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NIH NCCAM Revises Health Information on Reiki

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the Federal Government's lead NIH agency for scientific research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which includes Reiki. Yadira explains why she is pleased with the new Reiki health information being provided to the public by the government.

Article by Yadira / Lake Forest, California / September 29 2008

Logo of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), of which the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is a part. More Info

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) includes the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Image: Public domain

More and more people — not just patients, but physicians also — are considering the benefits that alternative therapies and treatments can offer instead of simply resorting to more medications. When considering Reiki alone for example, NCCAM estimates that as of 2002, up to 2.2 million American adults had already tried Reiki as a complementary therapy.

Unfortunately, the language used to describe these treatments can often be difficult to understand, be incomplete or lack consistency, and can make it frustrating for those wanting to get concise or impartial information on complementary medicines and treatments. This is particularly true of Reiki, where today there are many branches and styles being practiced, and where the system largely relies on self–regulation.

Pamela Miles, Reiki Master and Author of Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide reviewed the recent changes to NCCAM’s health information on Reiki. More Info

Pamela Miles, Reiki Master and Author of Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide reviewed the recent changes to NCCAM's health information on Reiki.

© Hannah Grace Miles

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is one of the U.S. Federal Government's National Institutes of Health (NIH). Part of its stated mission is to provide authoritative information about complementary and alternative medicine to the public. The language used to describe these treatments is therefore neutral and clear, and hence useful to those wishing to find out more.

NCCAM recently revised its information on Reiki to correct a number of errors and inconsistencies, and the result is a much clearer and more accurate account which will benefit both the general public and healthcare providers alike.

The NCCAM document is not copyrighted, and the main content has been reproduced below for your convenience.

I would like to thank Pamela Miles for bringing to my attention the recent updates to the NCCAM Backgrounder on Reiki, and who contributed to the revisions made by reviewing the recent changes for NCCAM.

The Revised NCCAM Backgrounder on Reiki

Logo of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), one of the U.S. Government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH). More Info

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is one of the U.S. Government's National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Image: Public domain

Reproduced below is the main content from the recently updated Reiki health information provided by NCCAM. The full document can be seen here on the NCCAM website where a PDF version is also available for download. (The NCCAM document is not copyrighted and distribution is encouraged.)

Reiki: An Introduction

Introduction

Reiki is a healing practice that originated in Japan. Reiki practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above the person receiving treatment, with the goal of facilitating the person's own healing response. In the United States, Reiki is part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This fact sheet provides a general overview of Reiki and suggests sources for additional information.

Key Points

  • People use Reiki to promote overall health and well–being. Reiki is also used by people who are seeking relief from disease–related symptoms and the side effects of conventional medical treatments.
  • Reiki has historically been practiced as a form of self–care. Increasingly, it is also provided by health care professionals in a variety of clinical settings.
  • People do not need a special background to learn how to perform Reiki. Currently, training and certification for Reiki practitioners are not formally regulated.
  • Scientific research is under way to learn more about how Reiki may work, its possible effects on health, and diseases and conditions for which it may be helpful.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

History

The word “Reiki” is derived from two Japanese words: rei, or universal, and ki, or life energy. Current Reiki practice can be traced to the spiritual teachings of Mikao Usui in Japan during the early 20th century. Usui's teachings included meditative techniques and healing practices. One of Usui's students, Chujiro Hayashi, further developed the healing practices, placing less emphasis on the meditative techniques. An American named Hawayo Takata learned Reiki from Hayashi in Japan and introduced it to Western cultures in the late 1930s.

The type of Reiki practiced and taught by Hayashi and Takata may be considered traditional Reiki. Numerous variations (or schools) of Reiki have since been developed and are currently practiced.

Practice

Reiki is based on the idea that there is a universal (or source) energy that supports the body's innate healing abilities. Practitioners seek to access this energy, allowing it to flow to the body and facilitate healing.

Although generally practiced as a form of self–care, Reiki can be received from someone else and may be offered in a variety of health care settings, including medical offices, hospitals, and clinics. It can be practiced on its own or along with other CAM therapies or conventional medical treatments.

In a Reiki session, the client lies down or sits comfortably, fully clothed. The practitioner's hands are placed lightly on or just above the client's body, palms down, using a series of 12 to 15 different hand positions. Each position is held for about 2 to 5 minutes, or until the practitioner feels that the flow of energy–experienced as sensations such as heat or tingling in the hands–has slowed or stopped. The number of sessions depends on the health needs of the client. Typically, the practitioner delivers at least four sessions of 30 to 90 minutes each. The duration of Reiki sessions may be shorter in certain health care settings (for example, during surgery).

