The concept of a personal energy system is well-established. Without getting into the physics, everyone can relate to the fact that some days we have more energy than others. Energy therapy seeks to balance and heal the personal energy system in subtle ways using an external energy source. Some conventional medicine techniques also rely on the application of external energy to heal the body. Think about a heating pad used to reduce pain.
Many cultures have built sophisticated healing systems on the concept of a circulating personal energetic life force (called, for example, ki, chi, or prana) and other aspects of personal energy. These complex healing systems, used and honed for thousands of years, are the basis for such practices as acupuncture, hands-on healing, chanting, and many other ways of viewing and balancing the body’s energy.
“EH [energy healing] is noninvasive and poses little downside risk to patients. More than 50 major hospitals and clinics throughout the United States offer EH to patients. Because negative outcomes are at or near zero throughout the literature, EH is a candidate for use on many medical conditions."4
There are tens, maybe hundreds of different energetic healing systems, some new and others well-established. This page will, by necessity, provide sample studies for only a few of these systems.
How can this help?
While there have been no specific clinical studies for energy therapy and ITP, there are studies that are related to some aspects of the disease. These studies and the results from PDSA’s Survey on Non-Traditional Treatments of ITP show that energy therapy can have a positive, healing effect on the body.
Acupuncture, the application of small sterilized needles to specific points (which can also be stimulated by pressure, magnets or heat) can alter T-cells, a type of white blood cell.15 [Note: ITP is considered a T-cell mediated disease.] Although acupuncture usually employs ultra thin, sterilized needles, no bleeding side effects were observed in those with very low platelet counts.7 Thirty percent of respondents in PDSA’s Survey of Non-Traditional Treatments in ITP reported that acupressure and acupuncture increased their platelets or improved their bleeding symptoms with 5% to 10% reporting sustained results. (Survey Results)
Reiki, a Japanese hands-on, energy-therapy system, can reduce stress, increase relaxation, and promote healing. It can also influence the autonomic nervous system, the system that adjusts processes such as heart rate and blood pressure, as well as reduce psychological distress.1,10,14 Nearly 40% of respondents in PDSA’s Survey of Non-Traditional Treatments in ITP reported that Reiki increased their platelet count or improved their bleeding symptoms with 9% to 18% reporting sustained results. (Survey Results)
Healing Touch helped reduce the stress level and heart rate variability in children with cancer.5 In PDSA’s Survey of Non-Traditional Treatments in ITP 21% to 36% reported that Healing Touch increased their platelet count or improved their bleeding symptoms with 6% to 12% reporting sustained results.(Survey Results)
Music and sound therapy have decreased serum IL-4 (an immune regulator) and corticosterone (a stress hormone) in an animal study9 and reduced cd4 and cd8 (immune system proteins) and cortisol (stress hormone) levels in those with an infectious lung disease.8 Participating in music, not just listening, can also positively affect the immune system.6
Qigong (or chi kung), directed breathing combined with movement, is used by millions of people in China everyday and has been for centuries. It can increase the number of white blood cells, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and improve depression, among other things.11 People doing Qigong exercises in combination with prescribed drugs were able to lower the dosage of their medication.13 In a randomized controlled study, medical Qigong reduced inflammation, improved cognitive function, and generally improved the quality of life of cancer patients.12
There is no known downside risk to the hands-on healing therapies such as Reiki and Healing Touch or breathing therapies such as qigong. Since there is nothing to ingest they do not interfere with medications.
Some serious adverse events have been reported for acupuncture treatment for pain, but the reporting and descriptions were incomplete.3 Sustained loud music can produce buzzing in the ears and hearing loss.2 Note that therapeutic music is not administered at a level that can cause hearing damage.
Because energy therapies are individualized and can vary by practitioner, it is important to work with someone who is a licensed or highly trained professional and also very knowledgeable and experienced. PDSA has published a list of questions that can be helpful for choosing any healthcare provider.
“…since starting the acupuncture, I have not taken prednisone for the last four months, and my platelet count has been over 250,000!!!” -Donna
“I started Reiki last week. It was the most wonderful experience! I have never been so relaxed! I felt wonderful! I had peace and had energy and everything looked brighter. Wow! What an experience!” -Sharon
“After being treated for ITP for 6 months I quit prednisone, still with an average platelet count of 70 - 90, feeling exhausted, depressed and really miserable. Luckily, a work mate of mine suggested the Bodytalk system. After the third and final session, my count reached the 200 mark. I was overjoyed and really feeling well.” -Alex
1. Baldwin AL et al. “Reiki improves heart rate homeostasis in laboratory rats.”J Altern Complement Med. 2008 May;14(4):417-22 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18435597
2. Budimcić M et al. [Subjective difficulties in young people related to extensive loud music listening].Srp Arh Celok Lek. 2010 Jul-Aug;138(7-8):404-7.2010 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20842882
3. Capili B et al. “Adverse event reporting in acupuncture clinical trials focusing on pain.” Clin J Pain. 2010 Jan;26(1):43-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20026952
4. DiNucci EM. “Energy healing: a complementary treatment for orthopaedic and other conditions.” Orthop Nurs. 2005 Jul-Aug;24(4):259-69. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16056170
5. Kemper KJ et al. “Impact of healing touch on pediatric oncology outpatients: pilot study.” J Soc Integr Oncol. 2009 Winter;7(1):12-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19476730
6. Kuhn D. “The effects of active and passive participation in musical activity on the immune system as measured by salivary immunoglobulin A (SIgA).” J Music Ther. 2002 Spring;39(1):30-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12015810
7. Ladas EJ, “The safety of acupuncture in children and adolescents with cancer therapy-related thrombocytopenia.” Support Care Cancer. 2010 Nov;18(11):1487-90. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20556436
8. le Roux FH et al. “The effect of Bach's Magnificat on emotions, immune, and endocrine parameters during physiotherapy treatment of patients with infectious lung conditions.” J Music Ther. 2007 Summer;44(2):156-68 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17484523
9. Lu Y et al. “Effects of stress in early life on immune functions in rats with asthma and the effects of music therapy.” J Asthma. 2010 Jun;47(5):526-31http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20560827
10. Mackay N et al. “Autonomic nervous system changes during Reiki treatment: a preliminary study.”J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Dec;10(6):1077-81. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15674004
11. Ng BH et al. “Psychophysiological outcomes of health qigong for chronic conditions: a systematic review.”Psychophysiology. 2009 Mar;46(2):257-69.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19170945
12. Oh B, et al “Effect of medical Qigong on cognitive function, quality of life, and a biomarker of inflammation in cancer patients: a randomized controlled trial.” Support Care Cancer. 2011 Jun 19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21688163
13. Sancier KM. “Therapeutic benefits of qigong exercises in combination with drugs.” J Altern Complement Med. 1999 Aug;5(4):383-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10471019
14. Shore AG. “Long-term effects of energetic healing on symptoms of psychological depression and self-perceived stress.” Altern Ther Health Med. 2004 May-Jun;10(3):42-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15154152
15. Yuan J et al. “[Effect of acupuncture on T-lymphocyte and its subsets from the peripheral blood of patients with malignant neoplasm].”[Article in Chinese] Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. [Acupuncture Research] 1993;18(3):174-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7923712