The history and development of energy medicine from pre-history to current day concepts in quantum physics tells us much about who we are and what we value as both a culture and nonlinearity are really what stream of consciousness is about.
The biofield hypothesis, quantum theory, nonlinearity and stream of consciousness delineate how and whether we embrace nonlinear or linear aspects of our lives. Cinema, art, math, music, literature, physics, psychology and philosophy are all expressions of both culture and society and can be studied from this perspective.
To begin a discussion comparing and contrasting two quantum or energy medicine concepts, in this case Reiki and Therapeutic Touch, initially terms must be defined and clarified and then relevant concepts can be further explored. This paper will present paradigms and recognized authorities of both Reiki and Therapeutic Touch, followed by a comparison and contrast of these two modalities, which will look at assumptions, methods and applications. Databases from which articles for this paper were gathered will also be included in the discussion. This will be followed by a review of literature highlighting the safety of each modality as well as the particular effectiveness for a given condition or disorder. Finally, this paper will conclude with discussion of the strengths and weaknesses, the social and clinical implications of Reiki and Therapeutic Touch in our modern world, as well as suggestions for further research.
Keywords: Reiki, energy medicine, energy healing, complementary therapies, therapeutic touch
The history of energy medicine originated in prehistory and has been with man up until our current experiences with quantum physics (Oschman, 2016; Storl, 2017). Oschman (2016) saw three stages; the spiritual enlightenment of the ancient masters, the scientific enlightenment of the industrial revolution, and the convergence of both currently taking place (p. 42). He further identified that both energy medicine and conventional medicine have roots in ancient systems:
Ayurvedic, Vedic, or Yogic medicines are probably the oldest systems, having developed over thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years, or even longer. These medicines have survived as collections of poetic Sanskrit verses that can be memorized, sung, or chanted. Vedic medicine probable synthesized insights from all over Asia and the Middle East, and perhaps parts of Europe, with Sanskrit serving as the language of the early sciences. Our present medicine arose from Vedic medicine, since it is the direct descendent of Greek, Islamic, and subsequently European medical traditions, all of which can be traced back to Ayurvedic roots (p. 43).
Becker (2004) defined biology as the science of life. A science that has transformed throughout history, with each new discovery being considered ‘the ultimate truth’ of that time. The science of Biology is a key component of both energy and conventional medicine. In addition, Becker (2004) discusses the transformation of 20th century biological concepts from chemical to what is now perceived and experienced as electromagnetic. Becker (2004) further makes the point that historically, emerging scientific paradigms have always influenced medicine. As such, energy medicine is now a recognized alternative to the chemical paradigm of the past century (p.17).
Jonas and Crawford (2003) saw healing practices using either mental or spiritual applications like “prayer, ritual, dreamwork, imagery, direct mental intentions, and laying-on-of-hands, [as] integral parts of all known civilizations from pre-history to the present” (p. 56). They emphasize the idea that the concept of healing presence, which they identify as integral to energy medicine, is both ancient and universal. These mental or spiritual applications still prevail whether termed the Chinese Qi, the Ayurvedic Prana, or the Japanese Ki. It would appear that every indigenous culture has a unique term for healing energy, also known as life force (B. Rubik, personal communication, June 12, 2017).
Rubik (2002) articulates that a “complex, electromagnetic field” identified as a biofield, has a biophysical basis and role in medicine, which has direct application to energy medicine (pg.703). The biofield hypothesis establishes the human body as containing various energy fields, some of which are better described by the field of quantum physics. The biofield hypothesis presents a nonlinear viewpoint mirroring the nonequilibrium status of many systems. This hypothesis helps to explain a perspective that complements and embraces “complex, holistic, dynamic features of life as well as new electrodynamic and bioinformational interactions” (p. 715). These various fields culminate in what Rubik (2002) refers to as “a holistic or global organizing field of the organism” which forms a model described as the human biofield (p. 709). Rubik (2002) proposed “a scientific foundation for the biofield” (p.703) to help identify how energy medicine facilitates the body’s ability to heal by interacting through bioinformation or biocommunication with disease at a quantum level.
According to Rubik (2002), in 1999, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the U.S. National Institutes for Health (NIH) enlisted a Request For Application (RFA) for proposals to research biofield therapies such as Reiki and Therapeutic Touch. In response, in 2002, NIH-sponsored research centers were established to study Biofield Science (p. 709).
A Brief Overview of Reiki
According to Miles (2003), Reiki is a Japanese stress-reduction technique in which the practitioner’s hands are used to induce a therapeutic effect in the human energy field. In turn, this therapeutic effect encourages the body to heal itself. Reiki is considered a biofield therapy. It is a vibrational or subtle energy intervention facilitated by light touch, helping to balance the biofield and strengthen the body’s ability to heal itself. According to Wheeler and Stredny (n.d.), Reiki is a spiritual healing practice originating from a spiritual healer. Mikao Usui (1865-1926) a Buddhist practitioner founded Reiki in Japan (Miles, 2003). Usui approached Chujiro Hayashi (1878-1940) to develop the therapeutic aspects of the system from the meditative practices (Miles, 2003, p. 63). Reiki is currently utilized by nurses and other health care practitioners, and is described as applicable for all religious traditions.
