What Is Reiki?

If you're looking for a natural way to relieve pain, ease stress, or help your body heal, Reiki may be an option. 

A Reiki practitioner puts her hands on or just above your body and tries to transfer healing energy to it. This Japanese practice is used all over the world. But there's not much research on it.

The studies that have been done seem to show that it can have a positive effect for some people. It's not clear, though, how much or why. So, many doctors are waiting to make a judgment until more research is done.

Reiki is believed to be safe. But it shouldn't replace any of your regular medical treatments.

How does it work?

Many types of natural medicine are based on the belief that every person has a "biofield." That's an energy field just outside your body. When something messes with it, you get sick or don't feel well.

Reiki, acupuncture, tai chi, and yoga are all centered around the idea of a biofield. They work to restore its balance through pressure, movement, or breathing.

Some experts think that when a Reiki practitioner puts her hands on or above your body it can help make a weak biofield stronger. Others believe it makes you feel better by shifting your body from a tense "fight or flight" mode to a more relaxed state.

What health problems might it help?

Reiki may help ease:

  • Pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tension

Afterward, some people have a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and a drop in stress hormones. Also, their immune systems seem to work better. Because of this, Reiki is sometimes used to help conditions like:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Infertility
  • Disorders that affect your brain, like Parkinson's or Huntington's disease

 

What can I expect during a visit?

There's no typical Reiki session. What your treatment will be like and how long it takes depend on your practitioner. Some sessions take 15 minutes. Others may last an hour and a half.

At your first visit, your practitioner will want to know about any health problems or pain you have. She may ask if any parts of your body are overly sensitive to touch.

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To start, you'll either sit in a chair or lie down on a treatment table. You won't need to take off any clothes. The practitioner will place her hands lightly on or just above your head and torso. If you have an injury or scar on one of your arms or legs, she may touch that, too. You shouldn't feel any pressure or discomfort.

During a session, some people get very relaxed and even fall asleep. You may feel gentle pulsing where the practitioner places her hands. Or you may not notice anything.

It's common to be very tired afterward. Practitioners believe this is part of your body's healing process. You may need more than one session to feel any benefits. A course of four is often suggested.

How do I find someone trained in Reiki?

Many hospitals and medical clinics offer Reiki. If you use another natural therapy like acupuncture or massage, you can also ask your practitioner to suggest someone. Since Reiki's often used to relieve chronic pain, local groups that help people with cancer or fibromyalgia might help you find someone.

Because it started as a folk healing treatment, no special background or degree is needed to do it. During your first visit, you should ask about the person's training and years of experience.

You can also ask her to describe Reiki to you. That can give you a sense of how comfortable you'll feel with her during a session. While this question can be answered many ways, be cautious about anyone who says Reiki can cure a disease.

Reiki isn't always covered by health insurance. If you decide to try it, check with your health plan.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on May 30, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

University of Minnesota: "Where Does Reiki Come From?" "How Does Reiki Work?" "How Can Reiki Help Me?" "How Can I Find a Qualified Reiki Practitioner?" "What Can I Expect in a Typical Reiki Session?"

Alternative Therapies: "Reiki -- Review of a Biofield Therapy: History, Theory, Practice and Research."

Mayo Clinic/Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center: "9 Facts About Reiki."

Cancer Prevention & Control:"Using Reiki to manage pain: a preliminary report."

The American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care: "The effects of Reiki therapy on pain and anxiety in patients attending a day oncology and infusion services unit."

International Association of Reiki Professionals: "Reiki for Depression."

Johns Hopkins Medicine/Integrated Medicine and Digestive Center: "Reiki."

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Reiki: In Depth."

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