The use of sound in the healing arts has a respected and ancient history. In the Bible, Saul called upon David to play music to lift his depression. In the Hindu tradition, the sacred phrase OM is known as “the universal sound of God”, and is thought to have been the first sound to manifest on the physical plane. More recently, sound has been utilized within medicine in a number of ways including lithotripsy (breaking up kidney stones with shockwaves), ultrasound, and echocardiograms.
Chinese medicine also uses the application of sound to the body as a healing modality. One such method, which is gaining popularity, is called sonopuncture or “needless acupuncture”. Known under a number of different labels, such as phonophorese, tonopuncture, or the trademarked name Acutonics, sonopuncture involves the use of sound-emitting devices to stimulate points on the various acupuncture meridians. A common way to do this is through the use of a tuning fork calibrated to a specific frequency. The tuning fork is made to vibrate by striking it against the hand or a pliable object, and then either holding it above the body or placing it on an appropriate acupuncture point. This method works well in a number of clinical situations, such as for individuals who have a fear of needles, or on points such as the bottom of the foot where an acupuncture needle would be uncomfortable. Since it is painless, sonopuncture also works well on children, who typically have a poor tolerance for acupuncture needles. Generally, sonopuncture is combined with other acupuncture techniques such as moxibustion or gua sha, but it can be used alone as well.
It is known that every object is in a state of vibration and that each object has a resonant frequency, the frequency at which it most naturally vibrates. A basic principle in the use of sound for healing concerns the concept of resonance. This is the observation that a primary vibration can initiate a secondary vibration which becomes sympathetic to it. When this occurs, they both begin resonating at the same frequency. The scientific investigation of healing with sound is in its infancy, so many questions remain concerning the use of sonic frequencies. These include what the correct range of resonant frequencies of the body are and whether all people respond identically to sonic input.
It is clear, however, that there are certain frequencies that produce a beneficial effects on both the mind and the body. To utilize the language of Chinese medicine, pain and pathology are often due to a blockage in the flow of life energy (qi) or the various fluids of the body (Blood, etc.). While this is easy to grasp on the physical level, as in the case of a blood clot, it is often not as well appreciated how mental and emotional issues contribute. When the mind encounters upsetting or difficult experiences, it has a limited range of choices in dealing with them. Basically, it either moves toward an experience or away from it, either permitting energy flow or blocking it. Denial, containment, and dissociation are all ways that the mind moves away from things it finds unpleasant. The loss of a loved one is an example of this. Grief, which can be overwhelming at first, is often contained in various ways in order to be able to continue to function in everyday life. But if grief is contained for too long, it can become depression, which in Chinese medicine is a stagnation in the qi of the Liver. Such stagnation blocks the free flow of energy within the individual, eventually creating pain. In some cases, this multi-faceted pain can become so intense that an individual can become suicidal. The application of tuning forks, like acupuncture needles, can assist to removing these blockages and restoring the free flow of energy within the body. In my own practice I find that, combined with counseling, sonopuncture works particularly well for problems that have a psychoemotional component, such as mild depression and anxiety.
It is thought that for each person there is a certain frequency range that occurs when they are healthy and different frequency range that occurs when they are ill. Each of the tuning forks utilized in sonopuncture are carefully chosen for their frequency (measured in hertz) and therapeutic effects. For example, in the Acutonics system, the gold or Ohm tuning fork is tuned to the tone C sharp (136.1 hertz), and has been calculated to be the frequency of the rotation of the earth around the sun. The effects of this tuning fork are balancing, grounding, and relaxing. Fortunately, for many people a tuning fork is not required for relaxation. Simply listening to the musical sounds of a sunny spring day is all that is required.