For Puri, Walia, and Jindal (2017), the goal of Reiki is to facilitate the flow of energy through blocked or disturbed pathways, decreasing pain and helping the body’s ability to fight illness and heal itself (p. 1790). These authors see Reiki’s methodology or application consisting of palm healing or hands-on healing, transferring energy through the practitioner to a patient and encouraging healing. In other words, when energy is transferred through the practitioner via her or his healing presence to the patient’s life force, the spirit is healed which then helps to heal the physical body. This involves balancing energy either by placing hands on or near the patient or from a distance. According to Puri, Walia, and Jindal (2017), Reiki can facilitate the rebalancing of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual imbalances (p. 1791). Chang (as cited in Shaybak et al., 2017a) purports that Reiki facilitates the circulation and energy balance in body systems, providing physical comfort thus promoting health and enhancing the body’s vitality (pp. 313-314).
According to Wheeler and Stredny (n.d.), the teaching of Reiki is passed via what is referred to as ‘attunement’, whereas Therapeutic Touch is taught by learning specific techniques. The Reiki attunement is both a mindfulness practice and a ritual to facilitate the channeling of the Reiki energy improving the practitioner’s own healing (Beller, 2017; Dombo and Gray, 2013, Hemmerich, 2017; Nield-Anderson and Ameling, 2001; Woessner, 2007).
There are three training levels for Reiki. The first degree or level is an introduction or initiation with a focus on opening energy channels physically allowing connections to the life energy from the head to both the heart and hands. The second degree or level is practicing Reiki on others expanding the energy channels and receiving the symbols associated with Reiki and the associated attunement. The symbols facilitate a greater connection to the life energy, which also includes distance Reiki. The third degree or level is that of becoming a Reiki Master. This comes after receiving the Master attunement and being trained in attuning new students or practitioners. This degree or level is considered the teacher’s level, which means a practitioner who has received both the energy and knowledge to attune new Reiki practitioners. Several receive the Master attunement with the corresponding symbol but are not at ease or practiced in attuning others and this is the distinction between Third Level or Degree and Reiki Master.
In terms of mentoring, the ability to perform Reiki is acquired through a Reiki Master connected to a particular lineage. It is also typically practiced in a group setting. In terms of intentionality, Reiki allows free movement of the flow of energy, assuming that the energy and the body will move towards health. Reiki can generally be performed with hands located just above the body or at a distance and there is no formal assessment. The anecdotal benefits of Reiki are relaxation, decreased anxiety, well being, comfort, and healing (Miles and True, 2003, p. 62). Reiki assumes that working with energy fields leads to a more relaxed state leading to better and more consistent health and wellness (Baldwin, et al., 2017).
Review of the Literature
The following are some of the databases to explore Reiki: Google Scholar, Academic Search Premier, Alt-Health Watch database, Academic ProQuest Research Library database, and Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. The following articles and studies have been reviewed in effort to support exploration of Reiki.
Baldwin, Vitale, Brownell, Kearns and Rand (2010) did a literature review of peer reviewed Reiki studies and they found only 12 articles based on what they considered to be a robust experimental design utilizing standard outcome parameters. Of these 12 articles, 2 provided no support, 5 provided some support, and 5 demonstrated strong evidence for the use of Reiki as a healing modality. These authors concluded a need for further high-quality studies.
In Baldwin, Vitale, Brownell, Kryak and Rand (2017)’s blinded, controlled pilot study the effects of Reiki were investigated on 46 patients that were in the process of knee replacement surgery. There were 3 groups, Reiki, Sham Reiki and Standard Care. Reiki was the only group that showed reduction of pain, blood pressure, respiration rate and anxiety.
Birocco, Guillame, Storto, et al., (2011) saw Reiki as a system of natural healing techniques administered mainly by laying on of hands and energy transfer. These authors investigated its the role in anxiety, pain and wellness in cancer patients. Theirs was a 3-year study built on previous research. Volunteer practitioners had 2 years of both theory and practical training with a population of 118 patients (67 women and 51 men; mean age, 55 years) with various stages of cancer where both pain and anxiety were evaluated based on a numeric scale. Sessions were around 30 minutes where both levels of pain and anxiety were recorded as well as descriptions of physical feelings. Each of the 118 patients received at least 1 Reiki session and these sessions were perceived as improving anxiety, sleep, relaxation, and over all well-being, so these authors suggested that providing Reiki in hospitals could address both patients’ physical and emotional needs.
