Energy Medicine: A Field of Potential – Part II

The Reiki Distance Healing symbol Honshazeshon...

Where Do We Go Next?

If I were to measure future acceptance (of energy medicine) based on the feedback I receive from my colleagues in Georgia, I would be tempted to call the future bleak,” says Gustafson, from her Georgia clinic. “Were I to measure it from the requests, reactions, and healing of my patients, I would say that nothing can stop it. As Hugo said, ‘There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.'”

It’s this very division between what is and what can be that prompts Oschman to remind us that patients, for the first time, are in the driver’s seat when it comes to healthcare. While it might not seem that way, and while admittedly we’re stuck in the middle of a health system that’s disintegrating, he speaks more to a changing mind-set that no longer has patients handing over their health to a medical demigod, as it’s been for decades, or feeling a prisoner of the system. This finds correlation with David Eisenberg‘s 1998 landmark study that showed consumers spending up to $47 billion on healthcare alternatives out of their own pockets.1

Whether we can see it or not, there has also been a “huge shift” with doctors and their perceptions of healing, Oschman says. “Doctors are overwhelmed with paperwork, HMOs tell them they only have seven minutes to spend with each patient, they’re disillusioned with the pharmaceutical industry, and they’re frustrated.” He says it’s this constant barrage that has drawn some physicians to complementary therapies. “And they love it, because people are getting better.” As a medical doctor, Dailey knows that all too well. That’s why he’s educating other doctors, here and abroad, about the power of Reiki for healing potential.

Searching for a better means to health, as these doctors are doing, falls perfectly in line with the client-centered future Nixon dreams of, where patients make choices and take responsibility for their own health.

Nixon feels certain that one day soon, bodyworkers are going to be an integral part of the fields of psychology and psychiatry. “Energy medicine is becoming much more grounded because research is seeing the biochemical changes in the brain. That’s what’s changing the medical mind is that it’s becoming research-based. We didn’t know how to study it before.”

So if it’s truly what we want, how do we push further to get energy medicine into the medical paradigm? Is it the research?

“In my opinion, the research has already been done,” Oschman says. It’s just a matter of weeding it out. The biological explanations of how energy medicine works has helped demystify the whole field of study, he says.

In the future, Oschman says we need to take a hard look at how we do that research. In addition to the slow, slumbering ways of big clinical trials, he says this traditional research is trying to take the individual out of the equation. That, he says, is going in the wrong direction. “We don’t have time for it any more. It’s too expensive, too time-consuming, and it just leads to ambiguous results.” What do you really learn in the end? “Nothing about the human body and nothing about healing,” he says.

As for what’s coming down the road in the world of energy medicine, both Oschman and Chitty agree that the use of energetic devices is an up-and-coming trend. “What could be more energetic than putting electricity into the body,” Oschman says. “Hundreds of physicians and chiropractors are using the technology of Carol McMakin.” The micro-current electro-acupuncture system of Darren Starwynn is making its way into esthetician offices, and new treatments for pain are coming out of Russia with a biofeedback device called a Scenar. “With all the problems with pain medications and their side effects, this is a good time for pain devices,” Oschman says.

Chitty says the interest in energy devices will be something to watch. “Just as broken bones are mended better with a minute electrical current, I expect that the many researchers working in this area will find more and more interest in the same, simple devices that people can use at home or practitioners can have in their offices.”

But are devices a threat to the therapist? Oschman doesn’t think so. “A good energy therapist will look at the device and will be able to do the same thing.”

So what else is on the horizon? Chitty says there will continue to be a melding of therapies between different groups, such as Healing Touch, Therapeutic Touch, kinesiology, Reiki, Shiatsu, and craniosacral. “I think the energy practitioner of the future will have many methods from many sources.”

Nixon and Chitty both look to the future for a change in how energy medicine is taught. Chitty says in the long term, he expects there to be one emerging curriculum for energy work in which students will “gain a range of methods borrowed from many sources.” Then, he says, maybe the term “energy therapy” would take on a new meaning entirely.

