Reiki (“Rei”: universal; “Ki”: life energy or light) is a technique used for stress reduction and relaxation that can also help promote healing. There are many forms and founders of Reiki. One of the main originators is Dr. Mikao Usui, who developed the practice in the beginning of the 20th century in Japan. Reiki is usually administered by the laying of hands on or above the chakras (energy centers) of the body. The practitioner then increases and directs the energy flow through the body. Blockages found in the meridian points and channels are often released by Reiki treatments. This technique also helps balance the body’s chakras. Think of it as an energy “tune-up.”
Is There Any Scientific Proof That Reiki Works?
Up until recently, scientific proof of the effectiveness of Reiki or Reiki-based healing was hard to come by. Part of the reason is that it's practically impossible to accurately measure the effectiveness of energy healing by using most the of scientific methods currently in use, as the great majority of them don't even acknowledge the existence of subtle energy bodies, and don't measure the effect of energy healing on meridians, chakras, etc. Not to mention the issues regarding the infinite number of variables present in energy healing studies, as well as the way some of these studies are set up. For these reasons, most of the research available can hardly be taken as real proof of the true effectiveness of Reiki (or lack thereof, as many attempted to disprove it).
For instance, one particular study had three different target groups; the first group was treated with Reiki by trained practitioners; the second with "placebo Reiki," (a person who was not a trained Reiki healer and was just going through the motions), and the third group received no intervention. Both the first and second groups reported feeling better, while the third group reported no change. But the conclusion of the study was that "real" Reiki was no better than "placebo" Reiki, as both groups had similar results. So, even in the way these "scientific studies" are set up, it's obvious that there's great lack of understanding about energy healing. The fact that the "placebo Reiki" group got good results could be explained by the placebo effect. But isn’t the placebo effect the very proof of the power of the mind to energetically effect change on the body by mere suggestion, which makes it part of the effectiveness of energy healing?
There’s also the fact that, if a subject is open and receptive to energy healing, it’s more likely to work (placebo or not); but how can you measure the level of receptiveness of each subject in a study? In addition, it could also be that the person who performed the "placebo Reiki" actually managed to move energy and cause an effect, even without having been properly trained in how to do it. Of course, most trained practitioners should be able to achieve better results more consistently. However, everyone has access to the same energy fields and would be capable of achieving different degrees of result when doing bodywork, training or no training (although some results might be more positive than others, depending on the person's energy). Some people are natural born energy healers without even knowing it. I know a nurse who said that her elderly patients claim to feel better and have less pain as a direct result of how she kindly touches and handles them. Of course, part of the reason may simply be the fact that these patients are being treated with kindness. This nurse has never been trained in hands-on healing and isn’t even sure if she believes it works. However, her many patients frequently mention her “great energy,” “uplifting smile” and “healing power.”
Encouraging News: Science Is Catching Up
Nowadays there is better scientific research available, as modern science is beginning to catch up on such subjects. More adequately designed scientific studies, which assume the presence of biofields or energy fields around the physical body, as well as the possibility that these energy fields can overlap and interconnect from one person to another, have showed very positive results in many areas, including pain relief. On a side note, biofields are now known to exist due to newer technology such as Kirlian photography, aura imaging and gas discharge visualization.
According to Cyndi Dale, author of The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energy Anatomy, “one particular study measured the effect of healing touch on the properties of pH, oxidation-reduction balance, and electric resistance in body fluids. These factors were linked to biological age. Before a treatment, the mathematically determined age of the touch-treated group was 62; after treatment it was 49.” Dale also mentions a paper written by the respected medical doctor and author of bioenergy Daniel J. Benor. Upon reviewing sixty one studies, Dr. Benor concludes that “distance, even thousands of miles, does not appear to limit the effects of healing.” Current Quantum physics theories attempt to explain these phenomena; however, this leads to very complex discussions that go beyond the scope of this article.
Partly due to such studies, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch and other similar energy therapies are becoming more widely accepted due to their encouraging results, and more and more energy therapists and nurses in hospitals and clinics are being trained in these modalities. Some hospitals and clinics have also created volunteer services. For instance, at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, MN, practitioners of Reiki or healing touch provide services as volunteers to patients at both the hospital campuses and some outpatient areas. The healing enhancements are provided in conjunction with Mayo Clinic's Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program.
Along the same line, the article Reiki Really Works: A Groundbreaking Scientific Study (Savvy Examiner; link below) mentions The Touchstone Process formulated by William Lee Rand. According to this source, Rand developed a web site about Reiki in hospitals, which is "considered to be the most comprehensive compilation of hospitals offering Reiki treatments throughout the world." Rand developed The Touchstone Process after creating his web site. Quoting the article, this process "is a peer review method for analyzing the current state of scientific studies done on Reiki programs in hospital, clinics and hospice facilities throughout the United States. The process of critique is rigorous, impartial, and consistent and incorporates the best practices for scientific reviews." This is an unprecedented approach which has actually been able to show indisputably successful results with the use of Reiki therapy.
Please see below additional articles with information on many current scientific studies, some of which mention the measurable effects that occur during a Reiki treatment. One of them specifically mentions the significant difference on certain test meridian points (spleen, adrenal glands and the cervical and thoracic regions of the spine) before and after a Reiki session.
Final Thought: Hands-on healing modalities have been around for many centuries, having been successfully practiced in many cultures. The bottom line is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating… So give it a try!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 08/03/2016
Photo by Jürgen Rübig from Pixabay
The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy, by Cyndi Dale
Essential Reiki - A Complete Guide to an Ancient Healing Guide, by Diane Stein
The system of meridians
Reiki - Science-Based Medicine
Reiki Really Works: A Groundbreaking Scientific Study
Reiki studies and articles - Mayo Clinic