Connor and Anandarajah (2017) look at Reiki as an intervention for hospice patients and their caregivers and found that Reiki therapy could lead to better physical outcomes and symptom relief in both hospice patients and their caregivers with no negative side effects. And further study is recommended to better understand Reiki since symptoms management with hospice patients is challenging but these researchers found that Reiki has potential to serve as an adjunct therapy particularly with anxiety.
Ferraz, et al., (2017) look at whether or not Reiki or prayer is effective in relieving pain during hospitalization for cesarean births and found evidence for a statistically significant decrease in pain reduction and that both Reiki and prayer meditation “may be associated with pain reduction” (p. 123).
Gilbey and Bowden (2012) found what they considered to be unconvincing evidence that Reiki affects mood using several scales. These included the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS-21), Hospital Anxiety and Stress Scale (HADS), Pittsburgh Quality of Sleep Index (PSQI), Illness Symptoms Questionnaire (ISQ), Activation-Deactivation Adjective Check List (AD-ACL), and the Reiki blinding and expectation questionnaire.
Lee, Pittler and Ernest (2008) looked at the effects of Reiki in clinical practice reviewing randomised clinical trials. These researchers conducted a literature review and found that the data for any one condition were scarce and independent replications were not available and that most trials had significant methodological errors like “small sample size, inadequate study design and poor reporting” (p. 947) and concluded that there was no evidence to link Reiki with a treatment for any condition and that its value remained unproven.
Miles and True (2003) reviewed the history, theory, practice and research of Reiki as a biofield therapy found that healing is multidimensional and is facilitated by reducing stress and accessing both psychological and spiritual resources. Mile and True (2003) found that research suggested that CAM users seek those therapies that they perceive to be congruent with their own values and beliefs and experience Reiki a process free of dogma that helps connect them to their innate spirituality through their own unique experiences (p. 71).
Puri, Walia and Jindal (2017) examine Reiki as a modality for treating cancer. They found that despite the clinical efficacy demonstrated in?multiple studies additional research is still needed. Awareness among health professionals is also imperative. Collaboration is already taking place between conventional and complementary therapy to?help improve the quality of ongoing research but it is not likely that Reiki cures cancer even though it does increase the adherence to conventional treatment and this leads to better outcomes. These researchers found that Reiki could be?considered as one of the advanced modalities of?alternative medicine in conjunction with conventional therapy for holistic management of cancer patients (p. 1792).
Rubik, Brooks and Schwartz (2006) examined the In Vitro effect of Reiki treatment of bacterial cultures in an experimental context with the practitioner’s well-being in mind. These researchers found that there was no difference between Reiki and control plates in the nonhealing context but in the healing context the Reiki treated cultures showed much more bacteria. These researchers also found that Reiki did improve the growth of the bacteria in a healing context and that the state of well-being of the Reiki practitioner did correspond with the outcomes on the bacteria and is significant to the results (p. 7).
Shaybak et al., (2017a) look at the effect of Reiki energy healing on Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) postoperative chest pain caused by coughing and deep breathing. They found that Reiki energy healing is an advisable non-medical method because it is relatively “easy, inexpensive, noninvasive, and [an] effective method for pain relief of the CABG patients” (p. 310) and that future studies should look at the stability of Reiki concerning the severity of the patient’s pain at various times after the procedure and compare the Reiki work with pharmaceutical therapy as well as the various other methods of complementary medicine for reducing this pain (p. 310).
Shaybak et al., (2017b) also look the effects of Reiki energy therapy on saphenous vein incision pain. Teeling (2017) exams the empirical experience of Reiki healing. These researchers found that there was marked difference between the Reiki and sham Reiki groups particularly in the scores of pain sensory quality in the patient’s legs. These same researchers found no difference however, between the two groups concerning the severity of pain and the quality of pain in the patient’s legs and conclude that Reiki could be used as both a simple and inexpensive intervention to help manage variations of pain sensations in patients after coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).
Thrane et al. (2017) presents Reiki therapy for symptom management in children receiving palliative care and found that with Reiki therapy all means scores decreased from pre to post treatment and that these decreased scores implied that Reiki therapy did lessen pain, as well as anxiety, heart and respiratory rates. This even though the sample size was small which these researchers saw as deterring any kind of statistical significance. Despite this however, treatments like Reiki could be helpful in supporting the management pain and anxiety in children receiving palliative care.
Vitale (2007) presented an integrative literature review of Reiki touch therapy research and found that Reiki in a complementary biofield energy therapy involving hands to help strengthen the patient’s body in the healing process. Vitale (2007) began the process of evaluating findings of Reiki research and selected those studies dealing with stress relaxation, depression,, pain and wound healing and gave a summary of to illustrate the study she reviewed and the Reiki protocols specified and ends with a synthesis of findings for clinical practice and suggestions for future research.