Practitioners with appropriate training may perform Reiki from a distance, that is, on clients who are not physically present in the office or clinic.

Uses

A 2002 national survey by the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) on adult Americans' use of CAM found that 1.1 percent of the more than 31,000 participants had ever used Reiki for health purposes. Adjusted to nationally representative numbers, this percentage means that at the time of the survey, more than 2.2 million adults in the United States had ever used Reiki.

People use Reiki for relaxation, stress reduction, and symptom relief, in efforts to improve overall health and well–being. Reiki has been used by people with anxiety, chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, and other health conditions, as well as by people recovering from surgery or experiencing side effects from cancer treatments. Reiki has also been given to people who are dying (and to their families and caregivers) to help impart a sense of peace.

Effects and Safety

Clients may experience a deep state of relaxation during a Reiki session. They might also feel warm, tingly, sleepy, or refreshed.

Reiki appears to be generally safe, and no serious side effects have been reported.

Training, Licensing, and Certification

No special background or credentials are needed to receive training. However, Reiki must be learned from an experienced teacher or a Master; it cannot be self–taught. The specific techniques taught can vary greatly.

Training in traditional Reiki has three degrees (levels), each focusing on a different aspect of practice. Each degree includes one or more initiations (also called attunements or empowerments). Receiving an initiation is believed to activate the ability to access Reiki energy. Training for first– and second–degree practice is typically given in 8 to 12 class hours over about 2 days. In first–degree training, students learn to perform Reiki on themselves and on others. In second–degree training, students learn to perform Reiki on others from a distance. Some students seek master–level (third–degree) training. A Reiki Master can teach and initiate students. Becoming a Master can take years.

Reiki practitioners' training and expertise vary. Increasingly, many people who seek training are licensed health care professionals. However, no licensing or professional standards exist for the practice of Reiki.

If You Are Thinking About Using Reiki

  • Do not use Reiki as a replacement for proven conventional care or to postpone seeing a doctor about a medical problem.
  • Find out about the Reiki practitioner's background, including training and experience treating clients.
  • Be aware that Reiki has not been well studied scientifically, but research on whether and how Reiki may work is under way.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about CAM, see NCCAMs Time To Talk campaign.

NCCAM-Funded Research

One of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) buildings. The NIH presently comprises 27 institutes, including the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) which lists information on Reiki. More Info

One of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) buildings.

Image: Wikipedia

Some recent NCCAM–supported studies have been investigating:

  • How Reiki might work
  • Whether Reiki is effective and safe for treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia
  • Reiki's possible impact on the well–being and quality of life in people with advanced AIDS
  • The possible effects of Reiki on disease progression and/or anxiety in people with prostate cancer
  • Whether Reiki can help reduce nerve pain and cardiovascular risk in people with type 2 diabetes.

Selected References

Barnes PM, Powell–Griner E, McFann K, Nahin RL. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults: United States, 2002. CDC Advance Data Report #343. 2004.

DiNucci EM. Energy healing: a complementary treatment for orthopaedic and other conditions. Orthopaedic Nursing. 2005;24(4):259–269.

Engebretson J, Wardell DW. Experience of a Reiki session. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2002;8(2):48–53.

LaTorre MA. The use of Reiki in psychotherapy. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care. 2005;41(4):184–187.

Miles P. Reiki for mind, body, and spirit support of cancer patients. Advances in Mind–Body Medicine. 2007;22(2):20–26.

Miles P, True G. Reiki–review of a biofield therapy history, theory, practice, and research. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2003;9(2):62–72.

Nield–Anderson L, Ameling A. Reiki: a complementary therapy for nursing practice. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. 2001;39(4):42–49.

Reiki. Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed on February 25, 2008

Acknowledgements

NCCAM thanks the following people for their technical expertise and review of the original publication: Joan Fox, Ph.D., and Didier Allexandre, Ph.D., The Cleveland Clinic; Karen Prestwood, M.D., University of Connecticut Health Center; Gala True, Ph.D., Albert Einstein Healthcare Network; and Morgan Jackson, M.D., and Shan Wong, Ph.D., NCCAM.

NCCAM thanks the following people for their technical expertise and review of the content update of this publication: Pamela Miles, Integrative Health Care Consultant and Reiki Master, Institute for the Advancement of Complementary Therapies; Gary L. Yount, Ph.D., California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute; and Barbara E. Moquin, Ph.D., and Partap Khalsa, D.C., Ph.D., NCCAM.

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