Role in Health Care
Currently, Reiki practitioners and teachers promote on a word-of-mouth basis, on the internet, or through a local alternative medical office like acupuncture, chiropractic or massage therapy. At this point, patients determine the efficacy of Reiki and how much money they are willing to spend based on their own perceived effect.
Treatment prices vary greatly by experience of the Reiki practitioner, from $0-$1000’s/hour. However, a comfortable mid-range for a traditional Reiki treatment is $35/hour for a Level One Practitioner, $50-$75/hour for a Level Two Practitioner, and $75-$300/hour for treatment with a Reiki Master. Classes also vary in price based on the experience of the Reiki Master. Reiki Level One and Two may range from $500-$1500/class. Reiki Master Level has been known to cost $10,000 universally.
Classes are a bit more in cost/hour because the student of Reiki will be able to treat themselves and others, saving money on future treatments and being able to charge for services themselves if they choose. Reiki Level One and Two can be taught in four-hour time intervals. Reiki Master Level is taught over a two-weekend intensive.
While the cost of Reiki treatments and classes may seem high to some, many of my own patients have actually saved health dollars due to Reiki treatments, including a reduction in the strength or need for medications and elimination of the need for surgery. However, the benefits of Reiki to quality of life and longevity cannot be measured in dollars.
Currently, patients pay for treatments and classes on a cash basis as there is a lack of insurance and government funding. Some nurses may be able to bill under diagnostic code 1.8 – Energy Field Disturbance, as stated by the Official Newsletter of the American Holistic Nurse’s Association Vol. 15-No. 4, April 1995. However, this can only be used by nurses and may not be a covered benefit. The safety and efficacy of Reiki has not been established thus far in conventional medicine to warrant its own diagnostic code.
It may be common sense that the safety of patients receiving Reiki is not in question. During a professional Reiki treatment, the patient is not exposed to any type of danger. However, there are people who claim to be Reiki practitioners who are not. The teachings and attunements of Reiki are passed from Master to student and the student is given a gold-sealed and embossed certificate of completion. Nevertheless, there are no mechanisms of state or federal accreditation in place to protect the consumer from imposters. Granted that the Reiki practitioner is legitimate, there are no safety concerns.
The number of research studies on the effectiveness of Reiki for various indications began to pick up after the turn of the century, but are currently still very limited. Also, doubts are raised in the ability to have placebo-controlled trials for Reiki efficacy. A Reiki treatment cannot be mimicked by another procedure that the patient will know whether or not Reiki is being given. The power of human touch, even without Reiki training, does not provide a true placebo, in that human touch can have an effect.
In 2003, Olson and Hansen recruited 24 volunteers with advanced cancer in palliative care to study use of Reiki for pain, quality of life, and analgesic use. The authors did not feel the study could be blinded or placebo-controlled. The study was randomized, however the study had to stop short on volunteer recruitment because volunteers were unwilling to be in the non-Reiki group. The experimental group received standard opioid therapy plus Reiki. The control group received standard opioid therapy plus rest. In this study, a statistically significant reduction in pain was shown on both the VAS and Likert Pain Scales after the 1st and 2nd session of Reiki. The patients reported a significant improvement in quality of life after 3 sessions compared to the control group. And, the experimental group showed a statistically significant drop in blood pressure and heart rate after the 1st and 2nd sessions of Reiki. There was no reported drop in opioid use; however, the patients were instructed to continue their normal doses.
Another interesting article studying pain and anxiety in women after hysterectomy included 48 volunteers, 24 control volunteers receiving protocol pain medication after surgery and 24 experimental volunteers receiving protocol pain medication and Reiki pre-operative, post-operative, and in recovery. A statistically significant reduction in pain and anxiety was shown in the experimental group and less pain medications were needed. Another interesting finding was the average surgery time was significantly lower in the experimental group, 59 minutes versus 72 minutes for the control group. (Vitale & O’Conner 2006)
The following are a few other examples of studies showcasing the effectiveness of Reiki. A case report study published in 2009 showed 5/6 volunteers with dementia had a reduction in anxiety, and reported volunteers were less confused and more socially comfortable (Meland). In 1998, a controlled study on 120 chronically ill patients with pain demonstrated (p<.0001-.04) that Reiki proved superior to false Reiki, aiding in muscle relaxation, and relieving pain, anxiety, and depression (Dressen & Singg). Another study, by Olson and Hanson, determined that Reiki treatments reduced pain in the visual analog scale and Likert rating scale in 85% of the patients in the study (1997).
Another method of proving that Reiki is “doing” something is to account for physiological changes in healthy subjects. Only two articles were found of this nature. One controlled study concluded that Reiki demonstrated an increase in hemoglobin and hematocrit (p<0.01) compared with a control and a placebo group (Wetzel 1999). A more recent single-blinded placebo-controlled study concluded a significant decrease in heart rate and diastolic blood pressure in the Reiki group (Mackay et al. 2003).
Despite these preliminary findings of effectiveness and physiological change, in totality, they are too few in number to alter the mainstream academic mentality or insurance policy benefits at this time. Proving the efficacy of Reiki may be in its infancy; however, the rise in use of Reiki as well as other complementary alternative medicines (CAM) warrants a closer look into proving the effect of these modalities.
