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Reiki: Frequently Asked Questions

What does Reiki do? 

Reiki is an energetic biofield therapy that can increase states of deep relaxation and "strengthen the body's ability to heal itself." That's great, right? I mean, who doesn't want to boost their ability to relax? But the key piece of information that doesn't typically "click" for most folks is the connection between our physical body's innate ability to self-heal and our mental/emotional/spiritual capacity to experience deep states of relaxation.

You may be thinking, "Wait a minute, my body can heal itself?" Yes, it can. And chances are it's healed itself many times before. If you've ever had a cut, scrape, bruise, scratch, broken bone, surgery, joint or muscle strain or sprain, ingrown nail or hair, common cold, or stomach bug, and don't have it anymore, your body has healed itself. Now, the question is what do deep states of relaxation have to do with our body's ability to self-heal? 

Our individual capacity to experience deep states of relaxation is one of the most significant factors in determining how quickly and effectively our body can self-heal.

 

Your body needs deep states of relaxation to activate its self-healing system. Think about a time when someone needed medical attention because of a virus or infection. The physician probably prescribed medication to help your body heal itself, like antibiotics, and/or to relive symptoms, like coughing. The medical professional likely advised you to drink plenty of fluids, eat nutritious foods, and get plenty of rest/take it easy. 

Common sense tells us that resting is an important part of the recovery process. If we want to feel better, quicker, we rest.  However, most folks are not aware of the biological reason that deep states of relaxation are required to activate their built-in self-healing systems.

 "Reiki...activates the parasympathetic nervous system to heal body and mind" (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871310/) 

But what is the parasympathetic nervous system? And how does it activate our body's self-healing system?

 

The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) manages our body's self-healing process. It's the part of our nervous system that regulates the activity of organs when our body is resting, and/or getting restful sleep. Reiki, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, massage therapy, and breathwork are some of the ways to activate our parasympathetic nervous system.

 

What's a biofield? 

The concept of a biofield was introduced in the introductory answer to "What does Reiki do?" 

A biofield describes the various forms of energy our body creates while we are alive. When our heart beats, it creates a subtle, unseen electro-magnetic field. It's the reason a defibrillator can re-start hearts with electric pulses. Medical professionals can study multiple types of brain waves and how thoughts, emotions, positive and traumatic experiences impact cognitive processes. 

Is there credible information available about Reiki from medically-supervised clinical studies? What does it say?

 

The simple answer is yes, there is an increasing pool of Reiki-related research collected from medically-supervised clinical trials. Some of this research is "peer-reviewed"; some of it is not. What this research tells us about Reiki is a bit more complex. 

Reiki began receiving attention from the Western medical community in the 1990's. Early on, the goal of clinical trials was to simply determine if Reiki was "real" or a "sham." The "placebo control" method was introduced and remains present within most peer-reviewed studies.

 

Here's how the placebo control method works: Some participants receive Reiki therapy from an attuned practitioner. Others receive "sham-Reiki" from someone pretending to be a Reiki practitioner. None of the participants know which group they're in.

 

Studies using this method typically show that receiving therapeutic Reiki from an attuned practitioner produces more benefits than sessions with a person pretending to be a Reiki practitioner. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871310/) In other words, the benefits that clients experience from Reiki sessions are not the result of a placebo effect. While this data shows that Reiki offers real benefits to a majority of recipients, it took almost twenty years to establish a foundation of authenticity within Western medical communities.

 

There's a range of highly valid to deeply biased reasons that it took twenty years (mid-1990's to mid-2010's) of medically-supervised studies to authenticate Reiki as a therapeutic modality of complementary medicine. One of the most relevant, when it comes to understanding information from these clinical trials, lies within the fact that a far majority of data collected during this time came from various types of self-assessment forms. Participants would answer questions on standardized self-assessment forms at the beginning and end of the study. Then, researchers would collect and analyze data from the forms. This type of data, collected from individual self-assessments, is known as qualitative data

Qualitative data became a vital part of Western medical research of Reiki over the course of the twentieth century. However, authentication through the scientific method at the core of Western medicine requires a different type of data - quantitative data Quantitative data comes from collecting and analyzing numbers or measurements without the influence of, or dependency upon human language.

