At spas across North America, Acutonics is the latest buzz word. MedSpaPress, a news and educational website designed for medical spa owners, calls it one of the top 10 trends to watch.
Acutonics, also known as sound healing or sonopuncture, applies tuning forks to specific energy or pressure points on the body. It is based in part on traditional Chinese medicine and in part on New Age speculation involving the harmonic properties of our solar system.
Vancouver acupuncturist Brian Farlinger, a former dentist and musician, has been using Acutonics in his acupuncture practice for the past year.
"It's not difficult in terms of technique," he says.
"You use different tuning forks set to different tones and you get them resonating by hitting them on an activator, and then you apply them to certain pressure points on the body. Or you circulate them above the body."
People claim they feel the difference. Like Stanley Picken. He isn't the sort of guy who would normally volunteer to lie on a table while tuning forks are waved over his body.
But sinus problems left him desperate for relief. CT scans, visits to numerous specialists and $700 worth of prescription drugs all failed.
Seeing an acupuncturist at a friend's suggestion "was a last resort for me," says Picken, a 41-year-old tugboat operator and former commercial diver living on a remote island off the northern coast of British Columbia in Canada.
Picken says he doesn't know the science behind the therapy, but his sinus problems are gone. While he's not sure if it's the acupuncture or the Acutonics, he still gets regular treatments.
"I find it quite relaxing," he says. "It's like going to the spa. She waves the tuning forks around my ears and presses them onto my body. I can feel the vibrations. I close my eyes and meditate."
According to the Kairos Institute of Sound Healing, a New Mexico organization that trademarked the name Acutonics, the tuning forks represent "a natural harmonic series based on the orbital properties of the earth, moon, sun and planets."
Technically, any sound-emitting device ó such as Tibetan singing bowls, chimes or other musical instruments ó can be used, but the most common is the tuning fork.
The technique has not won widespread acceptance. A spokesman for the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine says Acutonics is not something a naturopathic doctor would use, and many members of the conventional medical community are unaware of the existence of sonopuncture. Many reject its use as a treatment for disease and balk at the Kairos Institute's assertion that "tuning forks are tuned to the energies of the universe."
But some alternative health-care providers are turning to sound healing to complement their practices, reports The Globe and Mail from Canada.
Charlene West, who trained with the Kairos Institute, now practises acupuncture and Acutonics in Vancouver, Victoria and Quadra Island, B.C. She also teaches courses throughout British Columbia and Alberta. She says there are probably at least 50 practitioners across Canada.
"Now my clients come in and ask to be tuned up," Ms. West says. "I use it to treat everything from the common cold to fibromyalgia to headaches to morning sickness to sciatica."
She says people more often seek Acutonics for spiritual rather than physical reasons. "It brings you back to harmony in your body."
One of Ms. West's clients, for example, didn't have the courage to confront an unfaithful husband. So Ms. West used Acutonics to bolster her bravery.
Dr. Farlinger says Acutonics works especially well for simple things like easing anxiety or bolstering energy. "I really believe in the healing power of music, and this is a formal application of that."
Jane Super, 67, was looking for more energy when she first tried Acutonics. Ms. Super, a hair salon owner from Campbell River, B.C., says she was feeling "low" and wanted to try acupuncture. Her acupuncturist used Acutonics.
"There's an electrical system in houses and often there are switches that don't work. For me, Acutonics gets the switches turned back on," Ms. Super says. "It's like walking out of a grey environment and into a sunny one."