Marjorie Geiser

Article Summary:

What is Reiki therapy, and why do people use it?

Reiki Therapy

Friends, colleagues and clients often ask me about Reiki (pronounced "ray-kee"), as it is gaining such popularity as an alternative medicine. According to NCCAM, (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine), Reiki is an energy medicine practice that originated in Japan. In Reiki, the practitioner places his hands on or near the person receiving treatment, with the intent to transmit ki, believed to be a life-force energy. Practitioners also believe that they can treat themselves with Reiki and send ki across short or long distances. In the United States, Reiki is part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

The word Reiki is made up of two Japanese words: Rei, or universal spirit (sometimes thought of as a supreme being), and ki. Thus, the word Reiki means "universal life energy." In CAM, Reiki belongs to a domain (area of knowledge) called energy medicine. In this domain, therapies are based on the belief that disturbances in energy cause illness. Energy medicine practitioners seek to improve the flow and balance of energy in a beneficial way.

As always, I encourage anyone who intends to utilize an alternative therapy, including Reiki, to talk to your health care provider before starting. It is still not proven how Reiki improves health or how it improves healing. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is sponsoring studies to find out more about Reiki's effects, how it works, and diseases and conditions for which it may be most helpful.

Reiki practitioners perform the therapy with their hands, in the hopes to reduce negative energy and to increase the ki in the client. The client is usually fully clothed and sitting or lying comfortably. The practitioner places his hands on the client's body using several different hand positions. The positions are held as long as the practitioner feels the energy is continuing, usually two to five minutes.

Reiki is performed in offices, hospitals, clinics and private homes. The number of sessions is determined by both the practitioner and the client and generally at least four sessions are scheduled, at 30 to 90 minutes each.

Why people seek Reiki
People seek Reiki treatment for several health-related reasons. According to NCCAM, some of these reasons include:

  • Effects of stress.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Recovery from surgery and anesthesia.
  • Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Lowering heart rate.
  • Improving immunity.
  • Mental clarity.
  • Sense of well-being and/or spirituality.
  • Enhancing the sense of peace in people who are dying.

There tends to be a relaxed sensation after a Reiki session. That alone may be beneficial in combating certain health issues, such as pain, stress, and fatigue. Clients may also feel a warmth, tingling, sleepiness as well. Reiki appears to be safe with no serious side effects being reported.

Occasionally a person can experience symptoms of weakness, tiredness, headache or stomach ache, after a session. Practitioners believe these are effects of the releasing of toxins from the body, and advise rest and drink plenty of water as a way to deal with these symptoms.

Consider these points about using Reiki therapy:

  • Do not use Reiki as a replacement for conventional care or to delay the time it takes you to see a doctor about a medical problem.
  • Discuss any CAM therapies you are considering or using with your health care provider.
  • Ask the Reiki practitioner about his training and experience (see also the NCCAM publication "Selecting a CAM Practitioner").
  • Reiki has not been well studied scientifically, but you can find and read research studies published on its use for various health conditions (see "for more information" below).

One does not need a special background to receive Reiki training, though many who seek training are health care professionals. Reiki can not be self-taught, and must be learned from an experienced teacher or Master. There are several schools of Reiki and there are usually three or four levels of expertise, depending upon the school. Laws regulating the practice of Reiki vary from state to state. In Florida, for example, one must be a certified massage therapist in order to become a Reiki practitioner.

Areas of controversy in Reiki:

  • Since little is known scientifically about Reiki, accepting its teachings about its healing properties and about ki is a matter of faith.
  • Some people believe that effects attributed to Reiki occur for psychological reasons (such as the placebo effect or suggestibility), or that there are no true effects.
  • Some people feel Reiki is incompatible with their religious or spiritual beliefs.
  • Government licensing and regulation of Reiki practice is a controversial area.

Reiki can be a great tool to help people in pain or who prefer a more spiritual form of relaxation. Reiki is just one of the many ways to accomplish this, and because many people may have heard about it, still many don't know what it is. This article should help fill in any blanks you may have had. I would suggest you find a practitioner in your area and give it a try if it sounds interesting to you.

Finally, always, always consult your health care practitioner before beginning any alternative therapies.

Marjorie Geiser is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer and life coach. Marjorie has been the owner of a successful small business, MEG Fitness, since 1996, and now helps other nutrition professionals start up their own private practice. To learn more about the services Margie offers, go to her website at or email her at [email protected].

Margie Geiser may be contacted at

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