Methods and Applications
Vitale (2007) describes Reiki’s method as a type of touch therapy or complementary biofield energy therapy involving the use of hands to facilitate energy flow in order to help strengthen the body’s ability to heal (p. 167). Reiki can be used for relaxation, musculoskeletal conditions, pain management, anxiety and depression (Baldwin, et al., 2017). Reiki can also be used in relieving pain during hospitalization for cesarean (Ferraz, et al., 2017). Reiki can be used in cancer treatment by helping to change the patient’s outlook and facilitating compliance to physician’s instructions and adherence to treatment protocols. Studies have demonstrated that using Reiki in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments can help influence and support patient outlook, while also supporting compliance and adherence to treatment protocols. Puri, Walia, Jindal, 2017). Reiki has been utilized to reduce chest pain associated with coughing or deep breathing in Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) postoperative patients (Shaybak, et al., 2017)a. Reiki has positively affected saphenous vein incision pain (Shaybak, et al., 2017)b, as well as positively influenced symptom management in children receiving palliative care (Thrane, et al., 2017). Additionally, it has been successfully used for mental health challenges (Bier, 2017) and for both hospice patients and their caregivers (Conner and Anandarajah, 2017).
Identify safety and effectiveness
Reiki is recognized as a “a non-medical, easy, inexpensive, noninvasive, and effective method for pain relief” (Shaybak, et al., 2017a, p. 310), a non-pharmaceutical approach doing no harm according to Wheeler and Stredny (n.d.).
A Brief Overview of Therapeutic Touch
Wheeler and Stredny (n.d.) defined Therapeutic Touch as a healing practice derived from observing a spiritual healer, inductively developed by Dora Kunz (1904-1999) and Dolores Kreiger (1921- ), both practicing nurses recognized authorities in Therapeutic Touch although Krieger created the term Therapeutic Touch (Gerber, 2001). As Therapeutic Touch became more solidly identified it began to be utilized within the nursing profession, as well as by other health care practitioners. Therapeutic Touch is also recognized as applicable for all religious traditions.
Therapeutic Touch is not only for the patient but also for the caregiver (Weaver, 2017) and according to Krieger, (as cited in Gerber, 2001) the Hindu and yogic concept of ‘prana’, a vital form of energy taken from the environment into the body via breathing can best explain therapeutic touch. Krieger (as cited in Gerber, 2001) identifies Prana as equivalent to physical vitality with the healer equating a jumper cable. The healer’s energetic system is like a charged battery used to jump-start the patient’s energetic system. In this case, the flow of healing energy is very similar to the flow of electricity (Gerber, 2001, pp. 309-310).
McGlone, Cerritelli, Walker, and Esteves, (2017) saw an application for Therapeutic Touch as providing a fundamental influence in nurture and the generation of positive attachment during development. This increases the potential for Therapeutic Touch to play a very important role in perinatal care (p. 1). Monetti, Ezomo, and Nwanonyiri (2016) observed that Therapeutic Touch results were consistent with research in social science communication; each demonstrating that somatic countertransference was a factor in the healing of trauma. This was experienced during the verbal and nonverbal communication of one group of nurse Therapeutic Touch practitioners during interactions with traumatized clients in Monetti’s, (2014) dissertation where she both described somatic countertransference (SCT) and offered an alternative to exposure-based psychotherapies. Eight nurse Therapeutic Touch practitioners were involved. Interviews were conducted and analyzed using the method of latent content producing a research report.
The foundations of Therapeutic Touch are a supportive influence within the field of Holistic Nursing (Rosa, 2017; Shorofi and Arbon, 2017). Another important characteristic of Therapeutic Touch is that, like Reiki, it is concerned with treating the whole person, which is defined by Ring and Mahadevan (2017) as body, mind and spirit (p. 203). The patient’s lifestyle is also included within the confines of a whole person approach, and often, where both Reiki and Therapeutic Touch are utilized, they are combined with conventional therapies. According to Gerber (2001), Krieger saw therapeutic touch as a” natural human potential which could be demonstrated by individuals who had a fairly healthy body (and thus an overabundance of prana) as well as a strong intent to help or heal ill persons” (p. 310-311).
Review of the Literature
The following are some of the databases to explore Therapeutic Touch: Google Scholar, Academic Search Premier, Alt-Health Watch database, Academic ProQuest Research Library database, and Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. The following articles and studies have been reviewed in effort to support exploration of Therapeutic Touch.
Aghabati, Mohammadi and Esmaiel (2006) looked at the effects of Therapeutic Touch on pain and fatigue of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. These researchers found that there is increasing evidence that non-invasive, non-pharmacological interventions such as Therapeutic Touch (TT) are effective for decreasing both the cancer patient’s pain and fatigue with none of the side effects of pharmaceuticals. One future thrust for researches examining the effect of TT on pain and fatigue of the cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy is to examine physiological correlates to shed some light on the mechanism of action of TT. This information can provide valuable knowledge regarding the conditions under which TT is most effective. Some questions include: Is there a time of day that determines the degree of effect? Is there a ‘loading dose’ requirement? What is the optimal length of treatment for determining dose-response? Future studies could test varying length of intervention for optimal effect. Additional questions are: What is the best specific protocol for administering TT for the cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy who have pain and fatigue? Can therapeutic touch also be used to decrease depression, anxiety and stress in these patients?
