Energy medicine is both broad and narrow. It’s broad in that it encompasses a variety of models and practical applications. It’s narrow in that all of these variations boil down to the same fundamental concept. All of energy medicine is rooted in the idea of energy (sometimes called “subtle energy,” to differentiate from the better-understood electricity, etc.) centers and/or pathways in the body — for instance the meridians of Traditional Chinese Medicine and/or the chakras of Ayurveda. One journal article describes energy medicine as “healing occurring at the quantum and electromagnetic levels” of a living thing.
According to energy medicine theories, illness begins with a disruption in the energy circulation before it manifests as more tangibly physical symptoms. Clearing these energy blockages is necessary to enable healing. At one level, this makes plain sense — a blockage in an artery causes problems, so we would expect that a blockage in an energy circulation system to cause issues, too. At another level, this sounds pretty unbelievable, because we’re accustomed to dealing only with things we can see, touch, and measure.
Is energy medicine real, or is it merely a mystical fantasy? My personal take is probably some of both. It’s likely that the foundational principles have been found throughout all traditional healing systems for good reason. However, much of what is called energy medicine is probably not legitimate.
We couldn’t always see and recognize bacteria, but they were still there, so the simple inability to see and measure these energy fields, centers, or pathways does not inherently make them fictional. Most energy medicine carries little-to-no risk of harm, so I consider it a good candidate for open-minded skepticism.