Stories of healing illness through energy or biofield healing are told in many cultures.
Today almost 5 percent of the United States population has experienced and continues to experience some form of bioenergy therapy. This type of therapy is most often used for the treatment of pain, but is also sought by those who have chronic medical illnesses such as depression, cancer and chronic fatigue.
There are many different types of biofield therapy. Reiki, healing touch and therapeutic touch practitioners are common.
In some cultures, people trained in Qigong breathing practices use bioenergy to heal. Prayer is considered, by the CDC, as a form of energy healing too. Many have benefitted from prayer-based healing therapies.
There is a large body of medical research on the health benefits of meditation. Some believe that meditation stimulates the production and flow of bioenergy and that this increase in energy is the reason for the health benefits.
Over the past 20 years numerous medical studies have suggested a health benefit from biofield therapies.
A 2018 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine demonstrated that in hospitalized patients in New Hampshire, a single session of Reiki substantially reduced pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression.
Another 2018 study in the Journal of Evidence Based Integrative Medicine, Reiki and physical therapy were equal in relieving the pain of a herniated disc in the low back as well as increasing activities of daily living. However, those treated with Reiki therapy responded faster. Both Reiki and physical therapy were more effective than the usual medications used for pain.
A double blinded, placebo-controlled study on carpal tunnel in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2016) demonstrated that biofield therapy was significantly better than placebo. In this study 60 people with carpal tunnel were randomized to biofield therapy or placebo. Those in the biofield therapy group had significant and lasting improvements in function, pain and numbness in their fingers.
Biofield (energy) healing has a good foundation in both biology and quantum physics. We are very energetic beings generating heat, electricity, light and a measurable magnetic field. As a result, we are affected (positively or negatively) by all energy. It is a fact that most energy flows "down hill" and as a general rule of thumb in the biofield realm, those people who have "higher" energy or can access "higher" energies tend to be better healers.
There do not seem to be any significant negative side effects to biofield therapy and it can be used, as an adjunct therapy, for any medical condition.
I have seen some very positive results with bioenergy therapy. It is usually not covered by medical insurance, but can be cost-effective since long-term benefits seem to be the rule rather than the exception.
On May 12, I am hosting a biofield Heal-a-Thon for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The Heal-a-Thon is free to everyone, but I am asking for an optional, modest donation after an energy therapy session. All monies go to St. Jude's. For more information, please call (847) 923-0046.
• Patrick B. Massey, MD, PH.D., is medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village. His website is www.alt-med.org.