Hospitals’ use of Reiki, and research into this complementary modality, together provide a path for understanding the benefits of Reiki in clinical practice.
According to the International Center for Reiki Training, “Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction that also promotes healing. It is administered by laying on hands and can be easily learned by anyone.”
Actually, Reiki is taught more as a lifestyle than just a technique, and all Reiki practitioners aim to follow the five Principles of Reiki that were received by founder Mikao Usui during his meditations:
Just for today I give thanks for my many blessings.
Just for today I will not worry.
Just for today I will not anger.
Just for today I will do my work honestly.
Just for today I will be kind to myself and every other living thing.
Advantages of Reiki
Complementary medicine covers a range of medical therapies that fall beyond the scope of allopathic medicine (in which disease is combated mainly by using drugs and surgery) but may be used alongside it in the treatment of disease and ill health. Examples include Reiki, massage, Qigong, biofeedback, trauma release exercises, hypnosis, homeopathy, chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture, Chinese or oriental medicine and herbal medicine.
Two advantages that Reiki shares with several other complementary therapies, such as clinical Qigong, biofeedback, trauma release exercises and hypnosis, is that it is non-invasive and can be used safely in conjunction with other therapies. No substances are imbibed, and no part of the body is manipulated in any way. As with most complementary therapies, Reiki addresses physical, emotional and mental issues. In addition, like massage and trauma release exercises, Reiki is simple and easy to administer.
Similar to massage, chiropractic and osteopathy, no special equipment is needed apart from a treatment table. In common with trauma release exercises and Qigong, Reiki can be self-administered.
In fact, because Reiki is channeled through the practitioner, the practitioner will also receive Reiki every time they give it to another person. Unlike any of the other complementary therapies listed, Reiki is easy to learn and benefits can result even after a few minutes. Reiki can be performed in any environment. Most importantly, Reiki has no side effects.
[Read the MASSAGE Magazine guide, “The Massage Therapist’s Guide to Reiki.”]
Benefits of Hospital Reiki
Reiki is an integrative therapy that treats the whole person, mind and body. Usually, between one and four 30- to 60-minute sessions are sufficient to reduce fear and anxiety, ease chronic and acute pain, relieve side effects of chemotherapy, help cancer (and hospice) patients come to terms with their diagnosis, improve challenging relationships, speed up recovery after surgery and reduce length of hospital stay post-surgery.
In addition, Reiki puts the patient in a calm state so that other medicines and treatments can work more effectively. The most rigorous data suggest Reiki’s positive effects in four areas:
• Acute and chronic pain.
• Pain and well-being during cancer treatment.
• Stress, anxiety and depression.
• Practitioner well-being.
In 1998, Hartford Hospital, Connecticut, approved the development of a Reiki volunteer pilot program in Women’s Health. Patients and staff reported statistically significant reductions in pain and anxiety, as well as improvement with sleep.
As a result, the program became part of a formal Integrative Medicine Department in 1999. In 1998, 10 volunteers provided 523 Reiki sessions. In 2012, approximately 40–50 volunteers provided 3,167 Reiki sessions. The total number of Reiki sessions provided over the 15 years is 58,214. Over 84% of patients say they would be more likely to choose Hartford Hospital for future admissions because of Reiki and other complementary and alternative therapies offered by Integrative Medicine.
Some comments from patients taken from an online article, “Hartford Hospital’s Reiki Volunteer Program Celebrates its 15th Year Anniversary,” dated March 1, 2016, are shown below:
“I hope Reiki is always available because it helped me a lot in relaxing and healing, giving me energy to think positive and forget the bad things wrong with me. I thank you for Reiki; it really, really helped me!”
“I felt the Reiki program helped me to relax and deepen my breathing patterns which, in turn, reduced my pain. I am very grateful for the Reiki volunteers.”
“I will never go to another hospital again because of the effect Reiki has had on me. I have had eight operations and the last one at HH was the most painful. The Reiki session helped me handle it and believe I can go through it again with Reiki.”
“Even on pain medications, after a Reiki session was the only time I was pain free!”
Data obtained from patients who got Reiki during the initial pilot phase (December 1999–December 2000) demonstrates that 570 patients felt significantly less pain and were more relaxed after a Reiki session than before. Data obtained from patients after the pilot study when the Reiki program had expanded (July–December 2004) indicate that after Reiki or massage, 97% of patients said that their sleep improved and 91% said that their nausea was reduced.
