Energy Healing: Reiki

When most people hear the phrase, “Energy Healing” their first thought tends to be something along the lines of “Wow, does that really exist?  Sounds like magic…”, often followed shortly thereafter by “What lunacy!  How could that possibly work?”.  Those prone to dismiss Energy Healing immediately will likely be surprised to learn that it is routinely performed on patients in The Palliative Care Unit at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) hospital.  Additionally, the 2007 National Health Interview study found that over 1.2 adults and roughly 161,000 children in the U.S. had used Energy Healing the previous year.  A fair amount of scientific research is currently being conducted to explore this field.

One of the more popular forms of Energy Healing in the U.S. is called Reiki.  The practice of Reiki originated in Japan and is historically rooted in Buddhism.  Currently, Reiki is used as an adjunctive therapy for a number of conditions including stress, anxiety, chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, recovery from surgery, and side effects of cancer treatment.  Reiki is performed by the practitioner lightly touching or hovering his or her hands over the patient in a series of predefined movements.  This is supposed to tap into a “universal energy” (the name Reiki actually comes from two Japanese words:  “rei” meaning “universal” and “ki” meaning  “life energy”).  The idea is that Reiki can stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities.

There is no official licensure or credentials for Reiki in the United States.  Training occurs in three stages; completion of the first stage is sufficient for someone to practice Reiki on themselves and others, while completion of the third stage is required in order to be considered a “Reiki Master” capable of teaching.

Obviously, this type of therapy is still very controversial.  However, it does not appear to be harmful (or at least there have been no recorded incidents of adverse events).  Empirically determining the therapeutic value of Energy Healing is still a research challenge, but one that is in process.  There are a number of theories about how Energy Healing might work but none have been proven as of yet.  More information will become available about this field as current clinical studies are completed and published, and it is likely that in the near future there will be greater understanding of how effective Energy Healing really is.

If you decide to try Reiki or another form of Energy Healing, make sure to ask your practitioner about their training and experience.  It is not uncommon for Reiki practitioners to also have other healthcare credentials; some are physicians or nurses.  Also, as ever, always consult with your primary care provider about your CAM usage.


DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice.  You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.



1.  National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  Reiki: An Introduction

2.  Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph: Reiki  *Please note that this resource is available only by subscription.

3.  Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Fourth Edition by Marc S. Micozzi for more detailed information on various Mind-Body Modalities (Ch. 10).  Published by Saunders Elsevier, St. Louis, Missouri 2011.

4.  Integrative Medicine Second Edition by David Rakel for more detailed information on usage for specific conditions.  Copyright 2007, 2003 by Elsevier Inc.  Published by Saunders Elsevier, Philadelphia, PA 2007.

5. Miles P.  Palliative care service at the NIH includes Reiki and other mind-body modalities.  Adv Mind Body Med 2004 Summer;20(2):30-1

6.  Toms R. Reiki therapy: a nursing intervention for critical care. Crit Care Nurs Q. Jul-Sep;34(3):213-7

7. A Service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.  Current Reiki Studies




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