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Reiki is a type of energy healing that was developed in Japan by Dr Mikao Usui. A reiki practitioner will use light touch which aims to change and balance the energy fields in and around your body. 


  • The Japanese word Reiki means universal energy.
  • It aims to relax you, ease stress and tension and help your overall well being.
  • A Reiki practitioner will use healing energy by laying their hands on your clothed body.

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese healing art that was developed by Dr Usui in Japan in the early 20th century. It is pronounced ray-key.

You might also hear it called Reiki energy, Usui system of Reiki and therapeutic touch. 

The Japanese word Reiki means universal energy. Eastern medicine systems work with this energy, which flows through all living things and is vital to well being. The energy is known as 'Ki' in Japan, 'Chi' in China and 'prana' in India. Reiki isn't part of any type of religion or belief system. It is best described as a form of hands on healing used as a complementary therapy.

A Reiki practitioner aims to change and balance the energy fields in and around your body to help on a physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual level.

Why people with cancer use it

Reiki practitioners say that it can:

  • help you to feel deeply relaxed
  • help you cope with difficult situations
  • relieve emotional stress and tension
  • help to improve overall wellbeing

Some people with cancer say they feel better after using therapies such as Reiki. Studies show that this is often because a therapist spends time with the person, and touches them.

After the rush and stress of hospitals and treatment, it can be very relaxing when someone gives you attention for an hour or more, in a calm setting. Reiki is sometimes used in palliative care, especially in hospices.

Some people say that Reiki has helped to control side effects of their cancer treatments, such as pain, anxiety and sickness.

They also say that it helps them cope better with their cancer and its treatment. But it’s important to bear in mind that while Reiki may help you to cope with your symptoms or side effects, it is not able to treat your cancer.

How you have it

On your first visit, your Reiki practitioner will ask you about your general health and medical history. They will ask you why you would like to have Reiki and discuss your treatment plan with you.

You don’t have to get undressed for treatment. You usually take your shoes and coat off and have it sitting or lying down. You can have your eyes open or closed.

Your Reiki practitioner might dim the lights or play soothing music. They put their hands on, or a few inches above your body. They will move their hands across your body, usually starting at your head and working down to your feet, but may focus on particular areas of the body.

The aim is to move and balance the energy within and around your body. And to get rid of any energy blocks to encourage physical healing and strengthen your energy.

You might feel a tingling sensation, a deep relaxation, or warmth or coolness throughout your body. Or, you might not feel anything at all. Practitioners say this doesn’t mean the treatment isn’t working.

A session usually lasts between 20 minutes and an hour. Many practitioners say you will get the best results from 3 sessions within a fairly short space of time. Then take a break before having more treatments.

You might feel thirsty after a session. It can help to drink plenty of water and avoid strong caffeine based drinks, such as coffee.

You might feel deeply relaxed, and resting at home afterwards can help you get the full benefit of the treatment.

Reiki can be sent remotely. An appropriately trained practitioner can send healing over a distance. So you can be in your own home having Reiki from a person elsewhere.

If you don’t feel comfortable with anything, it’s important to discuss this with your practitioner.

Side effects

Generally speaking, Reiki is safe for most people with cancer. Most practitioners will advise you to rest and drink plenty of water after treatment. There are no reports of harmful side effects.

It is safe to have Reiki alongside your cancer treatment. But it’s important to tell your doctor about any complementary therapy, alternative therapy or diet supplement that you use. Then your doctor will always have the full picture about your care and treatment.

Research into Reiki for people with cancer

There is no scientific evidence to prove that Reiki can prevent, treat or cure cancer, or any other disease.

But, many healthcare professionals accept Reiki as a useful complementary therapy which may help lower stress, promote relaxation and reduce pain.

In 2014 a literature review looked at whether Reiki could help with pain and anxiety. The authors reviewed information from various studies that had used Reiki on people with cancer and people without cancer. 

Some of the people had recently had surgery so they wanted to see if Reiki could help with pain after surgery. Others were about to have a breast biopsy and were feeling anxious. They found that after Reiki women having a breast biopsy had a reduction in their anxiety and patients who had recently had surgery reported a decrease in their pain. 

Although there was a limited number of studies (7 studies in total) the authors concluded that Reiki may be effective for pain and anxiety. They recommend that more studies should be done in the future with larger numbers of people. 

A US clinical trial looked at the effects of Reiki healing in men with prostate cancer. We need to do more large randomised clinical trials before we really know how much Reiki can help people with cancer.

How much it costs

Some cancer centres and hospitals in the UK offer free or low cost Reiki treatments for people with cancer. Ask your nurse or doctor if this is an option in your ward or treatment centre. If it isn’t, they might be able to direct you to nearby organisations or support groups that do.

Private Reiki treatments usually cost from around £15 to £100 an hour. Treatments may be more expensive in bigger cities.

Finding a Reiki practitioner

It is vital that the person who gives you Reiki is properly trained.

There are 3 different levels of Reiki practitioners.

  • Level 1 means you can use Reiki to treat yourself, family and friends but are not able to treat other people or charge money for treatment
  • Level 2 (also called practitioner level) means you have studied to a higher level and can use Reiki to treat people
  • Level 3 means you are a Reiki master or teacher

Anyone treating you should hold a minimum Level 2 Reiki qualification and should be registered with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) as a Reiki practitioner.

There is no law to say that practitioners have to have any specific qualifications. But, most reputable practitioners belong to a professional Reiki association.

Look on the UK Reiki Federation website first for a list of practitioners in your area. Or, use one of the other organisations listed below. Contact one or more of the practitioners and check what level qualification and training they have.

A word of caution

Remember that Reiki cannot cure your cancer.

It is a complementray therapy that aims to help support you during your cancer treatment. It can help with your general well being. 

Last reviewed: 
22 Jan 2019
  • Effect of therapeutic touch in patients with cancer: a literature review

    A. Tabatabaee and others

    Medical Archives. 2016. PMID 27194823

  • Effect of reiki therapy on pain and anxiety in adults: An in depth literature review of randomised trials with effect size calculations

    S. Thrane and S. Cohen

    Pain Management Nursing. 2014. December 15(4):897-908

  • Self-efficacy for coping with cancer enhances the effect of Reiki treatments during the pre-surgery phase of breast cancer patients

    A Chirico and others

    Anticancer Research. 2017; 37: 3657-3665. 

  • The increasing use of reiki as a complementary therapy in specialist palliative care.
    B Burden and others, 2005
    International Journal of Palliative Nursing. Volume 11, Issue 5

  • Effects of reiki in clinical practice: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials.
    MS Lee and others, 2008
    International Journal of Clinical Practice, Volume 62, Issue 6

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. If you need additional references for this information please contact with details of the particular issue you are interested in

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