Patients attending the Brownstone Ambulatory Clinic, Hartford Hospital, between August 2003 and December 2004 who received Reiki, massage or acupuncture once a week for six weeks showed significantly less anxiety and pain after their treatment. In 2008, Hartford Hospital Reiki Program was extended to the Cancer Center. Reiki is being used increasingly to comfort cancer patients and to decrease their pain and anxiety.
Reiki in Hospitals – Cancer Patients
Three of the most prestigious cancer hospitals in the U.S., as ranked by US News & World Report, are: MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York; and Mayo Clinic, Minnesota. All three of these hospitals offer Reiki to their patients.
MD Anderson Cancer Center is ranked No. 1 and their Integrative Medicine Center provides holistic treatments in which the mental, spiritual and emotional needs of the patient are provided. Founded in 1884 as the New York Cancer Hospital, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is ranked No. 2. Their Integrative Medicine Service offers acupuncture, personal training, nutrition and dietary supplement counselling, massage, and mind-body therapies (where Reiki is included).
Their goal is to soothe and alleviate symptoms such as pain, muscle tension, postoperative discomfort, musculoskeletal problems, anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and fatigue.
Mayo Clinic is ranked No. 3 in cancer hospitals. Mayo Clinic has also focused on a holistic approach, including the spiritual and emotional conflicts and needs that might arise during treatment. Reiki practitioners provide volunteer services to patients at both Mayo Clinic Hospital campuses and some outpatient areas.
Reiki in Hospitals – Hospice Care
Reiki is particularly effective for patients undergoing palliative or hospice care. The International Association of Reiki Practitioners states on its website: “As a complementary treatment, Reiki is becoming more and more popular in the spheres of hospice, palliative and home care.” According to Merlene Bullock, RN, BSN, case manager, Hospice of the Valley, Phoenix, Arizona (Bullock, 1997), Reiki has been associated with improved quality of life in palliative situations.
Some general trends seen with Reiki include: periods of stabilization in which there is time to enjoy the last days of one’s life; a peaceful and calm passing if death is imminent; and relief from pain, anxiety, dyspnea (shortness of breath) and edema. Reiki is a valuable complement in supporting patients in their end-of-life journey, enhancing the quality of their remaining days.
Pamela Miles, Reiki Master, educator and author, who has consulted with hospital administrators about integrating Reiki practice into clinical care, says:
Caring family members can learn Reiki as easily as the palliative patient can. Caregivers experience stress and the first thing taught in Reiki Level 1 is self-care. This ability can be used to care for the palliative patient, thereby making the family member “feel useful” (Miles, 2003).
In 2012, the Penn Wissahickon Hospice, part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, tested a volunteer Reiki program for its effectiveness in a hospice setting. Ellen Inglesby-Deering, a volunteer coordinator, commented, “It’s very exciting. I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from patients, families and volunteers.”
A volunteer mentioned a patient with advanced dementia who giggled after the treatment and then started having a conversation with her daughter. The daughter later commented that she had not been able to have a conversation this beneficial with her mother in over a year.
The Reiki program for hospice care is still active as judged by the online requests for more Reiki volunteers.
A small study was performed at Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island (Connor and Anadarajah, 2017), to explore the experiences of hospice patients and their caregivers who received Reiki.
Three major themes emerged:
1. Trust plays an important role in both trying Reiki and experiencing benefits.
2. Sensations are felt in the body during Reiki; notable similarities in descriptions included somatic sensations (arising from skin, muscles, joints, etc.), temperature changes and visual sensations.
3. Some symptoms are relieved by Reiki, the most common being anxiety. Others include pain, agitation, nausea, and insomnia. Participants reported no side effects. It was concluded that although symptom management in hospice patients remains a challenge, Reiki has the potential to serve as a useful adjunctive therapy in treating several symptoms, particularly anxiety.
This article was excerpted with permission from “Reiki in Clinical Practice: A Science-based Guide,” by Ann Linda Baldwin, PhD (2020, Copyright © Handspring Publishing).
About the Author:
Ann Linda Baldwin, PhD, is director of Mind-Body-Science and professor of physiology at the University of Arizona, where she studies the physiological effects of mental and emotional stress. Baldwin is a master in Usui Reiki and Karuna Reiki. She is the editor-in-chief for the Center of Reiki Research and a member of the Research Team for UK Reiki Federation.
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