Reiki Healing – Applications for Breast Cancer
I sought out the benefits of Reiki healing quite soon after my lumpectomy surgery because I knew that it would have some very real benefits in my recovery. Today I’d like to share with you what Reiki is (if you’re unfamiliar), some of the benefits of Reiki healing, and even a little research!
A Brief History of Reiki
Throughout history, the ancients had a deep understanding of the nature of energy, spirit and matter and they used this knowledge to help heal their bodies, to bring themselves into harmony and unity. This was common knowledge in the cultures of places like Tibet, India, Japan, China, and Egypt. In some cultures, this knowledge was a closely guarded secret, preserved and known to only a select few, usually priests or spiritual leaders, who in turn passed the knowledge down to their disciples.
But the gift of healing rests within each of us. It’s not something reserved only for a select few. Everyone can learn to heal, just as everyone can receive that healing.
The knowledge of Reiki (pronounced RAY-kee) might have been lost to the ages had it not been for Mikao Usui, who around 100 years ago, and after a lengthy search, rediscovered this tradition of healing in 2,500-year-old Sanskrit teachings.
Reiki is a healing technique – the word means universal life energy. The first part of the word “rei” describes the boundless, universal aspect of energy, and “ki” refers to the vital life force energy which flows through all living beings. Ki is known as “chi” by the Chinese, “prana” by the Hindus, “holy ghost” by Christians, and “ka” by the Egyptians.
Reiki healing is based on ancient beliefs that a practitioner can promote overall healing and wellness by encouraging the flow of this universal life energy within a recipient via light touch.
As human beings, we are 99.9999% energy. If that’s a foreign concept to you, that’s great – I’m hopeful of opening your mind.
The Usui method of Reiki is a simple natural healing method which allows for the transference of energy between a practitioner and a recipient. In order to learn Reiki, the practitioner will have attended a 2-3 day class given by a Reiki Master, during which time the practitioner will have been opened up or attuned to become a channel for Reiki energy, and will have learned the particular ways in which hands should be placed, and other important factors about Reiki therapy.
My Experience with Reiki
When I began my studies in natural healing, the very first thing I did was to go through Reiki training, 1st and 2nd degree. So besides being a breast cancer coach and natural therapist, I am also a Reiki practitioner (something not many know about me). 
Through my Reiki training, I came to understand that we are living energy beings, and we have a frequency (frequency can be defined as the rate at which a vibration occurs that constitutes a wave). I was interested to learn that I was not actually doing any healing, merely facilitating – acting as a conduit for the flow of energy to another recipient, whether near or far. 
I also discovered that some of us have healthy frequencies and some of us do not. It has been said that if cancer is present, our frequencies are quite low.
I remembered that teaching about our frequency being quite low when cancer is present, when I myself was diagnosed with breast cancer. So when I was going through breast cancer treatments, I found another Reiki practitioner with whom I could work, because I was aware of just how beneficial Reiki could be – for so many reasons! I wanted my frequency to be high, and I knew that having Reiki treatments could help with that. In fact, one of the local cancer treatment centers even offered Reiki treatments at reduced cost to cancer patients – way back in 2004 – and I believe they are still doing this in many larger cities.
I always felt so good when leaving my Reiki treatments. No matter what had gone on that day, I felt lighter, almost like some heavy energy had been off-loaded and replaced by a lighter, healthier energy. It’s kind of hard to explain. Sometimes I’d come away feeling totally energized, and other times I would simply feel that I’d been opened up to a new idea or something I’d been worrying about would be resolved. If nothing else, I felt much more peaceful, and that is always a welcome thing, right?
The Non-Research Backed Benefits of Reiki
The things for which we have no proof, but about which Reiki practitioners and patients often comment are:
Reiki helps to unblock energy within the body
Reiki supports the body’s natural ability to heal itself
Reiki helps the body to cleanse itself 
Reiki balances the body’s energies and helps to re-establish equilibrium within the body
Reiki revitalizes body and soul
Reiki works on whatever level the recipient most needs – mental, physical, spiritual or emotional
The Research on Reiki
Although it is hard to quantify what Reiki can do for us in scientific terms, we do have some studies that have shown that Reiki can help with symptoms such as:
Distress, depression and anxiety
Sleep enhancement
Improved appetite
Reduced loneliness
An Italian study of 3 years duration, reported in 2012 [1], investigated Reiki for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Patients reported that the Reiki treatments were helpful in improving their well-being, relaxation, easing pain, enhancing sleep quality and reducing anxiety.
A 2013 University of Pittsburgh study [2] sent out a survey to patients who were receiving Reiki as well as chemotherapy, asking how the Reiki helped them. The respondents to the survey reported improved relaxation, less anxiety and worry, greatly improved mood, some reported better sleep, and reduced pain, reduced isolation and loneliness, and improved appetite.
A 2015 Turkish study [3] with cancer patients found that for those patients receiving Reiki, significantly less pain, anxiety and fatigue were experienced.
A small 2015 American study [4] involving 36 breast cancer patients investigated which was more effective for reducing distress during chemotherapy treatments – a session of Reiki or having a companion there with the patient during the infusion. It was found that both the Reiki and companion groups reported an improvement in quality of life and mood, which the “usual care” group (those receiving neither) did not have. Researchers stated that both Reiki and companionship were feasible, acceptable, and may reduce side effects.
A 2018 clinical study [5] involving hospitalized patients given either massage or Reiki found that these two therapies provided similar improvements in pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and overall well-being. The difference was that Reiki improved fatigue and anxiety a little better than massage therapy.
