VICUS.COM (19 July 2000) -- Mrs. Martin is an elderly resident in a
nursing center who suffers from dementia
and Alzheimer's disease. She refuses to permit any of the staff to touch her, and
she will not eat her breakfast. She is agitated, disruptive and
generally a difficult person for the overworked staff to deal with.
On this day, Michael W. Smith, who is a Reiki (pronounced
"ray-key") master and practices Reiki at the Women's Place
at Carroll County General Hospital in Westminster, Md., is
making his weekly visit to the center and is asked by the staff to
visit with Mrs. Martin.
As he walks into her room he sees an agitated woman who claims that
"the spirits are talking to her" and says that she will die
in two hours.
Smith visits the center each week and makes his services as a Reiki
master available to the residents and staff. He spends from five to 20
minutes with each person, giving Reiki treatment. The response is
often impressive. As described by Smith, "I've seen people with
Alzheimer's disease go from being upset or in discomfort from pain to
being able to sleep or relax for the rest of the day."
He introduces himself to Mrs. Martin, holds her hand and begins to
administer Reiki. After a while, Mrs. Martin says that she can feel
his hands becoming warm and asks what he is doing.
Smith finds that people with Alzheimer's disease are able to sense
that something is happening during the Reiki treatment. He explains to
Mrs. Martin that through the Reiki treatment he is sending energy to
her. This energy can be viewed as universal energy or energy from God.
But most importantly, it is energy that is being sent to help her.
When the treatment ends, Smith says goodbye and leaves the room to
work with other patients. Later in the day, a nurse comes up to him
and thanks him for his help. Mrs. Martin has ordered chicken for lunch
and is letting the staff cut her hair. Through Reiki, he was able to
make a small but important enhancement in the quality of life for a
distressed elderly lady.
"Conceptually," according to Smith, "your body is
like the receiver in a television. We each have the ability to tune in
channels or energy sources, which can take the form of tension or
calm, among other things. Through Reiki, it is possible to become more
sensitive to these surrounding energies. Then, by touching somebody
(or yourself) in certain areas, it is possible to administer a Reiki
treatment and transfer this energy to the person being treated."
In general, periods of stabilization and a sense of peace and calm
follow Reiki treatments. Relief from pain, anxiety, dyspnea (shortness
of breath) and edema (collection of fluid under the skin) may also
occur. When death is imminent, Reiki may help the person to enjoy the
last days of life (Bullock, 1997).
Reiki vs. therapeutic touch vs. massage
In therapeutic touch, it is necessary for the person giving the
treatment to first become balanced and grounded. "They almost go
into an altered state," says Smith.
Then, the energy is sent from the therapist to the person being
treated. "In Reiki, a simple attunement causes you to be
'balanced' at all times," he continues, "and uses the
chakras in your body to pick up energy."
The theory behind Reiki is that your body emits and receives energy
through a system called "chakras." Chakras become
"clogged" at times, and with Reiki the attunement permits
the Reiki practitioner or master to clear the chakras and for the
person receiving the treatment to take in the helpful energy.
Reiki differs from
massage in that it is accomplished through light touch. Reiki can also
be administered using no physical contact. No rubbing, pushing or
massaging is used in Reiki, which can be an advantage in the elderly
or when working with babies.
Areas of application
Mrs. Martin is an example of an elderly person with dementia who
was helped through Reiki. Others who may benefit include people with
headache, backache or arthritis. The application of Reiki as a
complementary therapy for cancer has also created interest.
Most of the benefits reported with Reiki are based on the personal
experiences of those who receive treatment and those who administer
Reiki. However, one researcher who explored the usefulness of Reiki in
conjunction with opioid therapy to treat pain caused by a variety of
reasons, including cancer, reported a statistically significant
reduction in pain following Reiki treatment (Olson and Hanson, 1997).
Russo Jr., Pharm.D., is senior vice president of medical
communications at Vicus.com. He is a pharmacist and medical writer
with more than 20 years of experience in medical education.