Have you heard the word Reiki and thought to yourself what does that really mean? What is this type of healing massage used for? In this article, we will explore what Reiki means and how it works.

What is Reiki Massage?

Reiki refers to a treatment option that is used for many different conditions. To come to an understanding of Reiki and its definition, the best place to gain knowledge is in the meaning of the word itself. Why? Reiki is a type of therapy that is rooted in Japanese. Reiki is formed from two Japanese words:

  1. Rei: Universal spirit or supreme being

  2. Ki: Energy

Based on these two meanings, when put together to create the therapy, Reiki means: "universal life energy".

This is important because Reiki is classified in America as an energy medicine therapy.

2 Ways Reiki is an Energy Medicine Therapy

There are different categories and way of classifying natural and alternative treatments. To be classified as an energy medicine therapy as Reiki has been - there are two different attributes or key beliefs that need to be upheld around the therapy:

  1. Cause of illness: A disturbance in energy throughout a body

  2. Energy/force: Energy that can be measured with scientific tools and instruments

Types of Energy

In Reiki, there are two types of energy that are connected to the practice and treatment:

Electromagnetic fields: This type of energy is sometimes also called biofields or putative energy fields. It refers to a belief and an understanding that this type of energy not only surrounds human bodies but also penetrates bodies.

Ki: This life force is the second type of energy that is believed to be connected to and Reiki.

The word belief is used here because although different studies have tried to validate and bring understanding to the physical properties of these energies, it has proven to be a challenge for scientists.

Reiki Effectiveness, A Challenge for Science

Evaluating the effectiveness of Reiki is challenging because of the following four reasons.

1. Low number of studies: The number of studies have been conducted.

2. Different conditions: Each of the studies examined a different health condition in relation to Reiki.

3. Inability to compare: Due to the differences in the number of conditions studied and not more than one study on the same conditions - comparing results of studies and coming to an understanding of how helpful Reiki can become hard to measure.

4. Type of studies: The studies that have been conducted have not compared Reiki therapy to sham/no treatment. This type of comparative studies are often considered the most effective and informative.

4 Health Conditions, Reiki and Studies

There are four health conditions that Reiki and its impact have been studied:

  1. Pain

  2. Anxiety

  3. Fatigue

  4. Depression

Because of the challenges mentioned that scientists experience in regard to Reiki as therapy, that does not mean that Reiki is not used to help with different conditions or that it is not helpful.

What is Reiki Healing Used for?

According to this guide, by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Reiki is often used to helping with the following twelve conditions and symptoms:

  1. Stress

  2. Chronic pain

  3. Surgery recovery

  4. Waking and recovering from anesthesia

  5. Cancer treatment symptoms

  6. Lowering heart rate

  7. Immunity challenges

  8. Mental clarity

  9. Brain fog

  10. Well-being

  11. Spirituality

  12. Hospice care (to increase a feeling of peace)

A recent national survey on the use of different: of CAM therapies and treatments discovered that 1.1 percent out of the 31,000 participants in the study had used Reiki in the year before the survey. That is about 341 people a year. With those many people using and trying Reiki a year - keep in mind that the survey did not have a very large pool of people and collected data on different therapy usage including others like diet, massage, prayer, and chiropractic; the actual number of people using and participating in Reiki therapy is most likely far more than 341. But what is exactly is it that Reiki masters and practitioners do?

5 Things Reiki Masters Do

Reiki practitioners and masters do five things:

  1. Tool: Use their hands gently

  2. Usage: Place their hands on or above a body that is being treated

  3. Goal: Aim to move energy in a body receiving treatment

  4. Occurrence: Activate a body's natural and innate healing attributes

  5. Well being: Increase overall well being of a person receiving Reiki

From the East to the West, a History of Reiki

From the monks and villages in Tibet to the distance between the ocean, how has Reiki developed and traveled the world? Who has played a role in spreading the practice and therapy? Here is an outline on its history:

  • Monks: The origin of Reiki is thought to have started with monks in Tibet

  • Dr. Mikao: This doctor from Japan is connected with giving the therapy its name. Not only was he a mid-19th-century monk, but he was also a physician. He is responsible for creating an organization and starting the spread of the therapy in the east through the training of others.

