Does Reiki Work? Maybe, Maybe Not

“Reiki” (ray-key) is Japanese for ‘universal life energy’, a term used to describe a system of natural healing. This healing tradition was founded by Dr Mikao Usui in the early 20th century and evolved as a result of his research, experience and dedication.  Massage Therapists are often found taking classes in Reiki and it is also popular in the nursing profession with nurses using it often in the hospital with sick patients.

One of the hot topics of discussion on Facebook among massage therapists has been – Does Reiki Work? and the latest question asked was why does the NCBTMB approve Reiki classes as part of their continuing education requirements if there is no scientific evidence that there is even such a thing called Reiki.

There are many research studies that do try to show that Reiki works.  I just Goggled Reiki Research and there were many pages that showed many different studies on Reiki.

The problem though with all the research studies though is that they assume that there is something called ‘Universal Energy’.  I am told by Chris Moyer, PhD a well known researcher in the massage profession and Professor of Psychology at University of Wisconsin-Stout, that indeed there is no such thing as ‘Universal Energy’.

So what is Reiki?

Reiki is an metaphysical, energy based type of traditional healing method.

Most reiki research is also lacking in valid research methods that show what it really is that is happening because there are so many positive results that happen. Many Reiki practitioners will usually see some results in their clients.  It is my understanding that Reiki or so called laying on of hands or holding your hand over people does help them feel better- helps them feel calmer, more relaxed. It is not apparently because of the so called “universal energy field.”

The problem for me lies in how do we get this message to people who are doing Reiki and what really would need to be done?  Could people doing Reiki just change what they say about how it works to be more credible and just say we don’t know what is happening?  Does using Reiki and saying that Reiki works actually hurt the massage profession because it makes the profession look less reputable when they promote things that are not accurate methods of healing?

Personal note:  I don’t get Reiki.  I never have felt anything when someone said they were doing Reiki on me.  I took an energy class once (not specifically reiki) and they told me to imagine I felt the energy.  I was out of there!  The reason this topic interests me so what to do with all the Reiki practitioners out there spreading the word of Reiki.  I am sure that their reaction to this is going to be reactionary as I am guessing they may feel like they are being attacked both professionally and personally as I have seen in other cases of where research does not currently support a technique or process. My concern with this is how I see it separating the profession even more when there is already so much going on that separates us (Side bar: 2 major professional associations, 2 major testing organizations, the ELAP project, the Alliance for Massage Education – why can’t there be one org? that unites us all because it is needed if we want to be recognized as part of the health care profession and get massage to be covered by insurance.)  I also have been struggling for years to understand the meaning of research and what does it say or not say – does research ‘prove beyond a doubt’ that something works or doesn’t work and how much research do we need to prove something.