Reiki as a health practice has been around since the 1920s. My son now has a Reiki practice in Toronto and I experience my first ever session. It will not be my last.
My younger son, Keenan, recently completed his studies and became a Reiki practitioner. I’ve never had a Reiki treatment. However, I knew that Reiki was touch therapy that uses biofield energy to help strengthen the body’s ability to heal.
When I had my Reiki treatment with him I felt relaxed. When he passed his hands over my head, I sensed as if a laser was healing my pituitary tumor. As a yoga practitioner, I perceived his balancing my chakra energy. Wow – this was incredible.
As a scientist, I needed to explore this treatment modality further. Some may find the concept of energy healing as strange. The fact is that modern medicine uses energy all the time. Ultrasounds, heat, radiation, light therapies are used in physiotherapy and oncology for example. Reiki uses human generated energy to help another person.
A blind trial assigned 45 subjects randomly into three groups in an out-patient quiet room: no treatment (rest only); Reiki treatment by experienced Reiki practitioner; and placebo treatment by a person with no knowledge of Reiki and who mimicked the Reiki treatment. Quantitative measures of autonomic nervous system function such as heart rate, cardiac vagal tone, blood pressure, cardiac sensitivity to baroreflex, and breathing activity were recorded continuously for each heartbeat. Values during and after the treatment period were compared with baseline data. The results show that the heart rate and diastolic blood pressure decreased significantly in the Reiki group compared to both placebo and control groups.
A Phase II trial compared pain, quality of life, and analgesic use in a sample of 24 patients with cancer pain who received either standard opioid management plus rest (Arm A) or standard opioid management plusReiki (Arm B). Participants either rested for 1.5 hr on Days 1 and 4 or received two Reiki treatments (Days 1 and 4) one hour after their first afternoon analgesic dose. Visual analogue scale (VAS) pain ratings, blood pressure, heart rate, and respirations were obtained before and after each treatment/rest period. Analgesic use and VAS pain scores were reported for 7 days. Quality of life was assessed on Days 1 and 7. Participants in Arm B experienced improved pain control on Days 1 and 4 following treatment, compared to Arm A, and improved quality of life, but no overall reduction in opioid use.
The detrimental effects of emotional stress on both autonomic function and cardiovascular disease are well recognized. Complementary modalities aimed at reducing stress could be beneficial recovering from a myocardial infarction. One study looked at the physiological effects of Reiki for this use. Forty nine inpatients recovering from acute coronary syndrome (ACS) were randomized within 72 h to receive Reiki, a classical music intervention, or resting control while undergoing continuous electrocardiographic monitoring via a Holter monitor.
Reiki significantly increased vagal activity compared with resting and music control conditions, with a decrease in negative and an increase in positive emotional states.
The magnitude of the effect of Reiki was similar to that of the drug propranolol in the BHAT (Beta Blocker Heart Attack Trial) (2). The authors suggest a potential clinical role for Reiki in the post-ACS inpatient setting. They also conclude that Reiki treatment is safe and feasible with no adverse events reported.
What I found in the scholarly literature is a growing interest among health practitioners on using Reiki in patient care and as a self-care treatment. The scientific literature has many small scale studies that shows that it is effective and holds promise for use on a larger scale. There are numerous enough small scale studies that, to me, validate Reiki as an effective and safe method to reduce stress and help the healing process. Although this was my first Reiki session, it will not be my last.