I decided to write on this subject, not to offend (which I most probably will accomplish), but to ask questions and pose a different way to view energy work. My disclaimer is that in no way do I feel that I am all knowing on the subject of energy work while I also am humble enough to acquiesce that we are still very limited in our full understanding of the human framework. For us to think that we have come to the pinnacle of understanding the human body is arrogance at its height. Only a few centuries ago some from the “educated group” still thought that the earth was flat, and some even felt it was attached to the back of a giant tortoise! So, the point made is that we are continuously expanding our understanding and then we are able to look back and laugh at what was once thought of as absolute truth. So does that mean energy work needs to be accepted as a viable form of therapy? First, lets look at some facts and beliefs in today’s world.
The Earth is Not Flat and on the Back of a Tortoise!
Unlike times past where the church would persecute anyone from “straying away” from doctrine, we are now in an age of enlightenment. Research rules and proof via double blind studies have become the expected norm before something will be acceptable to the public. While some therapies and modalities are first proven before use in the real world, others are a constant work in progress while more supporting evidence is discovered. (I put massage therapy and chiropractic in this corner) The FDA may even approve a drug because of a double-blind studies proving the efficacy of the product, only later to be yanked from production for misleading or false information. Some routine therapies that have been accepted as “proven” are really only based on a hypothesis, (like the drugs categorized as SSRI’s), which have now slowly been proven to be false and even dangerous. The point that I am trying to show is that we have come to a point as a culture that we demand studies that prove a particular science or medicine before we accept it as viable, but then we throw all caution to the wind if the particular drug company has enough connections to power through their product that is completely unproven and possibly even harmful. Who do we trust?
Give Me Truth or Give Me Death!
We need to accept that there is no absolute truth in the world of science and medicine and I feel this is a dangerous place for our healthcare industry. We are leaving our health and well being up to multinational corporate conglomerates to determine what is considered “mainstream” treatment as opposed to “alternative” treatment based on what insurance companies and drug companies push on us. We need to be educated since there really is no excuse to be uninformed in today’s world with all the power of the internet and Google at our disposal. Obviously there is a lot of information to wade through and we need to develop a critical eye to realize what is bogus information and what is well founded. All that being said we must make a educated decision as to what is good for us and our families along with what possibly may be harmful. So after that verbose introduction, I propose these questions: how would you define Energy Work? What does the research and testimonials say about energy work? Is it safe?
What Is Energy Work?
Energy work basically holds the belief that a healer can channel or alter energy through their client to increase the body’s healing power. Some of the more popular “brands” of energy work are Reiki and Therapeutic Touch while some would include Reflexology and Acupuncture. There has been some noted instances of “energy work” actually having positive results. But we must also keep in mind two plausible reasons for this, first post hoc (latin for: a genuine improvement that may have been experienced coincidental with but independent from anything the healer or patient did or said) or the placebo effect where in the client was convinced the treatment would work and therefore was helped by the healer to tap into their own natural healing power of their body. For this reason, most energy work has been labeled “faith based” since there seems to be a dramatic influence in results depending on the clients bias. Many times when the facts and studies don’t work out the way ones had hoped and the natural inclination is to down play the study’s conclusion. One could look at how the study was performed or the practitioners used or the test subjects that were chosen. While it is true that manual based therapies are difficult to test using the standard double blind clinical tests, energy work is not really based on manual manipulation. It would be so very easy to create a placebo control by having some use faux energy techniques. The studies have not even hinted at the possibility of energy techniques working over placebo effect.
Is Energy Work Safe?
Asking if something is safe implies that it could be dangerous. So is energy work dangerous? It really depends on the situation. If one were to have chronic back or neck pain and they have exhausted other “mainstream” and proven therapies and still found no relief, well then, why not? But if one were suffering from cancer, or any other life threatening illness or condition, it would be very dangerous if this was their first line of defense. I get many clients asking me about my thoughts on various energy and/or meridian based therapies. My blanket response is, “if you have tried everything else, and nothing seems to help, and you believe it will help, than try it. The worst that could happen is that you will have wasted your time and money”. But then again, these are people with chronic pain that is not life threatening. As always, I recommend to everyone searching for answers to do their research. Research the modality, the practitioner, the clinic, the cost as well as the contraindications and possible side effects of any given therapy. Make an informed decision and do not be afraid to ask questions, a lot of questions. If your therapist or doctor has trouble explaining the therapy in terms you understand than its possible that 1) they do not have adequate education or understanding of the procedure or 2) there really is no backing on the subject and it is bogus.
Human Touch, Placebo, Now What?
Take control of your healthcare and do not always rely on your doctor or therapist to provide you with adequate care. Doctors and therapists are just humans, we are driven by our environment, belief systems and life experiences. Even the best intentioned are misled and duped by fantastical testimonials of people recovering from the insurmountable. Human touch and our minds ability to heal have still yet to be fully explored. We are slowly realizing that the power of the placebo effect is very strong. We also are just now starting to understand that something as simple as the human touch can have a major impact in one’s life and of course the reverse is true. Mankind may look back 100 years from now and chuckle at how blind we were to not accept energy work in all its glory, or possibly, they will we look back and laugh at the idea that us mere mortals thought we could control life’s energy….either way we need to be smart and search out what’s best for our health and well being.
1. Effect of Reiki treatments on functional recovery in patients in post stroke rehabilitation: a pilot study.
2. Placebo acupuncture as a form of ritual touch healing: a neurophenomenological model.
3. Reiki for the treatment of fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial.
4. Therapeutic touch in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.
5. Reflexology for the treatment of pain in people with multiple sclerosis: a double-blind randomised sham-controlled clinical trial.
6. The effectiveness of foot reflexology in inducing ovulation: a sham-controlled randomized trial.
7. A randomised controlled study of reflexology for the management of chronic low back pain.
8. Spiritual Healing: More Than Meets the Eye
Do you have any personal anecdotes? Have you personally accepted energy work for any self-care practices?
It seems like you wrote very much without taking any stance.
I have not seen any scientific evidence to show me energy work is anything but relaxation techniques and placebo effect. I only feel it is harmful when it is used in lieu of seeking evidence based care. So if one decides to seek energy work along side standard evidence based care than I feel that is acceptable since being grounded and meditative is in itself beneficial.