Science Supports Reiki

October 12th, 2010 by Sarah Suckling from The Stirling Foundation

Translated from Japanese, Reiki literally means “Universal life force energy”. This energy resides in all living things as an energy biofield. During a Reiki treatment, energy is released into the biofield and interacts with and stimulates the energy in the recipient’s body. To perform a Reiki treatment, the practitioner gently places their hands on the client’s body in a standard treatment pattern or as they feel intuitively guided. Clients generally report a sensation of heat or warmth entering their body in the vicinity of the practitioner’s hands.

Reiki acts by enabling the recipient to enter a state of deep relaxation. Clients repeatedly report improved sleep-patterns, reduced anxiety and a calm state of mind post-treatment. During treatment, homeostasis is restored to the body providing the optimal conditions for natural healing to occur. This relaxed state also permits the conscious mind to access to the subconscious, where deep psychological issues may be revealed. Thus, Reiki can work well in conjunction with psychotherapy in bringing unresolved psychological issues to conscious awareness where they can then be worked through with a trained counselor or therapist. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the resolution of deep psychological issues may help the body to heal itself naturally.

Thirty peer-reviewed, scientific studies into the efficacy of Reiki have been conducted since 1989, with more appearing in the literature every year. The majority of these studies have reported positive outcomes associated with Reiki and there have been no reports of any negative effects. These studies are summarised on the Center for Reiki Research website ( and report evidence for the alleviation of pain, depression and anxiety for a variety of conditions. Although this research field is still largely in its infancy, it is developing rapidly. In the USA, there are currently over 44 Integrative Medical centres seeking to conduct more high-quality research within academic institutions.

Research to date has investigated the use of Reiki for stroke rehabilitation, fibromyalgia, pre-operative anxiety, post-operative pain, depression, stress and practitioner well-being. This research consistently supports the efficacy of Reiki for use in stress management and depression. Studies into the effect of Reiki on cancer patients have found that Reiki treatment improved tolerance to pain, reduced fatigue and anxiety, and generally improved their quality of life. Other studies report a reduction in pain and anxiety associated with invasive procedures, such as endoscopy and abdominal hysterectomy. Reiki was not found to improve fibromyalgia symptoms or stroke rehabilitation in preliminary trials.

Reiki is currently used in hospitals in the UK and the USA, to reduce pain, fatigue, pre-treatment anxiety for surgical/chemo or radio therapy treatment, and to improve post-operative recovery in the case of surgical interventions. In New Zealand, Reiki is offered to cancer sufferers through the Sweet Louise Foundation, a cancer support organisation, and through a small number of palliative care providers. Reiki NZ also has a list of registered practitioners on their website (

Dr. Sarah Suckling Ph.D.
The Stirling Foundation



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