*What follows is a very basic explanation of energy healing and energy concepts. It is not meant to be comprehensive in nature and offers only the most basic of information. Additinally, energy healing/concepts are only one aspect of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. Other aspects exist. Medical health and wellness is a personal choice. None of the information contained here is meant to be used without the advice of a practiced healer, physician, or doctor (Western biomedicine or otherwise). In the event of an emergency, debilitating disease, or injuries please seek trained medical attention immediatly.*
Various traditions and philosophies (including Western bio-medicine) have theories about energy running through the body. In some cases, this energy is electro-magnetic in origin; in others it is more spiritual. In almost all cases, these theories point to the human body as not only a mechanical machine but one of power and energy.
Manipulation (in the non-hostile sense) of these energies is the center piece of many healing strategies. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Reiki (Japanese), Ayurvedic medicine (Indian subcontinent), and Energy Medicine (Western) all have elements of this practice (to varying degrees). Techniques such as acupressure, healing energy, stones, acupuncture, etc. all focus primarily on clearing these energy flows and allowing the natural systems of the body to be utilized.
Other aspects of energy healing involve practices such as Qigong, Tai Chi, Yoga, and focused meditation. In these cases, the practices are prevention based in nature with the idea that by calming the body system (e.g. mind, body, spirit) better energy flow may be possible. The same effect has been found in professional athletes who speak of a meditative calm coming over them when they are “In The Zone.” Some of this is related to the physical systems of the body while others are energy based in nature.
What is presented below is a general overview of some of the different energy systems that are prevalent in the Complementary and Alternative Medical (CAM) field. This is not meant to be the totality of the subject but more of a jumping off point for personal growth and enlightenment. Additinally, there are other CAM modalities and methiodsa that are presented through the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).
Reiki (paraphrased from Reiki.org)
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
An amazingly simple technique to learn, the ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is passed on during an “attunement” given by a Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of “life force energy” to improve one’s health and enhance the quality of life.
While Reiki is spiritual in nature, it is not a religion. It has no dogma, and there is nothing you must believe in order to learn and use Reiki. In fact, Reiki is not dependent on belief at all and will work whether you believe in it or not. Because Reiki comes from God, many people find that using Reiki puts them more in touch with the experience of their religion rather than having only an intellectual concept of it.
Complementary Versus Alternative
Many Americans, nearly 40 percent, use health care approaches developed outside of mainstream Western, or conventional, medicine for specific conditions or overall well-being. When describing health approaches with non-mainstream roots, people often use the words “alternative” and “complementary” interchangeably, but the two terms refer to different concepts:
- “Complementary” generally refers to using a non-mainstream approach together with conventional medicine.
- “Alternative” refers to using a non-mainstream approach in place of conventional medicine.
True alternative medicine is not common. Most people use non-mainstream approaches along with conventional treatments. And the boundaries between complementary and conventional medicine overlap and change with time. For example, guided imagery and massage, both once considered complementary or alternative, are used regularly in some hospitals to help with pain management.
NCCAM generally uses the term “complementary health approaches” when discussing the practices and products we study for various health conditions. When thinking about our research portfolio, we often find it useful to consider these approaches as generally falling into one of two subgroups—natural products or mind and body practices.
This group includes a variety of products, such as herbs (also known as botanicals), vitamins and minerals, and probiotics. They are widely marketed, readily available to consumers, and often sold as dietary supplements.
Interest in and use of natural products have grown considerably in the past few decades. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included a comprehensive survey on the use of complementary health approaches by Americans, 17.7 percent of American adults had used a nonvitamin/nonmineral natural product in the past year. These products were the most popular complementary health approaches among both adults and children. The most commonly used natural product among adults in the past 30 days was fish oil/omega 3s (reported by 37.4 percent of all adults who said they used natural products); popular products for children (taken in the past 30 days) included echinacea (37.2 percent) and fish oil/omega 3s (30.5 percent).
Some of these products have been studied in large, placebo-controlled trials, many of which have failed to show anticipated effects. Research on others to determine whether they are effective and safe is ongoing. While there are indications that some may be helpful, more needs to be learned about the effects of these products in the human body and about their safety and potential interactions with medicines and with other natural products.
Mind and Body Practices
Mind and body practices include a large and diverse group of procedures or techniques administered or taught by a trained practitioner or teacher. For example,
- Acupuncture is a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body—most often by inserting thin needles through the skin.
- Massage therapy includes many different techniques in which practitioners manually manipulate the soft tissues of the body.
- Most meditation techniques,such as mindfulness meditation or transcendental meditation, involve ways in which a person learns to focus attention.
- Movement therapies include a broad range of Eastern and Western movement-based approaches; examples include Feldenkrais method, Alexander technique, Pilates, Rolfing Structural Integration, and Trager psychophysical integration.
- Relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation, are designed to produce the body’s natural relaxation response.
- Spinal manipulation is practiced by health care professionals such as chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, naturopathic physicians, physical therapists, and some medical doctors. Practitioners perform spinal manipulation by using their hands or a device to apply a controlled force to a joint of the spine. The amount of force applied depends on the form of manipulation used.
- Tai chi and qi gong are practices from traditional Chinese medicine that combine specific movements or postures, coordinated breathing, and mental focus.
- The various styles of yoga used for health purposes typically combine physical postures or movement, breathing techniques, and meditation.
Other examples of mind and body practices include healing touch and hypnotherapy.
According to the 2007 NHIS, several mind and body practices ranked among the top complementary health approaches used by adults. The mind and body practices most commonly used included deep breathing, meditation, chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, massage, yoga, progressive relaxation, and guided imagery.
The amount of research on mind and body approaches varies widely depending on the practice. For example, acupuncture, yoga, spinal manipulation, and meditation have had many studies, and some of these practices appear to hold promise in pain management, whereas other practices have had little research to date.
Other Complementary Health Approaches
The two broad areas—natural products and mind and body practices—capture most complementary health approaches. However, some approaches may not neatly fit into either of these groups—for example, the practices of traditional healers, Ayurvedic medicine from India, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy.
- United States Department of Health and Human Services “CAM Basics” (01 May 2013). Retrieved 19 September 2013 from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam