Does Reiki Actually Work?
One of my dearest friends is a medical professional, and whenever the topic comes up of ‘does Reiki work’, this is how our conversations generally go:
Karen: ‘…but how does it work Maggie? Please give me the scientific principles this crazy hippy shit is based on.’
Me: ‘This hippy shit works on the principles of quantum physics, that we are all made of energy which flows in and around us. That energy flow can become blocked. I help unblock it.’
Karen: *lots of eye rolling* ‘Yeah, right. So, where’s the evidence? The actual and factual studies?’
Me: ‘Well there aren’t that many but the anecdotal evidence says- ’
Karen: ‘So there’s no evidence! Do you know how long I had to study to understand the workings of the human body? Or do you think I got my degrees off the back of the kid’s cereal packets? You don’t really believe in this crap, do you?’
Me: ‘Why don’t you just come and have a session with me.’
*Long pause with lots of huffing and more eye rolling*
Karen: ‘Fine. I’m free Monday.’
Having undergone eight years of undergraduate and postgraduate training to become a doctor, studying and training in some of the best medical universities and facilities in the world, her knowledge of western medicine and how our bodies work is astounding! She is an excellent medical doctor and has decades of experience successfully treating the physical ailments of her patients.
She however, also a bit of a sceptic on most complementary healing therapies. She needs hard evidence which, unfortunately, is a little thin on the ground when it comes to Reiki.
Why are there so few scientific studies on how Reiki works?
Karen’s right to a certain extent: there have been too few studies conducted on how Reiki works to prove its efficacy categorically. There are a number of very logical non-woo-woo reasons for this. One of the biggest reasons is that conducting a study under normal medical and scientific formats into Reiki is incredibly difficult.
- What would the placebo be?
- How do we control human touch to show it has been used exactly the same way on exactly the same ailments?
- How do we measure the effect of human touch?
- How do we document the ‘biofield’ beyond heart rate and blood pressure (which, by the way, both show improved and beneficial outcomes)?
The University of Minnesota has a well-referenced article you can read on the challenges facing the documentation of Reiki in scientific studies in more detail here.
Interestingly, one fact that jumped out from the above article was this:
‘Aspirin was used for 70 years before science began to understand how it works.’
We are only just beginning to understand scientifically how universal life force energy works from the simple perspective that our ‘scientific’ led way of learning hasn’t worked out how to measure it yet. But it will. And then Karen and I will be having very different kinds of conversations.
Anecdotal evidence that Reiki works.
Despite the small handfuls of hard scientific data, the incredibly large volume of anecdotal evidence suggesting that Reiki helps the receiver feel calmer and less anxious, has led to its use in hospitals and other medical facilities. (Imagine Karen’s reaction to that!) Even here in Australia, Reiki is being used throughout hospitals to help alleviate the stress levels of some patients. Here’s an excerpt from a study conducted in Australia, and published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the US:
Reiki … is being employed with good effect in some hospitals, cancer support centers, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and in palliative care. At the Oncology-Haematology Unit at Bega Valley Health Services, Reiki sessions are provided by Jennifer Ahrens, who reported, ‘Patients and carer responses noticeably referred to their fear and anxiety during a time of diagnosis of cancer and follow-up treatments. Most patients are grateful that the hospital provides this service, which they report as bringing diverse benefits, particularly on an emotional level and one that is personally supportive as they negotiate a stressful and traumatic period with less fear, anxiety or depression.’
As a practitioner, I know that Reiki works on the ‘unquantifiable’ measures of feeling calmer, sensing a clearer spiritual connection and enhanced feelings of positivity, because I see it in my Reiki Girl clients on a session by session basis. I have felt major shifts in the energy flows of clients, which have led to emotional releases, physical pain being eased, the body healing itself and the mind and soul feeling more at ease.
But can Reiki fix my medical ailments?
Anecdotally, Reiki works without question! I feel it and my clients feel it. Does Reiki clear energetic blockages leading to a greater sense of emotional peace and calm and a lessening of physical pain? Definitely! Would I rely exclusively on Reiki to heal major medical issues with my body? Absolutely not.
When my daughter was seven, she fell over while horsing around just before bedtime and broke her arm so severely the bone almost pierced her skin. Had I been a Reiki Master then, I could have used Reiki to calm her on the way to the hospital and as we waited for scans and subsequent surgery. I would have used Reiki to promote the healing of the bone after that surgery and to help clear her energy flow from blockages after the shock of the fall, the scary and sterile trauma of being poked and prodded in an unfamiliar hospital and her long recovery at home. Would I have declined to take her to the hospital completely? No. Never. Would Reiki have helped lower her anxiety and stress levels during the trauma of that night and after, aiding a speedier recovery? Most definitely.
I don’t ‘fix’ people in the same medical way Karen can ‘fix’ someone presenting to her practice with a sore shoulder might. She will prescribe exercises or restricted movement and pharmaceuticals or diet to help heal that sore shoulder. I can’t do that.
What I can do is clear the blocked energy present in that shoulder and throughout the body. This blocked energy could be representative of a childhood trauma, an incident at work or a strongly held belief that is holding that person back. After a Reiki Girl treatment, my client will feel better within themselves and, depending on how much ‘inner’ work they still need to do on their own energy flow, may have a greater range of movement in that shoulder at the end of the session… but will I be able to fix them then and there for good? Probably not.
Why bother with Reiki then?
Karen came to the Reiki Girl rooms for her first ever Reiki session, with what I can only describe as an insolent swagger. Eyebrows raised as she hopped on the table, she looked at me and said, smirking, ‘I’m pretty tired, so don’t be offended if I fall asleep while you work your voodoo.’
Just over an hour later, she sat quietly on the couch in reception with a glass of water. She stayed there for about ten minutes without saying much at all. This was unusual.
‘How are you feeling?’ I asked gently.
She smiled a little and said, ‘I feel …good… My mum was there.’
Karen’s elderly mother had passed away years before, a loss she had viewed as a sad inevitability.
‘Yes, I felt her there too. And your father I think.’
She looked at me sharply and then her features softened.
‘Yeah. He was,’ and this time her shoulders softened a little too.
We didn’t discuss what those visitations meant for Karen nor whether she believed Reiki could hold a place in her encyclopaedia of Medical Healing Methods. But perhaps most positively for both her and I, apart from those softened shoulders which usually carry the weight of the world, was her parting comment:
‘I’ll be back.’
Still not convinced Reiki works?
Pamela Miles is a leading world expert in Reiki. She has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals, including the prestigious Journal of the American College of Cardiology, developed Reiki programs used in hospitals and presented and taught Reiki in medical schools across America including Harvard and Yale. To say she is highly qualified to give scientific evidence on how Reiki works is an understatement.
Pamela’s excellent Reiki–Review of a Biofield Therapy: History, Theory, Practice and Research which you can access here provides an incredibly detailed examination of Reiki, its use in hospitals and treatment of a range of medical illnesses.
If you’d prefer something slightly less steeped in academic lexicon (i.e. easier to read) try this How Can Reiki Help You, which can be found on her website here.