What is Piezoelectricity?

by | May 20, 2013 | Articles

Local Healing Mechanisms of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a way to deliver mechanical stimuli to the body and all local and reflex healing effects of massage therapy are outcomes of this process. The effect which is mostly unknown to practitioners, is the ability of massage to alternate and enhance the cellular function in the soft tissue. This effect is called the cellular stimulation. The discussion of cellular stimulation by massage therapy starts with the phenomenon of piezoelectricity, its impact on the body and its role in massage therapy.
Phenomenon of Piezoelectricity

Let’s start with the basic definition. massage4-300x225Piezoelectricity is the ability of inorganic and organic matter to generate electrical potentials in response to pure mechanical deformation without application of any external electric or magnetic field. In other words, the inorganic or organic matter has inner ability to generate independent electricity in response to its simple mechanical deformation.

The phenomenon of piezoelectricity was discovered by two brothers, French physicists, named Curie, in 1880 (Williams, 1974). The authors tested the behavior of quartz crystal when mechanical force was applied to it under the different angles. If force was applied along the main axis of the quartz crystal its increase eventually crushed the specimen. However, when the authors applied force under the angle to the main axis it created the combination of the vertical mechanical compression and sheer deformation within the quartz crystal. Such combination of two mechanical factors deformed the atomic structure of the quartz in a way that electric potentials with opposite polarities were formed and were detected on the opposite sides of the quartz crystal.

For many decades after its discovery, the phenomenon of piezoelectricity was considered as a unique feature attributed solely to inorganic matter. The situation dramatically changed in the middle of the 20th century.

Piezoelectricty in the Human Bone

In 1957 two Japanese scientists, E. Fukada, MD and L. Yasuda, MD discovered the existence of the piezoelectricty in the human bone.

The harvested bone was placed in the holder and electrodes of amplifier were attached to the opposite surfaces of the bone to record the possible generation of electric potentials. After that the authors applied the mechanical pressure on the opposite end of the bone. This application of pressure triggers tension (or stretch) on one side of the bone while the opposite side becomes compressed.

At the moment of the pressure application Dr. Fukada and Dr. Yasuda were able to register negative electrical potentials on the compressed side of the bone. These potentials returned to zero as soon as the further increase of pressure ceased but initial pressure was still maintained. At the moment pressure was released and the bone came back to its original form, the authors registered positive electric potentials on the tensed surface of the bone.

Why was this discovery so important? Imagine that every step you make causes constant deformation of each bone in your body and, as a result of these deformations, your bones were able to independently, from the central nervous system, generate electricity. This electric potential becomes one of the major factors in supporting the proper function of the skeletal system and in maintaining the physiological balance in the function of soft tissue and even inner organs.

Dr. Fukada and Dr. Yasuda also showed that application of the external electric current with different polarity to the bone has a completely opposite impact on its function. If a positive electric current was applied to the bone it caused its resorption (i.e., weakening), while application of the electric current with negative polarity stimulated bone growth and remodeling. This discovery became the foundation for a very effective medical treatment of delayed in fracture healing.

After the original paper was massage5-300x128published in 1957 and scientists around the world agreed on its importance it was immediately accepted that inorganic component of the bone called apatite is responsible for the generation of the piezoelectrical potentials in the bone.

As we know bones are composed of two major parts: organic part presented by the collagen fibers and mineral part (Ca, P, etc) forms apatite. The organic part gives the bone elasticity, while the inorganic part gives the bone its firmness and stability. Since the brothers Curie discovery piezoelectricity was attributed to the inorganic matter it was obvious for everyone that apatite was directly responsible for this phenomenon.

Everything went upside down when in 1961 two American scientists R.O. Becker, MD and C.A. Basset, MD published their paper showing that collagen fibers or the organic part of the bone is directly responsible for piezoelectrical potentials generated by the bone. This study sent shock waves through the world’s medical community because if the collagen fibers in the bone were able to generate electric potentials the collagen fibers in other tissue and organs are able to do exactly the same. As we know, the collagen is a major framework material for the organs and soft tissue and it is everywhere in our body.

After Dr. Becker and Dr. Basset original publication the scientists rushed to examine the possibility of piezoelectricity in other tissue. The results were astonishing. It was found that elasine in the skin (Shamos, Lavine, 1967), collagen in tendons (Anderson and Eriksson, 1968), collagen in ligaments (Fukada, Hara, 1969), actine and myosin in skeletal muscles (Fukada, Ueda, 1970), and even some individual amino acids (Vasilesku, 1970) an DNA molecules (Fukada, 1982) exhibited piezoelectrical properties. All of this allowed Dr. M.H. Lavine to conclude that “piezoelectricity is a property of most, if not all, tissue in the plant and animal kingdoms”.

Article from Science of Massage website here: http://www.scienceofmassage.com/

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