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The Sound of Healing
By Kathie Hightower

Three years ago, Manzanita resident Ann Butrick had successful surgery to remove three brain aneurysms. One side effect, however, is what’s called an intentional tremor.

“When you intend to use your right hand for example,” Butrick says, “the result is a tremor so bad you can’t use it.” Butrick had tried acupuncture but is very sensitive to the needles, so two years ago she decided to try acutonics at Spa Manzanita with Judy Hathaway.

“It sounded like voodoo to me quite frankly,” she said, “but I tried it anyway since Hathaway combines acutonics with massage.” She started out with a treatment every two weeks at first, and then went to every month.

“It’s quite remarkable,” Butrick says, “Now I have no tremor at all, unless I become really stressed.” She says acutonics also helps control her knee pain and helps with her balance, which was affected by the surgery.

Butrick’s experience is an example of one of the ways music and sound are being used in healing today.

Music therapy is the most accepted of these new therapies, used frequently in hospitals and institutions, including hospice. Often used for pain relief, it’s been shown that post-surgical patients who listen to music require less morphine, for example. Physical therapists and chiropractors use devices to project frequencies into the body to heal muscles or tendons. There are many other modalities, from toning and mantra chanting to psychoacoustics, sonic-entrainment technology and vibroacoustic therapy, used in conditions from heart disease to pulmonary disorders to neurological diseases like Parkinsons and Alzheimers.

Butrick experienced what is known generically as “sonopuncture,” the use of tuning forks and crystal “singing” bowls in therapy. At Spa Manzanita it’s called acutonics because of the brand of tuning forks Hathaway uses. Also available at Rainbow Lotus Healing in Manzanita, the name there is acu-sound healing.

“It’s acupuncture without the needles,” says Hathaway, “but it’s more than that. Sound moves through liquid more easily than through air and our bodies are made up of 70% water so that magnifies the effect.”

Acutonics was developed by a group of acupuncturists who wanted a way to work with patients who are needle phobic. It uses the same basic principles of Oriental Medicine and energy medicine but makes it accessible in a non-invasive way using precision calibrated tuning forks. The forks allow frequencies to be applied directly to acupuncture points, chakras, and points of pain to vibrate along the meridians.

“Acutonics can be used for anything that acupuncture is used for,” adds Hathaway, “anxiety, depression, pain, asthma, the nausea from chemo.”

Hathaway trained in massage at the Oregon School of Massage in Portland. Always drawn to acupuncture, she focused on acupressure points in her massage. When she discovered acutonics, it seemed a perfect fit. She trained with Patrice Morency and others and loved the work immediately. She continues her training, heading off to Colorado for further workshops this summer.

“I find that most people who try acutonics have had some experience with acupuncture and are intrigued,” she adds.

I recently decided to try acutonics for just that reason. I’ve had some experience with acupuncture, heard about acutonics and was intrigued to experience it as well. It’s an amazing experience to have sound vibrate through your body. I’ve always been envious of my musician friends who get that experience in a different way, either by playing a musical instrument, especially something like drums or the harp, or by singing in a choir.  As much as I love listening to the North Coast Symphony or to a relaxing CD like my favorite David Lanz’s Cristofori’s Dream, experiences that always cause a relaxation response, it’s not the same as having vibrations physically enter your body.

I’ve discovered another advantage to acutonics. When I’ve had acupuncture, I hardly feel the needles. However, every now and then one really hurts.

“Ouch,” I yelled one time. The acupuncturist said, “That means you have toxins there or a blockage of your energy.” That might well be true, but my cynical self thought, “or maybe you just didn’t insert that one right.”

When I feel an extreme sense of heat during acutonics at the placement of the tuning forks in certain areas, a feeling that is very different from the rest, I’m more convinced that yes, there must be a blockage or toxin overload in that area.

Although I can’t yet find any concrete research studies on the effects of acutonics, I’m willing to keep testing it out for myself, especially for knee pain.

Conventional western medicine is taking a closer look at integrative holistic medicine.

Harvard-trained cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Oz has become known country-wide as a result of his television work and his best-selling series of books on health starting with YOU: The Owner’s Manual. He’s one of the many mainstream physicians testifying before Congress about how integrative holistic medicine could help rein in health care costs.

Dr. Oz believes the greatest medical advances of the next decade will come from manipulating the body’s flow of energy, as Chinese practices like acupuncture do.

Add acutonics or acu-sound healing to that. I’m happy to be a test case for that. Hmmm, wonder if there is any funding for study subjects?

As for Butrick, she tells me that she goes in for an acutonics treatment these days “whenever I feel the need for a tune-up.”