Reiki and Pallative Care / Hospices

Originally from Ontario Reiki Programme Centre – given to The Healing Pages by kind permission

The World Health Organization defines palliative care as “active total
care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment. Control
of pain, of other symptoms, and of psychological, social and spiritual problems,
is paramount. The goal of palliative care is achievement of the best quality
of life for patients and their families. Many aspects of palliative care are
also applicable in the course of the illness in conjunction with anti-cancer
In addition to coping with
the illness that is causing the imminent death, patients are psychologically
and spiritually challenged at this point in their lives. This article examines
some of the measures of effective palliative care and describes how Reiki may
be effective as part of a palliative care regimen.

A Palliative Care Programme

The World Health Organization says that Palliative Care[ii]:

  • Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
  • Neither hastens nor postpones death
  • Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of
  • Offers a support system to help patients live as actively
    as possible until death
  • Offers a support system to help the family cope during
    the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement

The following sections describe how Reiki supports and augments
the delivery of care according to these themes.

Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process

The “Ki” in Reiki is universal
life energy, and a long study of Ki/Qi/Prana and associated practices can certainly
bring one to a Zen-like worldview. The most probable life-affirming aspect of
the Reiki will be the caring touch of the practitioner when the patient receives

Neither hastens nor postpones death

Reiki has been anecdotally associated
with significant healing in contexts that were considered hopeless or untreatable.
That said, Reiki practitioners generally intend that the energy being used be
“for [the client’s] greatest good”. Unlike other forms of
therapy, there is no attempt to control or direct how the healing is used, be
it physical, mental, or spiritual; Reiki may (for instance) help the client
with acceptance, reduce pain, and/or reduce depression, depending on the client’s
need. The practitioner does not direct the energy.

Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms

 “We use probably 50-80
percent of nonpharmacologic methods in our NIH pain clinic, meaning non-medication.
The things we use include massage, relaxation, hypnosis, and Reiki therapy,
which is also very helpful in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndromes.”

– Ann Berger, R.N., M.S.N.,
M.D., Medical oncologist specializing in pain treatment, Chief of the Pain and
Palliative Care Service at the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C.

Medical studies using sham practitioners have been carried
out with Reiki, and it has been shown to be effective for pain management. For
one double-blind study[v]
found that “Reiki is an effective modality for reducing pain, depression,
and anxiety”; Hartford hospital reports that Reiki provides significant
pain relief for surgery patients[vi];
Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute concluded that Reiki showed a highly
significant reduction in pain in a pain management study including cancer.

In a study of Reiki for treating HIV-related pain and anxiety[vii],
Pamela Miles found that newly trained Reiki practitioners perceived reductions
in pain and anxiety when they performed Reiki on themselves or classmates. Breast
cancer patients can, similarly, be taught first-level Reiki (which only takes
about a day, and has no significant age or ability barriers). Miles found no
significant differences between improvements whether oneself or a classmate
did the treatments.

What constitutes “Other distressing
symptoms” is naturally specific to the condition and the subjective perception
of “distressing”. Reiki provides a reduction in anxiety –
hence distress, which is consistent with the intent of this theme.

Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of care

Reiki has no religious affiliation, nor is an enhanced religiosity
per se an intended outcome of Reiki, however Reiki practice is commonly
associated with spiritual growth. One of the early studies[viii]
found that not only is Reiki
“an effective modality for reducing
pain, depression, and anxiety”, but that it is also “effective in
enhancing desirable changes in personality and strengthening the faith in God.” 
Reducing depression and anxiety, and strengthening spirituality effectively
integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of care.

There is also the matter of empowerment for those who have
the capacity to perform their own Reiki. Reiki requires very little in terms
of physical or mental prowess to perform, and can be taught for self-application
very easily. What is needed is that the patient not be in so much pain that
they are incapable of focusing on anything other than the pain, nor is (s)he
always medicated to such an extent that they cannot form the intention to perform
Reiki. Palliative care patients lose a sense of control, due to the illness,
to their dependence on other people for help, and to their dependence on the
doctors and hospitals for relief of pain. Learning to relieve symptoms on their
own provides patients with a renewed sense of having some input and control
over their lives.

Offers a support system to help patients live as actively
as possible until death

Reiki (and other forms of energy therapy

) have been associated with
improved quality of life in palliative situations. “
Some general
trends seen with Reiki include: periods of stabilization in which there is time
to enjoy the last days of one’s life; a peaceful and calm passing if death is
imminent; and relief from pain, anxiety, dyspnea and edema. Reiki is a valuable
complement in supporting patients in their end-of-life journey, enhancing the
quality of their remaining days.”

Offers a support system to help the family cope during
the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement

Caring family members can learn Reiki as easily
as the palliative patient can. Caregivers experience stress and the first thing
taught in Reiki Level 1 is self-care. This ability can be used to care for the
palliative patient, thereby making the family member “feel useful”,
as (s)he is materially contributing to the patient’s well-being (as above).
Additionally, the self-care is immediately available to the caregiver him/herself
when Level1 is taught
and the reduced anxiety and
spiritual growth are thereby available to the family member who has learned
this practice (and to any other family members to whom (s)he provides Reiki).


Reiki provides the patient and the patient’s family
with tools to deal with body, mind, and spirit, all of which must be nurtured
during the end-of-life of a family member. That it can be learned by anyone,
and is useful immediately upon learning, suggest that teaching Reiki to professional
staff involved in palliative care, palliative patients and their family members
who are open to an energy therapy can improve palliative care.


The Ontario Reiki
Programme Centre is an Ontario not-for-profit corporation dedicated to providing
Reiki programmes in health care centres. They provide presentations, training
and treatments, and have a comprehensive website (at
) of research on this non-invasive therapy. Therapists
and teachers are registered with the Canadian Reiki Association. These articles
are presented as part of our mandate to inform people who may benefit from
Reiki that this therapy exists, and how it has been shown to apply. This material
may be used to promote Reiki and Reiki programmes in health care centres so
long as the material is used intact and includes the copyright and attribution.

Reiki is
a complement to treatment by a physician.
It does not provide services
in lieu of a doctor, nor is it a medical diagnostic tool. However, there is
a growing body of opinion that integrative medicine that takes advantage of
all parts of the care spectrum as appropriate is more effective (and cost-effective)
than allopathic treatment alone.

Author: Peter
Zorzella, BASc, RT-CRA, founded the Ontario Reiki Programme Centre to make
healing through Reiki available to everyone who could benefit from it. Peter
is a registered teacher with the Canadian Reiki Association; in addition to
the work associated with the Centre, he has a clinical practice South of Ottawa.





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