"Energy" is a hot buzzword these days. It's often brought up in the discussion of fueling vehicles and powering homes, but there's another popularly referenced energy known as qi (pronounced "chee").
In Chinese medicine, qi is the life force contained in each living thing, including the human body. And, like other forms of energy, it occasionally needs to be replenished or redirected. You can think of it in much the same way as you would gasoline or electricity -- a flowing, uninterrupted supply is needed to keep things running smoothly. For the human body, this is where energy therapy (sometimes referred to as "biofield therapy" or "energy medicine") comes in.
There are a number of different types of energy therapies, but they're all designed to increase and improve the flow of qi throughout the body, which is a process believed to improve wellness. Just how it produces this result, however, is up for debate.
In Chinese medicine, it's believed that illnesses are caused by disruptions in qi. From that point of view, energy therapy can literally help prevent or correct disease. Many Western holistic practitioners, on the other hand, focus more on the power of energy therapy to reduce stress and increase vitality -- both of which can improve the body's preventive and healing powers.
Increasingly, energy therapy has specific treatment applications. It's frequently used as a complementary therapy for chronic pain, anxiety, fatigue and dementia. However, studies on the effectiveness of energy therapy as a remedy for these conditions have been mixed. Most researchers recommend further investigation into the practice to get a better picture of its usefulness in improving health.