty of good research that supports the 3 Nursing Research, 30.1 (1981) 32-37. E. Keller and V.M. Bzdek. “Effects of Therapeutic Touch on Tension Headache notion of a mind-body connection and psychosomatic Pain,” Nursing Research 35.2 (1986) 101-106. 4 J.L. Oschman. Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis. (Harcourt Publishers, illness. Numerous studies indicate that the brain can Edinburgh, UK, 2000). 5 send signals to different areas of the body to do things P.J. Rosch and M. Markov (eds.) Clinical Applications of Bioelectromagnetic Medicine. (Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, 2002). 6 like raise or lower heart rate, change the rate of L. Trivieri and J.W. Anderson (eds.) Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. (Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA, 2002). breathing or blood flow in certain body parts,” Stenger 7 P. Winstead-Fry and J. Kijek. “An Integrative Review and Meta-Analysis of Therapeutic Touch Research,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 5.6 says. “But those are examples of people affecting their (1999) 58-67. 8 own energy or body system, not an outsider doing it D. Wirth. “The Effect of Non-Contact Therapeutic Touch on the Healing of Full Thickness Dermal Wounds,” Subtle Energies 1 (1990) 1-20. from a distance.” energy 93