Gronowicz, Jhaveri, Clarke, Aronow and Smith (2008) examined how Therapeutic Touch (TT) stimulates the proliferation of human cells in culture. These researchers found a specific pattern of TT treatment lead to increases in the number of fibroblasts, osteoblasts, and tenocytes in culture and may also stimulate cell growth in normal cells (p. 233).
Krieger’s (1975) article on Therapeutic Touch defined the term and set the standard for research. Krieger found that laying on of hands with the intent to heal raised hemoglobin levels in sick people.
Lea’s (2012) chapter looked at negotiating therapeutic touch through massage and the ‘mixed bodies’ of Michel Servres. This researcher found that the connections between body, flesh, skin, touch and emotions are very much nonlinear behaving and acting in a similar manner as that articulated by Rubik’s (2002) “bioelectromagnetics and the physics of nonlinear, dynamical, nonequilibrium living systems” (p. 703).
McGlone, Cerritelli, Walker and Esteves (2017) exam the role of gentle touch in perinatal osteopathic manual therapy. These researchers found that touch, especially Therapeutic Touch (TT), is significant during both the nurture and the attachment of pre-term infants during development and into adulthood accompanied by positive effects on health and overall well-being. These same researchers also suggest the investigating the effects of different kinds of touch could help us understand “the physiological effects on care on pre-term infants’ brain function and their development, nerve conduction velocity, biomarker variation and pain modulation” (p. 7). This can also be appreciated in Rubik’s (2002) “bioelectromagnetics and the physics of nonlinear, dynamical, nonequilibrium living systems” (p. 703).
Monetti (2014) presented some somatic countertransference experiences of nurse Therapeutic Touch practitioners. Monetti found that a better understanding of somatic countertransference (SCT) could help promote the role of Therapeutic Touch in trauma therapy. Orbach and Carroll (as cited in Monetti, 2014) defined SCT as the awareness the therapist has of their individual body, their own sensations, their own images and impulses and particularly their own feelings and all of these link to the healing process of the client which again is better understood with Rubik’s (2002) “bioelectromagnetics and the physics of nonlinear, dynamical, nonequilibrium living systems” (p. 703).
Monroe (2009) looked at the effect of therapeutic touch on pain in her literature review. She found 7 studies between 1997 and 2004 including only 5 of the 7 as pertinent. She further found positive results for implementing Therapeutic Touch as a protocol to help reduce pain and safe despite the lack of available research.
O’Mathuna, Pryjmachuk, Spencer, Stanwick and Matthiesen (2002) presented a critical evaluation of the theory and practice of Therapeutic Touch. These researchers looked at the relationship between Therapeutic Touch and Martha Rogers’ Science of Unitary Human Beings as well as the employment of the language of modern physics in Rogers’ theory and Therapeutic Touch and after reviewing the research literature found Therapeutic Touch as a “questionable intervention, underpinned by a very weak theoretical, clinical and research base” (p. 163).
Peters (1999) looked at the effectiveness of Therapeutic Touch in her literature review found that Therapeutic Touch does have a “positive, medium effect on physiological and psychological variables” (p. 52) even though she was not able to make any substantive claim because of what she considered to be the limited published research and because many of the studies she looked at had problems with their methodology which she saw needed to be addressed first before research on Therapeutic Touch could be accepted.
Stonehouse (2017) presents the use of touch in developing a therapeutic relationship and found that there are many positive outcomes to what he refers to as “expressive touch” (p. 15) in terms of the health and social care role as well as the therapeutic relationship between the support worker and the patient. Stonehouse (2017) found the roles of communication, compassion and empathy are involved because touch is neither always welcomed nor appropriate depending on the patient’s cultural needs and beliefs.
Weaver (2017) exams healing touch as energy sharing in a pediatric hospital found that Therapeutic Touch from a trusted source could result in comfort and support as well as therapeutic presence and that teaching Therapeutic Touch techniques to caregivers can include parents and grandparents.
Winstead-Fry and Kijek (1999) presented an integrative review and meta-analysis of therapeutic touch research and found that there are many approaches to Therapeutic Touch research. These researchers reviewed 13 studies and found that many of the samples were described incompletely and that Therapeutic Touch practices varied. These researchers also found that most of the reviewed studies had mixed or negative results and with questionable gaps, trends and outcomes.
