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Energy Medicine: Part One — The Science

by Susan Brinkmann

Description

This article by Susan Brinkmann is the eighth in a multi-part series dealing with various New Age philosophies. In this installment the author provides scientific information on the practice of "energy medicine."

Larger Work

Colorado Catholic Herald

Publisher & Date

Diocese of Colorado Springs, October 18, 2007

It's called "ki" in Japan, "chi" in China and "prana" in India — but it all means the same thing — a form of universal "energy" which is believed to flow through human beings that can become unbalanced. Practitioners of Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong, polarity therapy, and as many as 60 other forms of "energy healing" seek to channel this energy to restore health.

Although originating in the East, energy medicine has become popular in the West, and is practiced in many U.S. medical facilities.

Because these practices are not regulated by the FDA and are not required to meet their rigorous standards of efficacy, consumers need to beware. This is especially true because alternative and complimentary medicine has become a multimillion dollar business in the United States.

In order to protect consumers against potential fraud, Congress established a National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 1998.

In an overview of the field of energy medicine, the NCCAM has concluded that most techniques are not scientifically valid.

As their report indicates, consumers need to be made aware of the scientific distinction between the two forms of energy — veritable and putative — and which is involved in energy medicine.

Veritable energy consists of mechanical vibrations (such as sound) and electromagnetic forces, including visible light, magnetism, monochromatic radiation and rays from other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. "They involve the use of specific, measurable wavelengths and frequencies to treat patients," the report states.

Putative energy is what practitioners of Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, reflexology and yoga purport to be manipulating. It consists of alleged "energy fields" that human beings are supposedly infused with. This subtle form of energy, or "life force," is known as "ki" in Japanese medicine and "chi" in Chinese medicine, and elsewhere as "prana," etheric energy and homeopathic resonance.

"These approaches are among the most controversial of complementary and alternative medical practices," the NIH reports, "because neither the external energy fields nor their therapeutic effects have been demonstrated convincingly by any biophysical means."

According to Victor Stenger, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii, the most powerful and accurate detectors known to science have never discovered even a hint of this energy form.

"Much of alternative medicine is based on claims that violate well established scientific principles," writes Stenger in his article, "Energy Medicine," which appeared in The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine.

"Those that require the existence of a bio-energetic field, whether therapeutic touch or [traditional Chinese] acupuncture, should be asked to meet the same criteria as anyone else who claims a phenomenon whose existence goes beyond established science. They have an enormous burden of proof. . . ."

The fact that major nursing organizations and publications refer to these unsubstantiated energy forms is causing major problems in the medical community. "Medical journals should follow the lead of most scientific journals and not publish extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence," Stenger writes.

Unfortunately, there is confusion among the public and even among some healers as to what kind of energy is being manipulated. This is why the best source for this information is the practitioners' own literature.

For instance, Reiki literature clearly refers to the energy it manipulates as a "spiritually guided life-force energy." Polarity therapists claim they are working the "human energy field" but go on to say that this energy field "exists everywhere in nature." Cranial Sacral Biodynamics claims it works on the "formation of a relationship between the practitioner and the inherent ordering principle, the Breath of Life" of a client.

Energy medicine also causes confusion in the professional realm — particularly in the field of legitimate medical massage, which is defined as the manual manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for therapeutic purposes. Confusing legitimate medical massage with energy healers who purport to do much more, casts a pall of charlatanism over the whole medical profession.

The problem has become so serious that the American Medical Massage Association (AMMA) issued a position statement in December 2005 denouncing six categories of what are considered metaphysical, paranormal or pseudoscientific practices that include Reiki, therapeutic touch, touch for health, crystal healing, aroma energy and many others.

The AMMA believes the widespread use of these methods "has advanced to the point of becoming a serious problem that is adversely affecting the overall professional image and reputation of massage therapy in the United States."

According to the AMMA's legislative and external affairs coordinator, Amanda Cihak, "While it is scientific fact that the human body is comprised of energy, i.e., protons, neutrons, electrons, there is a vast difference between those massage therapists wanting to assist the body's natural healing processes and those who claim they can manipulate one's 'energy,' chi, life-force, etc.

"Many times a practitioner will perform Reiki, Energy Healing, Cranial Sacral or Polarity Therapy without the consent or desire of a client, while they believe they are receiving an actual clinical or medical massage treatment," Cihak says.

Insurance companies are yet another industry experiencing problems from this confusion of legitimate medical massage and energy healing. According to Cihak, more and more companies throughout the country are making a distinction between 'massage therapy' which includes Reiki practitioners, and 'clinical massage therapy' which requires additional training, documentation and education specifically in clinical/medical massage.

The confusion is enhanced when energy healers are permitted to work in legitimate medical facilities. This is particularly problematic in Christian hospitals.

Aside from showing a long list of "professional organization" endorsements, energy healers often get in the door at Christian hospitals by claiming techniques such as Therapeutic Touch and Reiki have nothing to do with religion.

According to the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), these claims are untrue.

In their February 2004 position statement, titled, "Therapeutic Touch is not a Catholic Hospital Pastoral Practice," the CMA explains why these practices come with considerable "religious baggage" in spite of the application of a secular veneer, and are therefore not compatible with Catholicism.

"Therapeutic touch is essentially a 'New Age' manifestation in a medical setting," writes Doctor Patrick Guinan in the CMA document. "New Age philosophy is well defined in the recent Vatican document, 'Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Waters of Life.' New Age is the belief that conscious reality consists of cosmic energy and pantheistic forces that can be known and controlled by an elite knowledgeable in this mystical system. New Age is in direct contrast to traditional Western Judeo-Christian culture that posits a personal God and humans endowed with a free will.'"

(This article originally appeared in The Catholic Standard and Times, the Philadalphia archdiocesan newspaper.)


Other articles in this series:

PART I: Popular Movement Is One of the Most Pressing Challenges to Christian Faith

PART II: Divinization: Consulting Psychics and Mediums

PART III: Reiki and Healing Touch

PART IV: The Enneagram: What's Your Number?

PART V: Is Acupuncture Acceptable for Catholics?

PART VI: Bewitched by Wicca

PART VII: Ouija Boards and Tarot Cards

PART VIII: Energy Medicine: Part One — The Science

PART IX: Energy Medicine: Part Two — The Theology

PART X: The Exercise of Religion: Yoga

Ten questions to help you determine 'Christian or New Age?'

© The Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs

This item 8761 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org