 

One reason behind Western medicine's skepticism towards Reiki prior to the mid-2010's is that there was very little quantitative (numbers-based measurements) evidence available supporting its effectiveness. Clinical trials produced enough qualitative data to show that Reiki recipients consistently reported benefits like a decrease in pain, anxiety, depression, as well as increases in their self-esteem and quality of life perception. But there wasn't consistent quantitative data about how participants' physical bodies responded to Reiki.  

A significant shift in Reiki-related research started a little more than ten years ago. Some advancements in Neurobiology/Neuroscience and Psychology led to deeper, more nuanced biological understandings of the autonomic nervous system - how it works within our bodies to keep our organs functioning and regulated on a subconscious level. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) has three branches: 

  1.  Sympathetic - Regulates vital organ functions in response to environment when we are awake; Manages our physical response to stress and external stressors; Controls our survival "Fight-Flight-Freeze-Collapse-Submit" response

  2. Parasympathetic - Regulates vital organ functions when we are sleeping/resting/in deep states of relaxation; Manages our body's self-healing system; Counterbalances (slows down) heightened activity of the sympathetic system; Vagus Nerve is the main organism (this is where polyvagal theory is rooted)

  3. Enteric - Regulates our "gut"/Gastrointestinal system; Commonly known as our "gut brain"

 

Western medicine's exploration of ways the autonomic nervous system influences our physical and holistic health allowed researchers to collect quantitative data about Reiki's potential as a complementary medical therapy. We have the technology to measure things controlled by the autonomic nervous system, like blood pressure, heart rate and heart rate variable, respiration, stress hormone levels, brain waves, and sleep patterns. And enough number-based data has emerged to confidently claim that:

 

 Reiki activates our body's parasympathetic nervous system. 

Studies on mammals (like rats) that are not human beings and do not possess the cognitive abilities to create a placebo effect have produced results consistent with those from studies conducted with human beings. Enough number-based-data driven research has emerged to show that by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, Reiki supports and increases our physical body's natural self-healing system. This discovery is a substantial step towards solidifying Reiki's validity and beneficial attributes.

 

At the same time, this milestone in Reiki research creates a significant hurdle for present and future studies. One of the basic rules in the Scientific Method testing process is that the results must be repetitive. So far, the repetitive result of Reiki therapy is the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. And here's the current hurdle: activation of one person's parasympathetic nervous system will likely produce a very different set of results than those experienced by the activation of another person's self-healing system. Why? Human beings have unique combinations of internal and external variables that create a unique set of healing needs, specific to each individual.

 

A clear-cut, exact list of Reiki's "proven" benefits doesn't, and will likely never exist. Results beyond activation of the parasympathetic nervous system will not be repetitive because the specific healing needs of each person is different. And Reiki-related research that does not include space for this individual-based variable will continue to produce inconclusive and inconsistent results.  

 

No study, or group of studies, will ever produce repeatable results showing that Reiki has the potential to heal or cure ailments like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, autoimmune or gastrointestinal dysfunctions, or do things like speed up the rate of post-operative recovery for a far majority of participants. Are there isolated accounts of miracle-like results for a handful of individuals? Yes. However, these isolated incidents are not predictable, consistent, or common. And most include combining Reiki as a complementary therapy supporting treatments prescribed by a licensed medical professional. Is there a list of the most commonly experienced results, or benefits, of Reiki therapy? Yes.

The most commonly reported benefits of Reiki therapy are:

 

 

Increased sense of emotional calmness and ability to regulate emotional reactivity

Increased sense of self-esteem, self-confidence, and ability to experience positive emotions

Decreased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression and common symptoms, like insomnia

Improvement in moods, energy, productivity, ability to focus attention, and mental clarity

Decrease in levels of temporary (acute) and chronic experienced pain/ pain perception 

Reduction of stress-related dysfunctions and symptoms like, headaches, muscle tension, and digestive issues

What Reiki is NOT

Reiki is NOT a substitute for professional medical treatment. Reiki practitioners do not take the place of medical professionals and should never diagnosis, or claim to treat or heal, any medical conditions. Practitioners should facilitate therapeutic Reiki sessions to compliment, and never replace, any type of medical treatment. 

Follow the link below for Reiki therapy options and book your session!  

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