Methods and Applications
Stonehouse (2017) identifies Therapeutic Touch as a complementary therapy where the therapist uses the flow of energy from their hands to encourage both relaxation and healing. No direct touch is involved since it is based on the concept of influencing or supporting energy fields. Accordingly, the intention is to facilitate a maximum flow of energy throughout the patient’s body thereby reducing pain and anxiety while enhancing the healing process (Stonehouse, 2017). Monroe (2009) recommends Therapeutic Touch as a possible nursing intervention for the treatment of pain. McGlone, Cerritelli, Walker, and Esteves (2017), recognize the proven benefits of Therapeutic Touch for pre-term babies where it is essential in both pre-natal and clinical care (p. 7). According to Stonehouse (2017), Therapeutic Touch, like Reiki, can also address both oncology and palliative care due to the reduction of anxiety, resulting in calm and relaxation while promoting sleep, aiding pain relief, and reducing swelling. Therapeutic Touch can further be used on patients with psychedelic drug overdoses (Gerber, 2001, p. 312).
Identify safety and effectiveness
Therapeutic Touch is also considered safe. Monroe (2009) concluded that Therapeutic Touch is safe because there are no identified risks as a pain relief measure and it is considered safe to recommend despite the limitations of current research. Additionally, it is important to note that Therapeutic Touch is a non-pharmaceutical modality and according to Wheeler and Stredny (n.d.), in terms of safety appears to do no harm.
Comparing and Contrasting
Gauging the effectiveness for a given condition or disorder in energy medicine is closely linked with the experience of whole-person outcomes. According to Wheeler and Stredny (n.d.), there is limited but growing evidence demonstrating the efficacy of Reiki as an intervention for cancer, enhancing quality of life, and decreasing pain, and fatigue (Catlin and Taylor-Ford, 2011; Tsang, Carlson and Olson, 2007). For Therapeutic Touch the research shows a moderate effect on anxiety, stress-related conditions, pain and wound healing, as well as the well-being in cancer patients (Aghabati, Mohammad and Esmaiel, 2006; Gronowicz, Jhaveri, Clarke, Aronow and Smith, 2008).
Healing is a multifaceted process facilitated not only by stress reduction but also by experiencing a variety of approaches intended to be of benefit to whole body health. Energy medicine facilitates the process of healing. Reiki and Therapeutic Touch are manifestations of approaches intended to facilitate the process of healing.
The practice of Reiki reduces pain, (Baldwin, et al., 2017; Ferraz, et al., 2017), blood pressure, respiration rate, and anxiety. For Miles and True (2003), patients experience Reiki “as a relaxing practice, free of dogma, that connects them to their innate spirituality through experiences unique to each individual” (p. 71). Reiki combats the nausea caused from chemotherapy and increases adherence to conventional treatment, which in turn leads to improved outcomes (Puri, Walia, and Jindal, 2017, pp. 1790-1792). According to Rubik, Brooks, and Schwartz (2006) there is a relationship between the healing context or capacity and the Reiki practitioner’s well-being. This was observed through their study of bacterial cultures in healing contexts in which they showed that Reiki could be affected by the human biofield in specific psychophysiological states. Their findings challenge traditional Reiki interpretations that have suggested Reiki is completely independent of the practitioner influence. In other words, Reiki also improves growth of “heat-shocked bacterial cultures in a healing context where the initial level of well-being of the Reiki practitioner correlates with the outcome of Reiki on bacterial culture growth and is key to the results obtained” (Rubik, Brooks, and Schwartz, 2006, p. 7) which according to Rubik, Brooks, and Schwartz (2006) may be related to an undiscovered molecular mechanism and according to Rubik, Brooks, and Schwartz (2006) is thought to be related to the Reiki practitioner’s biofields (p. 12).
Reiki reduces sensory quality pain in the patients after Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) and could be used as a non-pharmacological and noninvasive method without complications for relieving pain (Shaybak, et al., 2017a, p. 107). According to Thrane, et al., (2017) Reiki is a proven means of reducing pain and anxiety in children receiving palliative care, particularly those who are non-verbal, without the side effects of pharmaceuticals. Baldwin and Schwartz (2006) saw Reiki as significantly reducing noise-induced microvascular leakage in an animal model minimizing effects of environmental stress on research animals and hospital patients. Baldwin, Wagers and Schwartz (2008) also found Reiki effective in modulating heart rate (HR) in stressed and unstressed rats, supporting its use as a stress-reducer in humans. Birocco, Guillame, Storto, Ritorto and Catino (2011) found Reiki sessions helpful in improving well-being, relaxation, pain relief, sleep quality and reducing anxiety with oncology patients and suggest that offering Reiki therapy in hospitals could respond to patients’ physical and emotional needs.
According to Weaver (2017), Therapeutic Touch for children can also involve caregivers like parents and grandparents. Therapeutic Touch is not only for the patient but also for the caregiver. By participating in what Weaver refers to as the “lying on of hands” family members can experience “intentional, heart-centered” care resulting sometimes in relaxation and peace as the child patient is able to experience restful sleep (p. 1). According to Krieger (1975), Therapeutic Touch raised hemoglobin levels in sick patients and according to Peters (1999), Therapeutic Touch has a positive effect on both physiological and psychological variables.
