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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Does Reiki Deserve its Dues in the Medical Field?

Reiki is not well-known and is often mistaken for practices such as acupuncture or massage therapy.  And when people hear about it, many believe it to be mumbo-jumbo (or at least the people I explain it to). The more intellectual types think it is a mere placebo. Just a trick of the mind.  Even if it isn’t a placebo, why would doctors use it? They don’t need it. They paid thousands of dollars to get a medical degree so they can handle pills, needles, and knives. Why would doctors use some invisible force? As a result of this thinking, Reiki is often viewed as pathologically invalid and has no place within a clinical setting. However, Reiki is medically relevant and more than a placebo. Reiki should work hand-in-hand with traditional, western medicine in order to help patients achieve the most optimal level of health and wellness.

Quick Overview: What is Reiki?

Image of body meditating with seven colored chakras through the middle of the body

Figure 1: The Chakra System

In a nutshell, Reiki is a practice of healing that uses a life force called Chi to help heal the body. Practitioners of Reiki believe that Chi flows through the body via Chakras and they utilize Reiki to adjust and manipulate Chi for the purpose of healing. Ann Linda Baldwin, PhD says Reiki “…is based on the assumption that the flow of energy through the body can be supported and adjusted to optimize health and wellness” (58). If coupled with western medicine, Reiki can be a powerful tool to increase a patient’s overall health and wellbeing.  Having been both a patient to traditional doctors and Reiki practitioners, I can attest to the fact that utilizing both has certainly helped my overall wellbeing after my knee injury. Western medicine helped reconstruct and heal my shattered knee cap, but it left me with a limp. Reiki helped ease my pain and correct my walk. I wouldn’t trade that feeling of relief for anything in the world.

The Placebo Argument

Reiki and Chi energy are not tangible. They are not something someone could hold in their hand and describe in perfect detail. Also, they are difficult to quantify. Chi energy is not something that can be measured using any equipment or can be calculated with any equation. Plus the cause or source of Chi isn’t proven, so people doubt the effect. Reiki, after all, is spiritual as well as physical. Therefore, Reiki gets placed in the category of a placebo and not perceived as truly beneficial to a patient.

However, that doesn’t stop some people from trying to prove Reiki’s benefits. A health institution in San Paulo, Brazil (led by Leia Fortes Salles) performed a randomized, double blind study on 170 patients to measure the effects of Reiki on hypertension (479). The patients were divided into three groups: The control group (patients with hypertension stayed at rest for 20 minutes), the placebo group (patients had “Reiki” done by a person untrained in Reiki for 20 minutes), and then the experimental group (patients had actual Reiki done for 20 minutes). While the patients in the control group knew which group they were in, none in the placebo or experimental groups knew which group they were a part of. The overseers of the tests never knew the difference between the two groups either. Only the fake or real healers knew the difference. The experiment was replicated several times for accuracy.

Here is a table of the results from Salles’s study (which I reproduced from the article):

Table 2. Maximum, minimum and mean blood pressure (BP) values before and after the intervention in the three groups (482).

Maximum BP before    Maximum BP after      Difference

Reiki 161.0                                          147.4                                       13.6

Placebo 151.2                                      146.8                                      4.4

Control 154.0                                      150.5                                       3.5

Maximum BP before    Maximum BP after       Difference

Reiki 95.9                                            88.2                                         7.7

Placebo 91.8                                        90.0                                        1.8

Control 97.3                                        95.2                                         2.1

Maximum BP before    Maximum BP after      Difference

Reiki 128.4                                          117.8                                       10.6

Placebo 121.5                                      118.4                                       3.1

Control 125.6                                      122.8                                       2.8

The results show that the difference between the initial blood pressure and the blood pressure levels after treatment were more significant in the actual Reiki treatment group. The group who created the study claimed this as their conclusion: “Reiki had a positive effect on the reduction of abnormal blood pressure, suggesting to be a complementary technique for the control of hypertension” (483). Essentially, this means the creators of this study think that Reiki should pair with (not replace) western medicine to aid patients with hypertension. They also said, “More research is needed, both to strengthen the results of this investigation” (483). This makes sense. Any good scientific study would encourage more research to be done for the most accurate results. However, this study sounds promising. I have studied Reiki for five years now and I always am very happy when I see case studies where it is explained in logical, scientific terms. In this study, I am glad to see the physical effects of Reiki shown via blood pressure measurements. It is a stepping stone to show that Reiki does have a physical effect on the body and is not just some Jedi mind trick. Also, I find it helpful to have some stats handy when I’m explaining Reiki to others and having physical, quantifiable results like that help people trust Reiki a little more.

