Does Reiki really work? If so, how? These are questions to which I return time and again, as I work at reconciling my personal experiences (and the anecdotal experiences reported by many others with whom I have discussed the question) with my inherent skepticism. Personally, my answers are, “Yes, it definitely seems to, depending on what you ask of it;” and, “I really just don’t know.” (I should note that I approach Reiki as more of a personal spiritual practice than a healing modality, although I’ve certainly seen it work in that way as well.)
The following is an excerpt from an article from Best Health Magazine. The article is short enough that I encourage you to follow the link below to read the entire piece.
Energy medicine has been used to treat ailments in Eastern cultures for thousands of years. But does it really work? Writer Patricia Pearson tries reiki treatment to find out.
The practice is also making inroads in traditional healthcare settings, including medical offices, hospitals and clinics. Practitioners lay their hands either lightly on or just above people’s bodies, attempting to redirect the flow of an invisible energy that science hasn’t established exists.
The idea (which you pretty much have to take on faith) is that we have a vital life force flowing through us, and that energy—ki or qi or what is called prana in India—can sometimes be blocked, disturbed or mischannelled. Energy medicine practitioners say they balance that energy flow in a manner that is supposed to promote healing, generally over five or six visits. Of course, you wouldn’t use it to treat, say, cancer, although people have used it as a complementary therapy to help with anxiety and the side effects of chemo. But, more usually, you would try it for the relief of minor aches, pains and tension headaches; the calming of skin conditions; the settling of your digestive system—any ailment that has a strong mind-body connection.
Energy medicine has been practised for thousands of years, but how it works is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it’s as simple as a placebo effect: If you believe you’re being treated, you feel better. From a medical research perspective, this concept of life force is referred to as a “putative energy field,” meaning it’s yet to be proven. There aren’t any known methods to measure it, and because of this, the whole area is often pooh-poohed by health experts. Joe Schwarcz, director of the McGill University Office for Science & Society, says it isn’t even theoretically possible to have blocked and unblocked energy flowing around at the cellular level of the body. The concept, Schwarcz says categorically, “is sheer lunacy.”
Nevertheless, studies have tried to look more closely at what’s going on, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a department of the National Institutes of Health. One way of determining whether energy is somehow being redirected is to measure naturally occurring levels of radiation in the body. Working with this idea, studies cited by NCCAM have “identified statistically significant decreases in gamma rays emitted from patients during alternative healing sessions.” This would seem to suggest that energy had indeed been drawn out by the practitioners. (I assume it’s a good thing to lose all of your gamma rays?)
Over the next few days, without giving further thought to the reiki treatment, I grew aware of three improvements in my general well-being. My mood was brighter, my knee now no longer hurt and my skin, which is prone to urticaria (chronic hives), remained smooth, although it flared up again a couple of months later.
In an email, Angela commented: “I generally find, with this type of subtle work, that the body also heals subtly. In each session, the individual’s energy level is raised to a higher vibration, which then gradually affects the person as a whole.”
That may be so. Or it could be the placebo effect at work, or even the relaxing experience of taking a time out to lie down on a table for an hour. Is it worth the money? Until science can nail down the efficacy of energy medicine, I’d say it’s something to consider as a complement to, but not a substitute for, working with your doctor.