There was a time when the educational channels on cable had programming that dealt mostly with science and nature. You could watch time-lapse photography of a flower opening or a lion running across the savannah trying to catch its prey. Someone must have decided that these types of programs weren’t exciting enough or appealed to the wrong demographic, so things began to change. Now you can watch people getting tattooed, fixing up houses to sell, or fighting over how to build a motorcycle. One program recently set out to prove or disprove the idea that sound waves, at a certain frequency, can induce an involuntary bowel movement. The test subject was given a set of headphones and told to stand in front of a huge bank of speakers. An acoustic expert manned the soundboard and blasted him with different kinds of frequencies, all to no avail; although a few of the onlookers reported some kind of uneasy feeling in their stomachs. What some people will do in the name of science…and entertainment.
Acoustic waves at different frequencies do have a multitude of different practical applications such as MRI’s, microwaves, and ultrasound used to treat kidney stones. Now some of the spas and wellness centers around town are offering sound massage, or Vibro-Acoustic Therapy. Supporters of VAT claim that very high frequency sound waves, typically between 800,000 and 2,000,000 Hz, affects very small molecules in your body and causes them to move, producing relaxation and positive health effects. They claim that the waves can penetrate up to 5′ inches below the surface of the skin.
The trend started in Europe in the 1980’s. There, a Norwegian scientist named Skille merged relaxing music with the physical sensation of sound waves through the use of an acoustically equipped chair or massage table. The therapy was also believed to help cancer and pain patients who might find physical touch a little too much to bear. They found that they could achieve the same benefits as hands-on massage therapy with the much more gentle “touch” of sound waves.
There are a number of retailers that offer Tactile Sound Massage Tables for sale or rent. Most of the devices offer several “transducers” to transfer the vibration of sound to the participant on the table as well as a full spectrum of audio that includes an amplifier and CD changer matched to the transducers and headphones with inline volume control. The tables can run as high as $2500 in price with extras such as small soundboards for musicians to play music through, and comfort items like leather ($130) or space foam ($89).
If you’d like to try before you buy, there is a place here in St. Louis called A Gathering Place Wellness Education Center, 314-739-5559, which offers the sound massage therapy for $1.00 a minute. A 20-minute session can definitely get you into the comfort zone for about 20 bucks. Not bad.