The “Doctors won’t use this!” Argument

Okay, so some study by some random people says Reiki has benefits…so what? Doctors will find no need to incorporate this into their work. They have prescriptions, vaccines, and surgical techniques

Image of Dr. Oz and statement that he embraces Reiki

Figure 2: Dr. Oz and Reiki

at their disposal, why waste time with invisible energy? Doctors won’t use this. Actually . . .  they are! Both on their patients and themselves. According to the International Association of Reiki Professionals: “Reiki is now one of the top three complementary in-patient therapies in U.S hospitals…” (PP 2). Patients in hospitals request Reiki. Other patients like me find it to be less invasive and helps with the symptoms that western medicine sometimes leaves behind. Not only are doctors using it, the International Association of Reiki Professionals says it “…is becoming mainstream” (PP 3).

Not only does Reiki help patients, it can help health care providers. Being a caregiver in charge of the wellbeing of others can be taxing. Sometimes the strain is too much. Just reference any episode of M*A*S*H! According to a study done by Renee M. Rosada, PsyD and several others, “Burnout among human service professionals is a problem that has not yet been adequately addressed” (489).

Because of this, a study was conducted to see the effects of Reiki on mental health clinician’s energy levels. Once again, there were different groups: A sham Reiki

Image of tired nurse

Figure 3: Nurse Burnout is a Real Issue!

group (fake Reiki) and a real Reiki group. They also divided the groups based on gender, ethnicity, and hours worked. After the study was conducted, here are the conclusions the overseers came to: “Overall, the results of this study support the primary hypothesis: 30 minutes of weekly healing touch therapy for 6 weeks reduces burnout symptoms in community mental health clinicians. Furthermore, Reiki performed better than sham Reiki in reducing symptoms of burnout” (493). Reiki helps take care of those who take care of others.  If the caregivers feel at their best, the treatment will be better, and the patient is more likely to receive the care they need. Overall, it is a win-win.

In Conclusion…

Is Reiki a universal fix to everything? Of course not, but should it be tossed aside? No. Reiki may be misunderstood and people tend to chalk it up to some kind of mind trick, but recent studies have shown that Reiki does have an effect on the human body as compared to false Reiki. And because of this, Reiki should be in the medical field and utilized to better help patients. Many doctors and hospitals are already starting to incorporate it and I suspect it will only grow from here. It has proven to be an asset to both patient and caregiver, helping to reduce burnout in nurses and clinicians. There will always be people who claim it is nothing but a placebo and a con. To those people I would ask that they look at the people Reiki has helped. Placebo or not, a relief of suffering should always be welcomed. Why let people feel pain when they can be relieved of that pain one way or another? And in today’s heated climate about opioids and prescription drugs, using a non-addictive pain relieving treatment could be just the ticket. As Reiki becomes more mainstream and begins to work with western medicine, patients should see an increase in the quality of their overall wellness.

Works Cited

Baldwin, Ann Linda. “Reiki Research Summary and Health Benefits.” Reiki News (2016): 58-60. Print

International Association of Reiki Professionals . Reiki in the Clinical Setting. March 2017. 28 March 2017. Website.

Rosada PsyD, Rubik PhD, Mainguy MA, Plummer BSN RN, Madrona MD PhD. “Reiki Reduces Burnout amoung Community Mental Health Clinicians.” Research Study. 2015.

Salles, Vannucci, Salles, Silva. “The effect of Reiki on Blood Hypertension.” Acta Paulista de Enfermagem (2014): 479-484. Print







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