- Feb 9, 2011
- Reaction score
The following article was posted on Facebook by Laura Allen. She gave me consent to repost it in its entirety here on MassagePlanetL. Here's a link to the original article and the excellent discussion that followed: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/note.php?note_id=10150147746245921
Where Science and Woo-Woo Collide
by Laura Allen on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 11:52am.
A discussion about using crystals for healing that I was participating in yesterday spurred me to write this note. I've joked many times about the arguments between the "white coats" and the "crystal carriers"...I personally started doing energy work in 1993, and then I attended a massage school that was heavy on woo-woo, and the concept of healing with crystals was not new to me. I own a large collection of crystals and I used to regularly whip them out and use them on clients. You can view my collection in the photos on my profile page.
In the past couple of years, I have gotten more and more interested in the evidence-based practice of massage and other healing modalities. I've had the opportunity to interact with some brilliant minds. There are some very well-educated people among the ranks of massage therapists. I enjoy talking with them--some of their knowledge might accidentally rub off on me! Some of them automatically discount anything that can't be proven scientifically, and some of them don't. One scientist and massage therapist who has made a big impression on me is Keith Eric Grant. Keith holds a PhD in Applied Science from UC Davis, and an undergraduate degree in Physics from San Jose State University. He first came on my radar when I started blogging about the politics of massage, because he was doing it years before I started (see http://www.ramblemuse.com). He's also a Scottish dancer and a creative person...I just think of him as a rocket scientist who does massage. Pretty dang wild.
Keith does not strike me as judgmental, and he is not one of those people who automatically discounts anything that's woo-woo, but if there is a scientific explanation for or against it, he can usually provide it. What he had to say in the crystal healing discussion yesterday 1) was explained in terms simple enough for me to understand it and 2) makes perfect sense. I asked him if I could repost his comments, so here they are. I am cutting and pasting the pertinent parts of Keith's explanations from the FB page of Dr. Christopher Moyer, who is not a massage therapist but who is a scientist who conducts research in the field of massage therapy, who started this whole discussion.
In Keith's words:
"...the word piezoelectricity means electricity resulting from pressure. It is derived from the Greek piezo or piezein (πιέζειν), which means to squeeze or press, and electric or electron (ήλεκτρον), which stands for amber – an ancient so...urce of electric charge. Piezoelectricity is the direct result of the piezoelectric effect.
In short, if you deform a piezoelectric crystal by applying sufficient pressure upon it, a small voleforum.xxxe will be generated across the crystal. That can be useful for creating pressure sensors. Tom Myers talks about the possibility of bone tissue being piezoelectric and that the resulting voleforum.xxxe from a stress applied to bone inhibits osteoclasts from collecting fibers, resulting in the strengthening of bone along lines of stress (Wolff's law).
It's a big jump between that property and any healing effect the way crystals are used. I suppose, if you could apply enough pressure, it might come as a shock...
And yes, when I said it's a big jump from that consideration of piezoelectric effect influencing remodeling to crystal healing I was understating that I don't see any connection.
As to refuting pseudoscience claim, if one hears piezoelectric in the word salad, one can state what the piezoelectric effect actually is, and then ask for clarification on how one goes from that knowledge to what is claimed. It's basically, in poker terminology, calling the bluff on just tossing out words and seeing if there actually is anything in their mental "hand".
Unfortunately there's a strong wish for some sort of magic beyond the very real magic of human touch and human caring. Also unfortunately, there are those willing to trot out all sorts of "solutions" to that desire for magic."
I made a few comments of my own, based on my past experience and what I was taught about the use of crystals, which was that healthy tissue vibrates at X frequency, diseased tissue vibrates at Y frequency, and the application of crystals where healing was needed would raise the vibration. And also that using crystals that correspond to the chakra colors would tune the chakras.
"Laura, way up there in the conversation talked about "vibration". This actually is an apt description of a therapy that is not crystal healing. Our molecules are vibrating. Because of this they emit a detectable vibration. If we bring something close or in contact with us that is vibrating at a higher frequency, it raises our own frequency a bit.
The vibration is thermal vibration and what we emit is infrared radiation. The therapy that is consistent with this vibration is hot stone therapy. A slightly hotter object will radiate with a blackbody spectrum at a slight higher infrared frequency.
If we had molecules or atoms vibrating that had substantially higher frequencies, we would emit light in the visible, ultraviolet, xray or gamma ray bands as the frequency went up. This isn't observed. At some point also, the energy of vibration would be large enough to break our molecules apart, which is not considered to be healthy.
If we were simply vibrating without charge, we would be emitting compressional or sound waves of some frequency. If they were below human hearing, we would rumble, like bass speakers. If we were within the range of human hearing, we would be unbearably noisy. If we were ultrasonic, we would annoy dogs.
In all of the above, as with infrared radiation, we would be losing energy. Apart from thermal radiation, no evidence exists for this.
Part of the problem with such theories of healing is they take an effect in isolation of a specific result. But, if the emission or field or whatever actually existed, there would be other observable effects. Just as with sound and electromagnetic radiation, there would be loads of observable effects that long ago would have provided research and moved such techniques into observable everyday use. We would see something much akin to Larry Niven's magical worlds in which magic is powered by "mana" and there are uses both large and small.Another novel in which such a world is postulated is Poul Anderson's "Operation Chaos". So part of what's missing is to ask, "if this really were true, what else would we expect to see?".This is exactly what had been done by a number of authors through the years, with far more self-consistent results than what's seen in massage circles."
I believe there are plenty of things in this world that can't be explained (or just haven't been yet), but when there is a reasonable proven explanation, I am going to listen to it. I am not Miss Can't-Be-Wrong, and I am always willing to listen to another theory.
I love my crystals. I love to look at them and touch them and display them for others to see. They're from the earth! They feed my soul. I don't think they're doing anything for my body. I'm not in any judgment of those who still use them for healing purposes...but massage therapists and others who refer to themselves as healers are very well known for talking about "energy" and there are some basic scientific laws of energy that we tend to ignore. I don't think it helps our credibility when we make wild claims we can't back up or when we ignore things that HAVE been proven.
I need to lie down on the bed and put a big cool crystal on my head...maybe it will balance my third eye chakra, and maybe it won't. Somebody really needs to do some scientific research on that.