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Respectable Energy

by Leon Chaitow, ND DO(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 18 - March 1997

This week I attended a post-graduation party at the University of Westminster. Candidates from the first intake of the MA in Therapeutic Bodywork had, with all due ceremony, received their well deserved degrees. Amongst the recipients were a number of individuals who had previous Bachelors degrees but also some who had entered the course through the process of a rigorous interview and essay submission – without a prior degree. One interesting – and surprisingly common – feature which emerged when speaking to the graduates was that the degree, for all its importance, was less significant than the amazing learning process it’s attainment had involved – the equivalent of the Olympic ideal that ‘taking part is more important than winning’. This is not to suggest that the award was other than a significant milestone in the lives of all those who had applied themselves to this endeavour but highlights the broadening, deepening effect of the exposure to critical thinking which such a course produces.

Those to whom I spoke talked of the changes in themselves that the two year immersion in critical thinking and reflection had wrought. They would never see things in the same way again - never again accept anything they heard or read without stringent examination as to its validity – and will all have seriously examined their own beliefs and methods, for now they had the tools to perform such examination logically and efficiently.

When, in passing, I asked one graduate how this devotion to reflection and intellectual honesty squared with her recent completion of a craniosacral course – with its less than technical descriptions of ‘energy’ and ‘fluid fluctuations’ – she frankly admitted that that there was “difficulty” – but that because what she was doing in craniosacral work was so patently effective she would struggle to find explanations which were intellectually acceptable.

As courses in complementary health care at British universities multiply this dichotomy between scientific rigour and the apparently as yet incomplete explanations for the mechanisms involved in some aspects of alternative/complementary treatment, will be increasingly highlighted.

While craniosacral therapy has solid scientific – albeit mechanistic – validation for some aspects of what it does and claims (for example sutural mobility throughout adult life is no longer in question[1] - some explanations for what is thought to be happening during gentle cranial manipulation remain in question (for example flexion at the occipito-sphenoidal junction during adult life – something central to many of the techniques used – is impossible since this cartilaginous synchondrosis becomes a solid bone during the third decade of life[2].

The same unease regarding many currently available explanations for approaches which patently ‘work’, seems to be true in other complementary areas. For example, were detailed analysis made of what is claimed in reflexology questions aplenty would emerge regarding many of the suggested reflex connections. This does not detract from the immense value of what seems to happen during a reflexology treatment session – but places a burden of finding more coherent and scientifically acceptable explanations on this fast developing profession.

Similar burdens attach to Applied Kinesiology and Polarity Therapy as well as to many methods which base their explanations for efficacy on ‘energy’ interpretations.

However, help may be at hand – literally – to assist in explaining aspects of not just reflexology, polarity and cranial therapy efficacy – but many other forms of manual therapy. This aid derives from a deeply researched, scientifically based evaluation of ‘energy medicine’ by American scientist James Oschman PhD, offered in a series of articles (ongoing) in the new Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy which I am editing for Churchill Livingstone (a complimentary first issue is available by calling 0131-556-2424 and asking for Hilary Brown).

Dr Oschman has shown that research validation exists aplenty, based on numerous tests conducted at ‘scientific’ medical research establishments, of the transmission by the human hand of energy emissions which have healing potentials.

In current medical setting pulsed magnetic fields are used to ‘jump start’ the healing of tissues such as fractured bone and traumatised muscle. It is in the extremely low frequencies (below 100Hz) – ELF – that most research is currently being focussed.[3]

When healers utilising Therapeutic touch or polarity therapy have been examined in laboratory conditions the emissions from their hands have been found to range from 0.3 Hz to 30hz. What is known from the use of pulsed magnetic field healing potentials is that at 2Hz nerve tissue regenerates, at 7Hz bone growth is triggered, at 10Hz ligaments heal while at between 15 and 72 Hz skin necrosis decreases and capillaries form.

The research documentation which validates the production of ‘healing energy’ from the human hand will be carried in issue 3 of this important new peer reviewed Journal (to appear in March 1997).

As James Oschman hypothesises in this series, “Healing Energy”, whether produced by a medical device or projected from the human body, is energy of a particular frequency or set of frequencies that stimulates the repair of one or more tissues.”

And of course this same energy may be being transmitted when craniosacral therapy is applied, or reflexology, or any other bodywork approach – it may offer the common thread which explains so much which remains mysterious. It may also allow the replacement or modification of current explanations offered by these systems for the undoubted success of their methods.

All it takes is for us to realise that rational explanations, albeit somewhat surprising ones, exist for much that takes place in the healing context – with energy as its base. The rigours of academia may then be applied to evaluation of those healing systems which as yet remain on the fringe.


1 Retzlaff E, Mitchell F (eds) 1987 The Cranium and its sutures Springer Verlag Berlin
2 Grays Anatomy 1989 (37th Edition) Churchill Livingstone Edinburgh (page 466)
3 Oschman J Series on Energy Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies volume 1 numbers 1 & 2


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About Leon Chaitow, ND DO

Leon Chaitow ND DO - December 7, 1937 — September 20, 2018 was a registered Osteopath and Naturopath and an Honorary Fellow at the University of Westminster. He has been author of over 70 books, edited the peer reviewed Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, and practised in a NHS Health Centre and privately. He taught widely to Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Massage Therapists. Further information about Leon who sadly died 20 September 2018 is available via his website:

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