There will come a time when a diseased condition will not be described as it is today by physicians and psychologists but it will be spoken of in musical terms, as one would speak of a piano that was out of tune. - Rudolf Steiner
In 1994, doctors in Europe began using ultrasound for a noninvasive surgery known as magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS). Using a transducer, highly focused acoustic energy is pulsed into tissues in teh body which essentially heats up and liquefies unwanted growths such as uterin fibroids and prostate tumors. (This surgery was approved for treating uterine fibroids by teh Food and Drug Administration in the United States in 2004. The advantage of MRgFUS is that, since it provides such laser focus in treating a specific area, it doesn't harm surrounding tissue. Additionally, patients experience fewer side effects and need less time to recover than with more invasive procedures, such as surgery and radiation therapy. In a similar way, infrasonic extracorporeal shock waves (inaudible frequencies on the other end of the spectrum, clocking in below 20 Hz) are used to break up kidney stones, ureteral stones, bladder stones, and gallstones in a treatment called lithotripsy. This procedure uses sound waves to target these stones and break them up into smaller pieces so that they can more easily pass through the body. Developed in Germany in the early 1980's, this revolutionalry discovery has allo9wed millions of patients with stone disease to forgo major surgery, which was once the only way to remedy this condition.
One of the most exciting uses of sound therapy is depl9oyed in a procedure called high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). This is similar to MRgFUS in that it also precisely targets problem areas and disintegrates them with heat through an ultrasound probe. But HIFU uses lower, continuous frequencies to achieve thermal doses to interrupt faulty brain circuits-eliminating the need to drill or cut into the skull for surgery- or destroy unwanted tissue. This system has been approved in Israel, Europe, Korea, and Russia to treat parkinsonian tremors and neuropathic pain, and has since been approved in the United States to treat essential tremor, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking, as well as uterine fibroids in women. There has also been promising research to show that this noninvasive therapy might also be effective in treating brain tumors, epilepsy, and breast cancer.
In addition, in 2015, the U.S. FDA approved two types of minimally invasive HIFU therapy, Sonablate and Ablatherm, for treating prostate cancer. Although HIFU is a relatively new procedure in the United States, it has been used to treat prostate cancer in Europe for more that 15 years with very positive results: an 86% five year success rate for low-stage prostate cancer, with almost 80% of patients remaining free of cancer for seven years. There are limitations: For one, HIFU is appropriate only for men with early stage prostate cancer with tumors located in a specific area within the gland; there are only a handful of surgeons in the United States who have been adequately trained to perform this procedure; and it doesn't yet have the long term track record of radiation therapy or traditional surgery. And yet radiation and surgery both carry a high risk of undesirable side effects such as impotence and incontinence, whereas HIFU-applying hyper-focused sound energy- appears to offer a high success rate with little to no risk of these complications.
These are just a sampling of the promising developments inaudible frequencies have brought to Western medicine, and as a system we continue to make enormous strides toward harnessing sound waves to create immense health benefits. But there is even more to be gained as we explore the full scope of sound medicine and its astonishing power to heal.
The foundational difference between the use of sound in Western medicine and alternative medicine is that the former relies on ultrasonic and infrasonic sound waves-inaudible frequencies-while the latter draws on vibrations that we can actually hear. There are few exceptions to this rule. In Western medicine, there is a treatment called tinnitus retraining therapy that uses sound gerators audible to the human ear to retrain the brain's relationship with the persistent unwanted ringing in a patient's ears so that it no loner affects them. But, for the most part, this is a reliable distinction between the two practices.
And yet considering the ways we have evolved to be giant sound conductors-our skin, bones, ears, as well as the water that makes up a large percentage of our bodies all picking up sound waves-it makes sense that both inaudible and audible vibrations would have a profound effect on us.
Recent research shows that we pick up both audible and inaudible sound all the way down to a cellular level. In 2015, a study was published by biomedical engineering researchers from Columbia University building on the groundbreaking discovery that antenna-like structures containing an array of proteins on our cell membranes, called primary cilium, receive and respond to vibrational energy fields such as sound, light, and radio frequencies. Primary cilia quiver like a tuning fork and, if a vibration in the environment resonates with the receptors antennae, it alters the proteins' charges, causing the cell to change shape. This is a breathtaking discovery given that defects in the primary cilium have been linked to illnesses as wide-ranging as arthritis, polycystic kidney disease, obesity, heart failure, and cancer. If this structure is receptive to such vibrational frequencies, the implication-one that is currently being researched-is that sound waves may have the capacity to reshape cell structures in a way that could help treat these illnesses.
This is the very principle that sound medicine is built on; When we are ill, the body's natural order of frequencies is altered, but when we are exposed to certain external vibrations in sound, our internal rhythms can be restored. This ide has been passed on through history from many cultures-ancient Egyptians, aborigines, Tibetan monks, Native Americans shamans and Vedic masters. These groups have variously used chants, mantras, songs, and musical instruments to restore the vibratory frequencies of the body and mind, understanding instinctively what scientists were later able to prove; that there is a direct relationship between environmental sound and our physiological health.
There is a body of research that explores the relationship between sound and our cells. Dr. James Gimzewski, a Scottish physicist and distinguished professor of chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, along with Andrew Pelling, a professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, has forged a new field in biophysics that he calls sonocytology. Uning an atomic force microscope- which functions as a kind of super-sensitive microphone-to detect the vibrations of the cell wall, Gimzewski maps the pulsations of each cell's outer membrane and then amplifies it so that it is audible to the hujan ear. this process has revealed that every cell in our bodies has a distinct sonic signature-its own unique song-as a consequence of its metabolic processes.
The "song" of each cell has the dynamic potential to interact with external sound waves and , Gimzewski and Pelling theorize, could be used as a diagnostic tool for identifying the sounds of a healthy cells versus those of injurious ones. This development would also introduce another, more dramatic, treatment frontier; the ability to play destructive sounds of rogue cells back to them greatly amplified, so that they implode and are destroyed, not unlike the current use of ultrasound to break up kidney, urinary, and gallstones in lithotripsy. If this were implemented successfully, there would be no collateral damage to surrounding tissue as can happen with radiation, since healthy cells would not resonate with these frequencies.
Western and alternative medicine practitioners and researchers need to work together and be kept apart to utilize only the treatments that already have a code for insurance to cover the cost.