According to Gellis (2017) almost 40% of Americans are now using health-care approaches like Reiki or Therapeutic Touch that are considered to be outside of conventional Western mainstream medicine to treat both conditions and the side effects of prescribed pharmaceuticals in order to improve and sustain their health and wellness. At least two-thirds of Americans suffering from either arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions are using complementary and alternative treatments like Reiki and Therapeutic Touch to help control their symptoms (p. 419).
On the other hand, according to Baldwin, et al. (2010), summaries of 26 Reiki articles, including strengths and weaknesses, were posted on www.centerforreikiresearch.org, with a summary of Reiki research and future guidelines. These authors concluded that there is a need for further high-quality studies. According to Winstead-Fry and Kijek (1999), there were gaps, and incomplete descriptions and variations of therapeutic touch practices requiring more focused and consistent research. In Kwekkeboom and Gretarsdottir (2006)’s review, studies also showed weaknesses in methodology and so limits the ability about both interventions and conclusions. Kwekkeboom and Gretarsdottir (2006) further saw the need for more research to better address questions related to dose-response and individual differences that might have influenced responses to interventions like Reiki and Therapeutic Touch and both require more testing. Lee, Pittler, and Ernst (2008) found insufficient evidence to suggest that Reiki is an effective treatment for any condition and Gilbey and Bowden (2012) found unconvincing evidence that Reiki affects mood.
According to Peters (1999) it was impossible to make any substantive claims as to the effectiveness of Therapeutic Touch because there was limited published research as well as the fact that several of the studies had methodological issues that could effect the results and so resolving these methodological issues was important for Therapeutic Touch research to move forward (p. 52). According to O’Mathuna, et al., (2002), the “theory and practice of therapeutic touch…is a questionable intervention, underpinned by a very weak theoretical, clinical and research base” (p. 163). Mills, Wu, and Ernst (2005) looked at various Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) approaches like Therapeutic Touch for HIV treatment and concluded that the results suggested stress management could be a positive way to support quality of life but that data were insufficient for demonstrating any kind of effectiveness. Effectiveness for therapies like Therapeutic Touch could not be established (p. 395).
According to Rubik (2002), information has become much more mechanistic in our modern age but this does not adequately reflect what she refers to as “self-reference, self-organization, and consciousness” (p. 713). She goes on to add that machines have only a very few interconnections and that living systems have vast interconnections with several pathways for information between various levels from top-down and from bottom-up. Rubik (2002) sees information not from a mechanistic viewpoint but from a nonmechanistic one where information is “neither energy or matter in itself” (p. 713), where it only exists in a relationship involving both a sender and a receiver depending on the context and where information for a living system should be one that ‘informs’ conveying meaning although not always conscious (p. 713). This has tremendous social and clinical implications. This has direct implications for energy medicine and for both Reiki and Therapeutic Touch. One important implication is that the Reiki master or Therapeutic Touch practitioner is also healed and transformed in the process of the energy work. Another implication is that the top down and bottom up approach of Rubik’s (2002) biofield hypothesis allows for a nonlinear experience, which is more realistic and less mechanistic and linear thus, better able to articulate the framework and experience of both practitioner and client. Because of this the Reiki Master and Therapeutic Touch practitioner is on a more equal footing socially as well as clinically because of the ever changing nature of experience and consciousness.
The history and development of energy medicine is a history of what many refer to as the wisdom of our primitive civilizations reaching to our current modern awareness of quantum physics. Definitions and key paradigms, as well as findings from recognized authorities assist in the articulation of both Reiki and Therapeutic Touch. The research databases are the same for Reiki and Therapeutic Touch as well as the safety of each. Both do no harm. Reiki and Therapeutic Touch as well as their individual effectiveness for a particular health condition or disorder and their strengths and weaknesses further this discussion. This discussion ends with the clinical implications of current research with suggestions for future research where both Reiki and Therapeutic Touch could find a permanent place in haptic geographies (Brown, 2016; Hughes, 2017; Lea, 2012; Paterson, 2009; van Erp and Toet, 2015) or where haptic geographies could find a fertile relationship with the touch that both Reiki and Therapeutic Touch offer.
