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The Japanese word Reiki can be translated to “life-force energy.” The term refers to a form of spiritual healing that involves holding the hands above the body. There are many people who have taken training in Reiki, and the service is provided in a variety of settings. As of yet, however, there is no scientific foundation in support of Reiki’s effectiveness for any purpose.
History of Reiki
There are two principle stories regarding the origin of Reiki. In both versions, the method was invented in Japan by Mikao Usui. Many American Reiki practitioners believe that Mikao Usui was a Christian monk who invented the technique in the mid-1800s. However, according to the more traditional Japanese schools of Reiki, Usui was a member of a Japanese spiritual organization called Rei Jyutsu Ka, and he developed the technique around 1915. (The story that he was a Christian may have been invented to facilitate the acceptance of Reiki in the West.) Both versions of Reiki’s history agree that Usui based his technique on methods and philosophies drawn from numerous traditional Asian healing methods.
After Usui’s death, various forms of Reiki continued to be taught by his students. One of these students, Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, systematized Reiki into three levels and added a great many hand movements to the technique. In turn, one of Hayashi’s students, Hawayo Takata, brought Reiki to the United States.
In the early 1980s, Takata’s granddaughter, Phyllis Furumoto, took on the mantle of Hayashi and Takata’s line of Reiki and popularized it widely in the West. However, many other forms of Reiki continue to exist as well, descending through different lineages of teachers. There are considerable differences between the various approaches, and certain groups strongly challenge the validity of others.
What Is Reiki?
Most forms of Asian medicine make use of the concept of Qi, a form of vital energy that flows through the body. Free-flowing, abundant Qi is said to create health, while stagnant or deficient Qi is thought to lead to illness. Reiki practitioners believe that they can improve this energy by holding their hands in certain positions over parts of the patient’s body; advanced practitioners believe they can produce this effect from a remote distance. The net result, according to the theory, is accelerated healing and increased wellness.
In many ways, Reiki resembles Therapeutic Touch , except that the instructions given to its practitioners are more specific. A certified practitioner of Reiki has spent time learning specified hand movements and positions and has also undergone an “attunement” to an already-certified Reiki practitioner. This chain of attunements goes back to Mikao Usui, the method’s founder.
In its most popular Western form, Reiki is learned in three stages. The first stage involves an attunement that permits physical healing. The second stage grants the ability to carry out healing over a distance. The third degree of training allows the practitioner to perform healing on a spiritual level and to give attunements to students. Generally, each level is obtained by paying a fee and completing a weekend course.
What Is Reiki Used For?
Reiki is promoted as a treatment that can accelerate physical, emotional, or spiritual healing in every conceivable situation. It is used as a support for conventional medical care, rather than as a replacement for it.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Reiki?
The only truly meaningful way to determine whether a medical therapy works is to perform a
double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
(For the reasons why this is true, see
A simpler study design compares Reiki to no treatment. However, studies of that type cannot provide reliable evidence about the efficacy of a treatment: If a benefit is seen, there is no way to determine whether it was caused by Reiki specifically or just attention generally. (Attention alone will almost always produce some reported benefit.)
Finally, there are many case reports in which people are given Reiki and then seem to improve. Such reports, unfortunately, do not mean anything at all; numerous people receiving
In one study, which we have only been able to obtain in an incomplete abstract form, female nursing students received either real Reiki or a placebo form of the treatment called “mimic Reiki.”
In another study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of Reiki (in combination with a related technique called LeShan) in 21 people undergoing oral surgery for impacted wisdom teeth.
How to Find a Qualified Reiki Practitioner
There are several competing organizations that issue certifications to Reiki practitioners. These include the following:
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Medical Review Board
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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