A 2019 Italian study [6] found that Reiki was beneficial for relieving pain in children undergoing stem cell transplants. The study went so far as to recommend that pediatric oncology nurses use Reiki in their clinical practice “as a valid instrument for diminishing suffering from cancer in childhood.”
A 2020 review of medical studies [7] investigating alternative therapies for cancer patients found that Reiki (among other therapies investigated) was beneficial for improving cancer-related pain in breast cancer patients. A 2016 American study [8] also found that Reiki helped better than yoga or massage for reducing cancer-related pain.
So while the studies are small, they are encouraging, and it’s good to see that a natural therapy is starting to be embraced by Western medicine.
My Thrivers’ Personal Experiences with Reiki
More interesting than studies, I find, are the personal experiences of people who have used Reiki healing during their breast cancer journey. I asked for some of my thrivers on my Facebook page to share their Reiki healing experiences and here is what some of them had to say:
“I’ve had 2 treatments and they were quite amazing. I fell asleep during the first one which came as a total surprise because I had so much anxiety and fear to start with. It’s wonderful…I highly recommend.” – Karen P.
“I found reiki after my BC surgery, my body felt all out of place and massage practitioners wouldn’t touch me because of the diagnosis. I’m now five years post treatment and I go regularly. It’s an amazing feeling of release. It’s very hard to describe but it works, it sort of connects everything back sleep ever after it too. Can’t wait to get back post-lockdown!” – Moira L.
“3 years ago I went to my GP because something just didn’t feel right. I was sent to my breast care centre who told me all was fine. 8 months later I met with a lady who gave me a reiki session (this is because she was going to teach me reiki) and she kept asking me if anything was wrong in my left side as she could feel something was wrong – her pendulum also went crazy. I said no, then later I realised something still wasn’t right in that area. I went back to my GP who was reluctant to send me back to the breast clinic but after I insisted, she did. This is when I was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. I really feel I owe so much to this lady, who continued to do reiki for me during my treatment and after. I class her as a dear friend and know how amazing and beneficial reiki is.” – Louise R.
“I can no longer live without it. I found it three years post-mastectomy and 1-1/2 years post arm DVT (deep vein thrombosis). I tried physical therapy, occupational therapy, every style of compression and nothing worked — but reiki. I was desperate when my hand and arm would turn blue and doctors kept sending me away not knowing what to do. Almost never have swelling or pain since I’ve started reiki sessions. It’s a miracle.” – Vicki R.
“After a Reiki session I feel like I’m a bubble floating in the air. I try not to talk to anyone (other than my healer) for as long as possible, actually lol. It is the most healing and wonderful thing that everyone should be required to do!” – Jennifer K.
What to Expect in a Reiki Session
Reiki sessions can last anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes. Reiki can be given on its own or in combination with other complementary treatments, like massage. Practitioners generally perform Reiki directly with, and in contact with, a recipient, but it is also possible to send Reiki healing from a distance. I did this with my mother when she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, and we were on two separate continents. So just know this is also a possibility.
During a Reiki session, the recipient is either sitting or lying down, and fully clothed. It is completely safe and non-invasive. The practitioner’s hands are placed on or slightly above the recipient’s body, and directing a flow of energy to the recipient. The practitioner may utilize specific hand positions on various parts of the body for two to five minutes at a time, but the energy seems to go where it is most needed by the recipient.
Many people report feeling a sense of deep relaxation, or a tingling warmth, or a feeling of coolness, or a feeling of rhythmic pulsations. It is also possible to feel nothing at all except a sense of peace and calm throughout the session. You may emerge from a session feeling refreshed or energized, or sleepy and in want of a nap, but you are more than likely going to feel less tense and anxious than when you went in, and that’s never a bad thing!
Reiki sessions can range in price from no cost to about $100 per session or more. Insurance companies generally do not cover this therapy, which is a shame. I believe we have enough studies now to indicate its usefulness, especially for cancer patients.
The Ethical Principles of Reiki
Finally, as put forth by Mikao Usui, the man who rediscovered Reiki, these are the ethical principles of Reiki. I believe these are healthy guidelines for life.
Just for today, do not worry
Just for today, do not anger
Honor your parents, teachers and elders
Earn your living honestly
Show gratitude to everything.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Reiki is not an approved cancer treatment, but it can be a very good thing to do for yourself while undergoing conventional treatments. My advice is not to rely upon Reiki alone for healing your cancer, but along with other treatments it can be very beneficial. Be sure to see your doctor for advice for your health condition.
[1] The effects of Reiki therapy on pain and anxiety in patients attending a day oncology and infusion services unit –
[2] Symptomatic improvement reported after receiving Reiki at a cancer infusion center –
[3] Effects of Distant Reiki On Pain, Anxiety and Fatigue in Oncology Patients in Turkey: A Pilot Study –
[4] The effects of Reiki therapy and companionship on quality of life, mood, and symptom distress during chemotherapy –
[5] Immediate Symptom Relief After a First Session of Massage Therapy or Reiki in Hospitalized Patients: A 5-Year Clinical Experience from a Rural Academic Medical Center –
[6] The Power of Reiki: Feasibility and Efficacy of Reducing Pain in Children With Cancer Undergoing Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation –
[7] Effect of complementary and alternative medicine interventions on cancer related pain among breast cancer patients: A systematic review –
[8] The Effects of Yoga, Massage, and Reiki on Patient Well-Being at a Cancer Resource Center –
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