The Role of Reiki Healing in Modern Medicine and Healthcare (Backed by Science)

Reiki is making its way into the mainstream (see: “What is Reiki?”). This energy healing technique originated in Japan in the early 20th century. Today many respected hospitals in the US are offering it to complement conventional medicine. Specifically, Reiki is being used to help with relaxation, stress, anxiety, pain management, and depression according to the Holistic Nursing Practice study. These days, Reiki is known as a type of CAM (Complementary Alternative Medicine).

In Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center, Reiki along with acupuncture and massage therapy are being offered. These alternative therapies are not meant to replace conventional treatments but are used to supplement them. Dr. Linda Lee, an Associate Clinical Director and Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins has this to say when questioned about the promotion of Reiki and other alternative treatments, “Yes, as scientists we want to be rigid. But me, as a physician, I want to find what’s best for a patient. Who am I to say that’s hogwash?”

In the UK, Reiki and other forms of energy healing practices were made available in 57 NHS hospitals between 2010 and 2014 based on one study. More and more NHS hospitals and conventional medical institutions are embracing complementary energy healing in an effort to provide a more holistic approach to patient care.  While there is limited scientific evidence-based research to support reiki, you cannot dismiss how helpful it is based on the wealth of feedback from patients and staff who used it.

Some NHS trusts offer Reiki Healing to support traditional pain-relief options, usually to cancer patients. In addition, Cancer Research UK has information available about Reiki on its website, stating that, while there is no scientific proof to demonstrate the effectiveness of Reiki in preventing, treating, or curing cancer, many healthcare professionals accept Reiki as a complementary therapy to help reduce stress and pain, and promote relaxation.

Reiki has also been increasingly offered as part of workplace wellness programs to help in addressing burnout and to enhance skills in healthcare and other industries, as well as wellness centers in universities.

Studies Supporting the Effectiveness of Reiki

Flowing within our bodies is an unseen life force energy. Reiki facilitates relaxation, stress reduction, and wellness by encouraging a healthy flow of this energy. It can be used to support other forms of treatment and helps in relieving side effects and promotes healing or recovery. But how effective is it?

Rigorous scientific studies have been conducted on yoga, acupuncture, and meditation’s effectiveness. Reiki, being the youngest among the suite of additional Eastern treatment practices, has fewer scientific studies to back it up. But this doesn’t mean it is less effective or is less significant than the rest. What is vexing for doubters of the practice is that Reiki has a number of times demonstrated impressive results without a proven scientific cause.

A Systematic Review of the Use of Reiki in Health Care cited a number of studies that showed the effectiveness of Reiki. One of those studies suggested that Reiki may significantly reduce postoperative pain after the extraction of a tooth. Moreover, Reiki was also able to reduce pain and improve the quality of life of patients with advanced cancer. A study was also cited where symptoms of depression, hopelessness, and stress were reduced after six weekly sessions of Reiki.

Reiki was also found to be effective in improving quality of life, sleeping and eating habits, and reducing anxiety in survivors of child sexual abuse. The Systematic Review also cited a study that suggested the effectiveness of Reiki in reducing anxiety and pain of chronically ill patients.

In a 2006 study published in Holistic Nursing Practice, it was found that women who received three 30-minute Reiki sessions in addition to traditional nursing care reported experiencing less pain and needed fewer analgesics compared to a control group, following abdominal hysterectomy.

Another study also provided strong evidence of Reiki being more effective than placebo. Based on the findings, Reiki attunement results in a quantifiable increase in healing ability. It is better than placebo in activating the parasympathetic nervous system, as measured in lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and increased heart rate variability.  Moreover, Reiki has been found to be more effective than placebo for reducing anxiety and pain and for boosting self-esteem and quality of life for patients with chronic health conditions.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has conducted studies that focused on Reiki’s ability to benefit people suffering from stress, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and advanced AIDS.

The studies to date about Reiki are usually small and not all are well designed. But there are overlapping data from stronger studies that support Reiki’s effectiveness in reducing anxiety and pain and in inducing relaxation, improving fatigue and depressive symptoms, and ultimately improving one’s overall wellbeing. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews provides a review on the use of touch therapies such as Reiki for pain and a protocol for use of Reiki to treat psychological symptoms.

While there is no justification to treat Reiki as a cure to any health condition, there is enough data to support that Reiki is an effective complementary therapy that can be recommended to use alongside all other medical and therapeutic techniques.

Final Words

Personal reports of the positive effects of Reiki are unquestionable. Those who received this form of energy healing have testified how effective it is in reducing pain, decreasing stress less, reducing anxiety and depression, and improving overall wellbeing.

What skeptics you should know is that Reiki and other forms of alternative treatments do not try to replace modern medicine. It is a fact that conventional medicine is excellent in fixing broken bones, unclogging arteries, helping people survive a significant trauma, or in short, it is best in providing acute care. What Reiki addresses are those that conventional medicine struggles to manage: the emotional side of healing injured, traumas, stresses of everyday life along with pain, fear or discomfort of dealing with the illness, anxiety, and chronic disease.

Modern medicine provides necessary treatment but it can also be brutal, such as the case of chemotherapy. Conventional medicine cannot readily recognize the way trauma, emotion, and subjective experience can drive physical health and how they can affect recovery.  This is where Reiki comes in.

To help facilitate fast healing, the body needs to get pulled out of the stress state and get into a parasympathetic-dominant state or rest-and-digest state. Reiki helps your body to get into this state. Reiki helps in healing through stimulating the body’s immune system, tissue, and bone healing, reducing stress, and supporting your well-being while receiving medical treatments. These are just a few examples of the benefits of Reiki and common reasons I provide Reiki treatments to my clients. Reiki treatments can be done in person, or remotely, known as Distant Reiki Healing Sessions for anyone, anywhere in the world.