Massage Modalities – Reiki

Reiki is a form of energy practice, which may be used to foster physical and mental wellness. The intent is to positively influence the client’s flow of energy. Some have theorized that Reiki is a way of positively altering the body’s electromagnetic fields. Why it works is elusive, but studies indicate that it has value as a complementary practice, and it has a presence even in hospital settings.

Reiki Practice

Reiki is different than true massage and bodywork modalities in that it does not always involve actual physical contact. It is sometimes practiced with the hands on the body and sometimes with them near the body.

Reiki may be practiced on its own or in tandem with other massage or bodywork practices. Acupuncture and Massage College notes a particular synergy with Shiatsu, though practitioners from many backgrounds may incorporate Reiki. Some practitioners like to direct energy toward their clients while engaging in more physical bodywork practices. Some utilize Reiki to wrap up their sessions. Different therapists develop their own signature sessions.

Other healing arts professionals may practice Reiki. The training is brief and thus feasible for nurses and other healthcare professionals who may find it useful for reducing anxiety and mitigating stress. A Massachusetts BSN recently provided Reflections on Nursing Leadership her story of going from Reiki skeptic to Reiki practitioner — and of how Reiki is making inroads into the medical community (

Among those who have voiced support for Reiki: well-known physician Dr. Andrew Weil.

The practice is of Japanese origin and is attributed to Dr. Mikao Usui. Some describe its origins as a re-discovering. Usui Shiki Ryoho is the original form. There are quite a few variants; Karuna Reiki is among the better known. Some practitioners attempt distance healing through Reiki.

Reiki Training

Reiki training is offered at three levels, or degrees; sometimes there is a fourth, designed to prepare teachers. An individual may complete the first level in as little as a day; some courses last several. Theoretically, at least, a person can move up to the “Master” level quite quickly. However, many maintain that it takes time to develop to this level, and that the process cannot be rushed. Sometimes the first two levels are offered together. Some trainers mandate a wait period of several months between the initial two trainings, some a year. A significant period may be required before the third.

Reiki coursework is sometimes offered through schools of massage. Massage therapy school can provide a well-rounded education with coursework in human anatomy and pathology, business practices, and ethics as well as theories and techniques for multiple modalities.

Bodywork professionals and healthcare practitioners may complete Reiki training as professional development. Whether the particular training will be accepted as continuing education is dependent on the policies of the licensing board and of the professional organizations it defers to in making continuing education determinations. Some Reiki continuing education providers note approval by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB).

Practitioners may continue to pursue professional development. Animal Reiki and medical Reiki are among the offerings.

For many practitioners, Reiki is deeply integrated into daily life. Reiki practitioners are encouraged to perform self-Reiki. According to a study published in Holistic Nursing Practice, Reiki can be beneficial to nurses’ own self-care as well as their care of patients (

Reiki Certification Credentials

The International Center for Reiki Training has provided information about Reiki legalities ( As an energy practice, Reiki is less widely regulated than true massage. A professional who practices only Reiki will be license-exempt in many states. One Tree Guild has provided a resource of state code that references exemptions ( However, it is important to check directly with the Board in the state(s). In some jurisdictions, the distinction may be based on whether touch is utilized. A professional who practices Reiki along with other practices will typically need licensure, though some states exclude even Shiatsu from mandates.

Independent Reiki practitioners can join the International Association of Reiki Professionals ( Members agree to abide by the organization’s code of ethics. Members have access to various professional resources. They can purchase optional liability insurance.

Reiki Research

A recent study explored hospital patients’ perceptions of symptom relief after a single session of Reiki (; this particular study utilized a general hospital population. In this study, Reiki sessions improved fatigue and anxiety more than massage did. The two therapies showed similar results with regard to pain and nausea.

One study attempted to separate actual effects from placebo effects by using rats. Researchers concluded that Reiki could positively impact the heartrate of rats (; sham Reiki did not have the same effect. A recent meta-analysis of human studies published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine provided further evidence of something beyond the placebo effect (

The Center for Reiki Research collects research about scientific studies.

One thing people can generally agree: Reiki is a safe form of complementary therapy.