What is Reiki?
Reiki is a Japanese form of therapy that is delivered through the hands. Reiki means "universal life energy." Reiki practitioners believe that energy surrounds and moves through the human body. Reiki attempts to balance the flow of this energy and stimulate the body's healing abilities.
Although there are no scientific studies showing that Reiki is effective in treating any disease, a Reiki treatment may be able to bring about feelings of:
- deep relaxation
- warmth or sleepiness
- increased well-being
What to expect in a typical Reiki session
Reiki can be performed in a variety of settings — offices, clinics, hospitals, and homes. During a Reiki session:
- You'll sit or lie down, fully clothed.
- The Reiki practitioner will place his or her hands on or above your body, using 12 to 15 different hand positions.
- The practitioner will hold each hand position for about 2 to 5 minutes as he or she tries to direct your energy to clear any blockages in your body's energy patterns. Hand positions are held until the practitioner feels that energy patterns are resolved.
- Sessions can last from 30 to 90 minutes.
- Afterwards, you may feel deeply relaxed.
Reiki practitioner requirements
No special credentials are required to be trained in Reiki, and there are a variety of different schools of Reiki. Most schools have 3 to 4 levels or degrees of training. Each level requires 1 to 2 days of training.
Reiki must be studied under the guidance of an experienced Reiki teacher. At each level, students receive an "attunement," or an energetic initiation. These initiations are believed to bring the capacity to access Reiki energy. Over a period of years, a student can study to become a Reiki Master. A Master is a Reiki teacher who can perform attunements.
There are varying state laws regulating the practice of Reiki. In some states, a person must be a licensed massage therapist in order to practice Reiki.
Many health care professionals seek training in Reiki, so if you're interested in having Reiki treatment, ask your doctor for recommendations.
For more information about finding a qualified complementary medicine practitioner, see our Finding a Complementary Medicine Practitioner section.
Research on Reiki in people with cancer
While there are many personal reports about the benefits of Reiki, there are no well-designed scientific research studies showing Reiki to be effective. Individuals have reported Reiki to increase feelings of well-being, reduce stress, and help relieve chronic pain.
In a small Canadian study published in 1997, 20 volunteers experiencing pain, some of whom had cancer, were treated by certified Reiki therapists to determine whether Reiki could be a helpful addition to pain medicines. Immediately after the Reiki treatment, pain scales showed pain reductions in the volunteers. Since all participants had Reiki and couldn't be compared to any other group, the results were difficult to interpret.
Another study showed that while Reiki improved quality of life for people with cancer, it did not reduce the amount of pain medicine they used.
Important things to consider before trying Reiki
In general, Reiki is considered to be a safe practice. However, after a Reiki treatment, some people may experience symptoms such as:
- stomach upset
Reiki practitioners believe that these types of symptoms indicate that the body is releasing toxins. If you experience these symptoms, your practitioner may tell you to rest, drink plenty of water, or eat lighter meals.
Reiki: What It Is and How It Helps People With Cancer
Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., FACS, ABIHM explains Reiki, how she uses it in her practice, what happens during a typical session, and the benefits of Reiki for people undergoing cancer treatment.