A recent longitudinal survey of people with physical disabilities using CAM, including Reiki, estimated that 80% were using CAM for pain, 43% for decreased function, and 24% for a lack of energy. In addition, 66.7% said it fit their lifestyle, and 44.4% said CAM was more effective than conventional medicine (Carlson & Krahn 2006). In addition, a historical study showed that both lifetime prevalence and number of visits to CAM practitioners, including Reiki, have been growing over the past several decades (Eisenberg et al. 1998, Kessler et al. 2001).
Many patients look toward insurance companies and the government to provide health benefits that include CAM. A recent exploratory study on 10 key government officials exposed that they feel the push from consumers to provide CAM. However, they claim that the reluctance is due to the lack of safety and efficacy data, as well as due to the rising cost of healthcare (Kelner et al. 2004).
Like my son’s friend (see Part 1), many people’s quality of life and life itself may depend on more research to prove the safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of Reiki. The agencies funding healthcare may fear a rise in cost for preventative health measures. However in patients treated with Reiki, the cost of medications, interventions, and surgeries may be reduced in the long-term.
In one of my patients, the need for a surgery costing $55,000 was eliminated. This patient received three Reiki treatments/week for six weeks costing $810 total, saving a total of $54,190 health care dollars. In a hypertensive patient that received Reiki Level One and Two, given that Reiki classes cost $500 each, a reduction in a medication costing $50/month paid for the classes within 10 months. Costs for healthcare are reduced by $18,000 if this patient lives 30 years without the medication.
Reiki will prove especially cost-effective if patients are taught Reiki themselves. Once taught, Reiki flows through the patient whenever activated. Also, these patients would have the ability to treat other family members, another cost benefit.
In addition to a reduction in healthcare costs, Reiki may reduce the number of sick days at work and school due to illness. Employers may view Reiki as an effective method of reducing worker’s stress and increasing productivity. Insurance companies which offer Reiki as a covered benefit may provide a competitive edge to gain professional contracts. In the meantime, efforts of practitioners can be directed at promoting Reiki to employers directly as a benefit they can provide their employees.
As the statistical trends show, patients will continue to increase their demand for CAM therapies. Since the current state of research on Reiki does not clearly reflect the patient’s perceived benefit, Reiki practitioners and teachers must continue the effort to provide quality efficacy data. And we can all urge for support for increased insurance coverage through patient advocacy groups, non-profit organizations, and our government officials.
- Carlson M., Krahn G. (2006) “Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practitioners by People with Physical Disabilities: Estimates from a National US Survey.” Disability and Rehabilitation 28(8):505-13.
- Dressen L., Sing S. (1998) “Pain, Anxiety, and Depression in Chronically Ill Patients and Reiki Healing.” In: Benor D., Ed. Spiritual Healing—Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution Southfield, Mch: Vision Publications: 232-33.
- Eisenberg D. Davis R. et al. (1998) “Trends in Alternative Medicine Use in the United States, 1990-7.” Journal of American Medical Association 280(18):1569-75.
- Friedman R., Burg M., et al. (2010) “Effects of Reiki on Autonomic Activity Early After Acute Coronary Syndrome.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 56(12)
- Kelner M., Boon H., et al. (2002) “Complementary and Alternative Groups Contemplate the Need for Effectiveness, Safety and Cost-Effectiveness Research.” Compl Ther Med. 10:235-9.
- Kessler R., Davis R., et al. (2001) “Long-Term Trends in the Use of Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies in the United States.” Annals of Internal Medicine 135:262-8.
- Mackay N., Hansen S., & McFarlane O. (2004) “Autonomic Nervous System Changes During Reiki Treatment: A Preliminary Study.” J Altern Complement Med. 10(6):1077-81.
- Meland B. (2009) “Effects of Reiki on Pain and Anxiety in the Elderly Diagnosed with Dementia: A Series of Case Reports.” Alternative Therapies 15(4): 56-7.
- Miles P. (2003) “Reiki-Review of a Biofield Therapy History, ,Theory, Practice, and Research.” Alternative Therapies 9(2): 62-71.
- Official Newsletter of the American Holistic Nurse’s Association Vol. 15-No. 4, April 1995.
- Olson K., Hanson J., et al. (2003) “A Phase II Trial of Reiki for the Management of Pain in Advanced Cancer Patients.” J Pain Symptom Management 26(5): 990-7.
- Olson M., Sneed N., et al. (1997) “Stress-Induced Immunosuppression and Therapeutic Touch.” Altern Ther Health Med. 3(2):68-74.
- Richeson, N., Spross J., et al. (2010) “Effects of Reiki on Anxiety, Depression, Pain, and Physiological Factors in Community-Dwelling Older Adults.” Research Gerontological Nursing. 3(3):187-99.
- Vitale A., O’Conner P. (2006) “The Effect of Reiki on Pain and Anxiety in Women with Abdominal Hysterectomies.” Holistic Nursing Practice Nov/Dec 2006: 263-72.
- Wetzel W. (1989) “Reiki Healing: A Physiological Perspective.” J Holist Nurs. 7(1):47-54.
© 2014 Julie Armstrong, MS BME, MSAOM, L.Ac.