Alternative medicine Reiki can be healing treatment


Although Reiki has been practiced for nearly a century, the eastern art and its counterparts of acupuncture and reflexology have only recently made their way into the mainstream medical community, as more physicians and hospitals explore the benefits of adding alternative medicine to their treatment plans.

"Over the last 30 years, attitudes have changed significantly," Rebecca Rueter, a Reiki master and owner of Reiki Healing Arts Vermont in Brattleboro, Vt., said. "Since the early 2000s, we've seen a significant shift of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) into clinical settings. There are many medical systems that are persistently presenting it at bed side."

Being recognized by the medical community is a huge step for Reiki practitioners, she said.

Reiki, developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui, uses strategic hand placements to transfer energy known as the "universal life force" in an effort to bring a person's energy into balance. Individuals can receive certification as a Level I or II practitioner or as a Reiki master after taking a series of classes with a master.

Practitioners believe the resulting equilibrium can help promote self-healing.

"What's hard to understand is that unlike traditional medicine, we do not tell our clients what to expect," Rueter said. "We make no promises. Every experience is different. Some people experience a heat or tingling sensation during the treatments. Others experience a deep calm come over them. I have one client, whom I worked with for several years, who has a very chronic and very painful bladder disorder. She tells me that her pain is significantly reduced after a treatment and that it changes her life."

She added, "It's not in my realm to know what [my clients] will experience. What I do know is that when people are injured or just living their daily lives, there is often a part of it that is lived in 'stress mode.' Our bodies are wired to respond to stress very quickly to help us resolve this issue. In today's society, we have a tendency to live in a constant cycle of stress. Reiki taps into the other systems and promotes relaxation."

Definitive proof of whether or not the practice works continues to elude the scientific community. According to a 2009 article in "The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine," a definitive conclusion of its effectiveness cannot be made because of "the serious methodological and reporting limitations of limited existing Reiki studies."

Despite a lack of a definitive conclusion, the alternative practice is becoming more commonplace in clinical settings. In 2014, the Washington Post reported that 60 major U.S. hospitals have adopted Reiki as part of patient services. The sessions are not offered as a replacement for traditional services, but in tandem with standard treatment for chemotherapy and hospice patients, as well as individuals suffering from fibromyalgia, pain and depression.

Jean Golin, who has been practicing Reiki for 18 years, said she's seen the benefits first hand, especially when working with cancer patients at Moments House, in Pittsfield, Mass., where she helped establish free weekly sessions for cancer patients, and more recently with hospice patients.

"It's all about healing, harmonizing and balancing the body," she said. "You are helping individuals heal in many ways — the body, mind and spirit. It's a practice that allows the individual to receive what they need in that moment, whether its the need to relax or to take away physical pain. For some, it may be a spiritual need than a physical one. We don't know what anyone person's journey is, but it's wonderful to help bring them relief in that moment."

While health insurance providers are slow to follow the medical community's lead, Rueter said she believes the recent integration into hospital and other clinical settings is a step in the right direction.

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