We have all seen images of Dr. Frankenstein, waiting for a bolt of lightning to supply the electricity to bring his creation to life.
Turns out Frankenstein had it backwards. Our bodies do not need massive amounts of power to operate, but instead benefit from very small currents, in the range of millionths of an amp.
There is a lot of evidence for the types of energy medicine that involve both an electric current (moving electricity) and an electric charge (that does not move). It is well known that our nerves use low-level currents to communicate. More recently, Dr. Robert Becker, orthopedic surgeon and author of “The Body Electric,” has shown that all animals have a charge to their bodies, with the head being the most electropositive and the limbs (and tails, if they have one) having a negative charge. There also seems to be a weak current stimulated by an injury that controls the healing process. In fact, when Becker applied a positive charge to a worm that had its tail cut off, he caused it to grow an extra head where a tail should have grown. Dr. Becker found that a similar current, supplied by an electric device, could be used to “jumpstart” fracture and wound healing. These devices are in common use today.
Dr. James Oschman, author of “Energy Medicine,” theorizes that this current of healing travels through the fascia. Fascia, also known as connective tissue, extends everywhere throughout the body, including into the cells themselves. It has what are called “piezoelectric” effects, meaning fascia generate a small charge when stretched or compressed. For example, when a bone is bent, one charge develops on the stretched side, and the opposite charge will develop in the compressed side. The charge on the compressed side stimulates bone growth, and the opposing charge promotes dissolving the bone. If the stress stays on the bone for a long time, the bone will literally remodel itself in response to the pressure.
The theory of chi, the healing energy that is the mainstay of acupuncture treatment, shares a lot of similarities with electricity. The chi is thought to travel along meridians, similar to electricity along a wire; this is how acupuncture affects tissues far from where the needles are placed. Most acupuncture points have very different electric properties than the surrounding skin, which are altered even more when the area is injured.
One style of acupuncture uses a machine to test the balance of the electric potentials of key acupoints throughout the body. The acupuncturist can then use needles, or electric stimulation, to rebalance the system. It has also been pointed out that a needle, inserted into a salty fluid (like that in our bodies) produces electric effects, and that twisting the needle can increase this effect.
Patients often ask if acupuncture needles have a drug on the tip that makes them work. They cannot imagine that just piercing the skin, which produces an electric effect, could have such an impact. Yet we have no problem believing that a small pill, which produces a chemical effect, will totally change our bodies. Energy medicines require a new way of thinking about how our bodies work, with a different focus than the chemical-based, drug-centered approaches we’re so used to.
Dr. Michael Noonan practices chiropractic, chiropractic acupuncture and other wellness therapies in Old Town. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.