Still, there remains a need for Western evidence-based scientific review in which empirical, objective, clear and practical outcomes can be measured (Jackman, Mayan, Kutt, and Vohra, 2017; Pignotti and Steinberg, 2001; Puri, Walia, and Jindal, 2017; Teeling, 2017; Thrane, Maurer, Ren, Danford and Cohen, 2016). Whether or not Reiki or Therapeutic Touch treatments are working with some health conditions like HIV remains a challenge and in the “complex, holistic, dynamic features” (Rubik, 2002, p. 715) of energy medicine Pignotti and Steinberg (2001) proposed heart rate variability (HRV) as a measure of thought field therapy success (p. 1193) other energy measurement propositions are forthcoming (Carr et al., 2014: Dhurandhar, et al., 2014; Jones and Crawford, 2004; Spaeth, Dinges and Goel, 2017)
For Jonas and Crawford (2003) there is evidence that mind and matter interact consistently with the assumptions of distant healing where intention effects non-living systems as well as living. It must be noted that the effect on non-living systems seems to be small. Relieving illness, pain and anxiety are the greatest benefits of both Reiki and Therapeutic Touch even though they have other benefits like affecting the autonomic nervous system on skin conductance. Jonas and Crawford (2003) found those patients that are chronically ill heal better and faster because of their own belief in healing, their knowledge that healing is occurring and their own expectation of benefit (p. 60).
Rein (2004) researched the role of the biofield in the body’s natural healing based on bioinformation which, with consciousness, functions at a quantum level. This helps to facilitate “coherence, phase, spin, and pattern information” (p. 59) to maintain homeodynamics and facilitate the body’s healing. Rein (2004) used this model to help explain several experiences, which cannot be explained by traditional biophysics and bioelectromagnetics. Sutherland and Ritenbaugh (2004) saw the practitioners of energy medicine as integral and inseparable to healing and as a catalyst for change in the healing process (p. 13). According to Kanherkar, Stair, Bhatia-Dey, Mills, Chopra and Csoka (2017), humans have always used non-pharmaceuticals and therapies that are outside of the Western medicine model. Today, more and more, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming much more accessible and more well known. There is a convergence of both Western, conventional medicine with CAM, which is known as integrative medicine (IM) and this is where Integrative Medicine (IM) considers the entire, holistic perspective of the not only the physiological but also the psychological state of the patient, or whole person medicine for mind, body, and spirit. However, such an approach is still being examined and justified with emerging data as to exactly just where IM’s ability lies to help facilitate healing. Kanherkar, et al. (2017) suggests this lies with epigenetic mechanisms. This is because of the correlation between the physical and mental where the changing nature of gene expression as well as the epigenetic state articulated in mapping and maximizing such effects and better overall understanding will all help to move therapeutic delivery like Reiki and Therapeutic Touch into the future to a broadening client.
As the discussion of Reiki and Therapeutic Touch comes to its conclusion, it seems appropriate to look to their future potential. There are emerging, exciting research potentials to bring Energy Medicine, particular Reiki and Therapeutic Touch into the mainstream arena, where often insurance will cover treatment. One of the emerging potentials is Haptics. Haptics is the science of applying touch to interactions with computer applications. It has both social and clinical applications. In terms of social touch, the implications for utilizing both Reiki and Therapeutic Touch should be examined within the framework of mechanistic and nonmechanistic viewpoints. Haans and IJsselsteijn (2006) defined social touch as “mediated social touch allowing people to touch each other over a distance by means of haptic feedback technology” (p. 149).
Huisman (2017) looks at social touch in terms of haptic technology through both neuroscience and social psychology. It is possible to experience social touch at a distance and to experience social touch with artificial social agents. How does Reiki and Therapeutic Touch manifest with artificial agents? How does mediated social touch play out since the current research is finding similar effects to actual social touch? (p. 1). How we interact with digital devices engages both our visual and auditory senses. What happens to our sense of touch in these instances? How does human-machine communication manifest with energy medicine? The interplay between our human touch for input and computer generated touch for output has both social and clinical implications (p. 1). Huisman (2017) further looks at how we are now using social touch in the framework of social touch technology (STT). Observing these emerging social and clinical implications and understanding better just how humans interact with what Huisman refers to as “artificial social agents” (p. 1) is an important research agenda for Reiki and Therapeutic Touch practitioners where these artificial social agents have both the capability to respond and apply social touch (p. 1).
For the last ten years, researchers have examined the relationship between social touch and haptic technology (Brown, C. G., 2009; Brown, C. G., 2017; Brown, K. M., 2016; Hughes, 2017; Lea, 2012; Paterson, 2007; Paterson, 2009) and for Huisman (2017), these technologies and applications could help create situations to aid elderly care for example, where the number of actual contact hours is limited (p. 13). Even though no actual touch is involved and hands are off the patient’s body, both Reiki and Therapeutic Touch deal with “touch” but so does haptic technology. The emerging differences and perhaps significant similarities are well worth studying in future research where social touch is an emerging, important technology particularly if one is to continue to embrace as Rubik (2002) referred to a “biophysical view of life with dynamic nonlinear systems theory of open, far from equilibrium systems that offers a complementary perspective and embraces the complex, holistic, dynamic features of life as well as new electrodynamic and bioinformational interactions” (p. 715).
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