Energy-based therapies

The facts

Reiki is an energy-based technique with origins in 20th-century Japan.

The term Reiki breaks into two word rei, which means "universal," and ki, which means "life energy." Practitioners of Reiki use their hands to channel and transfer this universal life energy to themselves and to others. Energy that has become blocked is thought to lead to illness or pain.

During a Reiki session, one remains fully clothed and either sits or lies down. Over the course of the 30- to 90-minute session, the Reiki practitioner's hands lightly touch or hover just above the client's body. Each of the 12 to 15 different hand positions are usually held for 2 to 5 minutes. After Reiki, people tend to feel deeply relaxed or refreshed.

Scientific evidence of Reiki's benefits remains scant, but anecdotally it has been linked to reduced anxiety, pain, and stress, as well as reduced incidence of side effects of cancer treatment.

A word of caution

Since Reiki tends to be a gentle and non-invasive technique, no side effects or complications have been reported. Still, it has not been studied well enough for its benefits or potential risks to be understood. Reiki should be considered a complementary therapy and not as the sole approach to treatment of disease.

Currently, there are no credentials or regulations for those who practice Reiki. And yet, it is a set of skills that must be taught by an experienced master. Three levels of training include initiations, at which point a person is said to be given access to Reiki energy.

Be sure to tell your health care providers about any Reiki treatments you have undergone.