Energy & Medicine


Mention the word ‘energy’ to some people, especially in conjunction with the word ‘healing’, and watch the reaction. More often than not it will be the same as if you had produced a rather unpleasant smell. This is unfortunate. It is generally accepted that energy, in the form of ATP derived from metabolic reactions, is required for any healing process to occur. And yet the concept of influencing this process is in some way considered cranky. In this article I want to provide a taste of how the empiricism and science of energetics can be reconciled.

Advances in quantum physics have begun to elucidate new realms of matter and anti-matter. This has required shifts in expert consensus that are slowly trickling down to the coal-face of clinical medicine. Take the phenomenon of gravity for example. We know that an apple falling from a tree will fall toward the Earth. This empirical observation was well documented before Sir Isaac Newton described the science behind it. But why should any object with mass necessarily attract other objects toward it? It has taken recent research to discover particles of matter, acting as atomic ‘glue’, responsible for gravitational attraction.

Magnetism is another, related, property familiar to all but understood by few. At a fundamental level we still do not know what it is. Without the use of iron filings, compasses or magnetometers we are not consciously aware of magnetic fields. Perhaps this awareness is just another level of palpation that can be developed. Magnetic healing has had a bad press due to charlatans including Anton Mesmer but it has been a feature of medical practise through the ages. An example of today’s magnetic medicine might be the use of MRI.

A flow of electrons produces magnetic fields. Thus a nerve fibre conducting an action potential (which is an alternating current going from polarised to depolarised states) along its length will cause a measurable biomagnetic field. Energy fields can lay the foundations for form (as with the imposed regular pattern of iron filings). Crystalline structures have piezoelectric properties (like a quartz crystal in a watch producing regular pulses of electrical energy) and many of the structures in the body are crystalline (think of a cross-section of the actin and myosin filament arrangement in skeletal muscle or rods and cones in the retina). This leads to vibrational energy being produced. Vibrating tissues will have specific resonating frequencies that can be harmonised (say between practitioner and patient). These are just a few illustrations of bioenergetic principles.

We ignore these principles at our peril. As early as 1934, a Yale professor of medicine Harold Saxton Burr was discovering subtle bioelectric field changes could be used as predictors for the later development of malignant tumours in mice. These changes occur before other means of detection become effective. Extending this to osteopathy and other forms of manual medicine, it is feasible to imagine detecting a change in the structure of the bioelectric field and using this to make an early diagnosis of dysfunction. Some healers would claim to do this already. Much research has been done into bioelectric fields with some fascinating results including the consistent prediction of ovulation and detection of brain electrical field changes in anticipation of thought. Our knowledge is evolving from an emphasis on bioelectricity to an understanding of bioelectronics.

The debate between mechanistic and vitalistic philosophies will continue as long as there are new discoveries to be made. History has taught us that yesterday’s mysticism, paranormality, and metaphysics can become rationalised by today’s science. Important as it is to retain healthy scepticism, remember that what may seem esoteric now could become mainstream.

If this has aroused an interest then I would recommend reading an excellent overview: ‘Energy Medicine, The Scientific Basis’ by James L. Oschmann (published by Churchill Livingstone).

Author: David Propert, Osteopath at Calmer Clinics