  • An unnamed student: The story continues with an unnamed student who trained under Dr. Mikao who opened their own practice in Tokyo, Japan and expanded on the practices of Reiki.

  • Hawayo Takata: An American went to this practice in Tokyo to experience Reiki in 1936. She ended up becoming a Reiki master.

  • Across an ocean: Hawayo Takata ended up introducing Reiki to the west and to America and the therapy of energy work and Reiki started to take off in America after the late 1930s.

How Does it Work?

Ok, so how is it that Reiki works? Just because, there has not been a substantial number of studies validating the helpful and effectiveness of Reiki, there is still information on how Reiki works. This one study, turned to the theory of quantum physics to understand the mechanisms of Reiki and for an understanding of how Reiki may work to aid illness.

The basis of quantum physics is that there are different particles which can be found in more than one place and also at the same time be in more than one place. How does this apply to Reiki? Reiki is a healing energy therapy based on the principles of energy blocks in the body and so the theory of quantum physics can explain how Reiki works if you look at it this way:

  1. The gathering of energy: Through Reiki biofield energy and ki can be gathered then directed by the Reiki practitioner to the person receiving Reiki treatment.

  2. Quantum physics: Through quantum physics, this gathering, and transferring of energy is explained through changes in how unseen particles are manipulated through distance healing.

  3. Transferring of energy simultaneously: The particles of the energy are possibly simultaneously present at, in, and around the Reiki master and the person of going in for a Reiki treatment.

This is only one theory and idea of how Reiki works. Reiki itself has not had a theory proven or attached to it to comprehensively explain how it works. The greater scientists do research, the more will gain in regard to conclusions on not only on the effectiveness of Reiki but also how it works from a scientific standpoint.

Up next, what to expect during a Reiki session. . .

What to Expect During Reiki

When you go to a Reiki session, you know that the practitioner may or may not put their hands on different parts of your body. You have an idea of how it will work, but knowing step by step what will happen at Reiki session, particularly your first session, can help to make the experience much more relaxing.

Why? Knowing what to expect or having an idea of what to expect can lead to your mind being more open to calming any doubts or questions you have on what a Reiki experience will be like. To help you with this we have created a guide on a session may be like. Read it here: What to Expect During a Reiki Session

Is it Safe?

Many people often also want to know if Reiki is safe. Through the few studies that have revolved around Reiki have come to the conclusion that there are not any more or less side effects of people who have and have not had Reiki therapy. And overall it is considered safe. This does not mean that there are not a few things to consider about Reiki therapy.

2 Considerations About Reiki Therapy

Here is a list of two things you should consider about Reiki therapy:

  1. Not a replacement: Reiki is a complementary, natural, and alternative treatment. It can be a great supportive option for combating and managing symptoms of conditions.

  2. Communication is key: If you live with a health condition or are experiencing different symptoms that you would like to decrease, it is always recommended that you communicate with all practitioners and health care providers that you are seeing so that your health and wellness is coordinated and comprehensive in your best interests overall.

Outside of the safety of Reiki, there are effects that can be both beneficial and others can be considered a side effect that some may want to know about before they head over and start Reiki therapy.

Effects of Reiki

As we saw, there are twelve different possible reason and conditions and that Reiki therapy may be used. And it is considered safe. But what effects and benefits can the therapy have that those twelve conditions are impacted by the therapy? Are there any situations where Reiki should be avoided? To find out, read: Effects and Benefits of Reiki.


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More Than One-Third of U.S. Adults Use Complementary and Alternative Medicine, According to New Government Survey. Retrieved March 6, 2019, from https://nccih.nih.gov/news/2004/052704.htm

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