The Healing Power Of Touch

Like yoga, meditation, and acupuncture have already done, Reiki is an Eastern healing practice that’s beginning to gain mainstream acceptance as an effective alternative wellness therapy.

Reiki (pronounced “Ray-Kee”) is a Japanese form of touch therapy that promotes deep relaxation, stress reduction, and healing. In a typical 60- to 90-minute treatment, the client remains fully clothed and may either be seated or lying on a massage table. The practitioner then places his or her hands on, or just above, the client’s body in a series of hand positions, usually on or around the head and shoulders, stomach, and feet.

Founded in 1922 by Mikao Usui, a Japanese scholar and Tendai Buddhist Monk, Reiki is based on the idea that an unseen “life-force energy” flows through all living things. If a person’s life force energy runs low, or becomes blocked, stagnant, or imbalanced, he or she becomes more susceptible to stress and illness.

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Despite this mystical premise, Reiki has gained increasing popularity in recent years in medical settings, thanks to a growing body of research supporting its value as a complementary therapy.

According to studies by The American Cancer Society and Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center’s Integrative Oncology Initiative, Reiki, when performed in conjunction with traditional cancer treatments, can result in a reduction in patients’ perceptions of pain, stress levels, and anxiety, as well as an increase in relaxation. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center offers Reiki therapy as part of its Integrative Medicine Service.

Since the program’s inception in 2004, Northern Westchester Hospital has offered Reiki, along with other complementary therapies, as part of its Integrative Medicine Program. According to Anne West, RN FNP LAc (Holistic Nurse-Acupuncturist), Reiki is offered bedside, hospital-wide by advanced-practice holistic nurses and certified nursing staff. Complimentary sessions are also offered at both the inpatient and outpatient Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center, to assist those undergoing treatment.

“The most profound benefits I have witnessed are moving someone from a place of fear and pain to one of love and comfort,” says West. “For example, someone may have received a new diagnosis, which evokes fear, anxiety, and separation. After the session, there is a ‘shift,’ and patients report feeling lighter, relaxed, and have a profound sense of well-being that carries them through the day.”

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