Nixon is hopeful that in the future, when courses in anatomy and structure are taught in medical, psychology, and bodywork schools, the energetic system will be taught right alongside them. “We’d teach about the physical body and the energy body in all the schools of thought,” she says, just as they did 3,000 years ago in Eastern cultures. Then there would be no question about its legitimacy.

Finally, Chitty says, “at some point I expect that the energy medicine idea that healing can come from the inside out, instead of the outside in, will strike a popular chord.” The result will eventually be a greater acceptance by laypeople, he says, “leading to a decentralized non-medical thread of healthcare.”

Battling Cynics (and Neighbors)

While he believes it deserves a place there, Chitty is less optimistic than some about energy medicine’s acceptance into a medical paradigm. There will undoubtedly be continued, grassroots word-of-mouth efforts to promote energy medicine, but he says cynics will do their best to discredit the work. “Energy work is effective, safe, and has no side effects for a host of conditions. However, I don’t expect it to be widely accepted for numerous reasons, particularly economic and political. It’s too effective and inexpensive.”

Even though the science is there to prove the validity of energy work, Chitty says the skeptics will continue to deny it — loudly. And pseudo-scientists will continue to try to demean it.

“I think energy work will remain on the periphery, for folks who are looking for something different, often because they are not satisfied with the ineffectiveness, expense, and side effects of mainstream healthcare. Increasing dollars will continue to flow into energy work, but I think it will be non-mainstream for a long time.”

Mainstream or not, Chitty is concerned about the threat facing polarity therapy and other forms of energy work. “The AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) and its school owners are working to get all touch regulated as massage, and to make polarity therapy and other smaller modalities just a subset of massage,” he says. This obviously doesn’t sit well with those practicing energy medicine. “This means that their version of polarity would consist of a day or two of spa-friendly hand positions taught by some massage faculty member who read a book sometime, and the real depth of concepts would be ignored.” Chitty isn’t alone in his concerns. From Reiki to Healing Touch to Shiatsu, energy modality workers and others who fall outside the scope of massage are crying foul.

“As long as the massage industry continues its monopolistic campaign against smaller modalities, I expect polarity to be watered down in many situations,” Chitty says. And this campaign, he says, is an effort to “own all touch therapy education dollars, disguised as ‘consumer protection.'” The irony is, that for those newcomers wanting to practice energy techniques, regulation would require they first enroll in a massage school, when in fact, with most, a massage education is not necessary to practice energy work safely and effectively.

As with so many CAM therapies, energy practitioners are excited for the future. Science is starting to give voice to what those on the front lines have known all along. “The power of presence and the power of touch affects change in the therapeutic relationship,” Nixon says. “We’ve known this for 20 years, but now we have the data. We’re excited as bodyworkers, because we’re seeing what we’ve experienced within ourselves and with our clients. The Western mind can finally measure it. That’s given us great empowerment.”

When all is said and done, the battle for energy medicine will be fought largely by the consumer. Their voice will dictate just how long the current allopathic framework can hold before the demands for more effective treatments bring energy medicine and other CAM therapies pouring in.

Dailey reminds us that it’s that voice we’re fighting to protect, and why. “Why do I use energetic techniques in my everyday practice of medicine? Is it because they are simple, easy to use, inexpensive, don’t require complex equipment or instrumentation, and have little known adverse effects? Yes. Is it because anyone can learn these techniques and utilize them for themselves? Yes. And, because in using these therapies, it is possible to reach and touch someone in a loving way that sometimes escapes modern medicine.” Quite simply, Dailey says, “These therapies can be truly healing.”

By Karrie Osborn, contributing editor to Massage & Bodwork magazine.
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, August/September 2005.
Copyright 2005. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
References
1 Eisenberg, D.M. et al. Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997: results of a follow-up national survey. JAMA 1998 Nov. 11, 280(18):1569-75.
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