Bio-energy healing is one area of nontraditional medicine that is quietly making inroads into traditional medicine. However, there are many forms, various levels of training and the theory behind it can be confusing.
Bio-energy based healing is, to my knowledge, found in all culturally based medical systems. From stimulating Qi (chee) or bio-energy in Oriental medicine to shamanic chanting in Native American healing, the manipulating, enhancing and balancing of energy flow may be one of the oldest healing practices known to man. Even in Western medicine, various forms of biologically derived energy is measured for diagnosis illness and manipulated for healing.
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Training in bio-energy based healing is becoming more common and that has positive and negative implications. Traditionally, bio-energy healing was learned through a lengthy apprenticeship. It would take years of training before the apprentice healer became a good conduit for the flow of energy. As a result, bio-energy healers were few and far between. Today, there are many programs that have incorporated a relatively standardized curriculum. Some programs are very short, like over a long weekend. Other programs still take years of training, but are available to many people. I feel that longer programs allow for in-depth training and probably result in better bio-energy practitioners.
Energy healing is based on the fact that humans are very energetic organisms. We create heat, give off light, generate electricity and even have a measurable magnetic field. According to the principles of quantum physics, we are actually energy beings that occupy a physical space. Many energy medicine practitioners believe that we have specific energy generators in the body, commonly referred to as charkas and that energy travels through the body along pathways called meridians. One could imagine that the charkas are cities connected by energy roads or meridians. In addition, many believe that we actually have layers of energy surrounding our bodies … like layers of an onion. These energy layers are very important for health and well-being. Disease and illness are related to disturbances or blockages in the charkas, meridians and various energy fields. In theory, an energy healer balances the disturbances, removes blockages and even adds energy if needed.
Common bio-energy medicine therapies include reiki (believed to have originated by Mikao Usui, a Japanese Buddhist, in 1922), therapeutic touch (developed by Dora Kunz and nurse Dolores Krieger), distance healing (healing done at a distance) and healing touch (started by nurse Janet Mentgen).
Bio-energy healing is somewhat controversial. There is good scientific evidence to indicate that bio-energy fields exist and that these energies can be manipulated by thought or intention. However, the existence of chakras and meridians has not been conclusively proven, possibly because we lack the appropriate technology.
According to the current medical research, the medical benefits of bio-energy healing are mixed. Some studies have shown a measurable benefit while others are inconclusive. Fortunately, there do not seem to be any real side effects to bio-energy therapies for most medical conditions. It is worth a try.
• Patrick B. Massey, M.D., Ph.D is medical director for complementary and alternative medicine for the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network. His website is www.alt-med.org.