Bodyworks That Don’t Work: Reiki

The first thing that I want to say is that this article is not meant to trash or talk down to anyone who practices reiki, has experienced reiki, or believes in the effects of reiki. In my practice, I am often asked if I practice reiki, or why I do not. This article is only meant to answer that question, and provide an alternative view on the topic, which you would not receive from a reiki practitioner if you asked. Basically, it is an opinion article. The fact that someone can write an opinion article on this “healing” technique should tell you all you need to know to begin with, but here we go!

Reiki is a Japanese form of bodywork that works with a person’s energy. The claim is that humans have an unseen life force surrounding their body, which is referred to as “life force energy,” or Qi (the Japanese word for life force energy.) Reiki practitioners believe that if your energy is low, then you are more susceptible to illness or stress, and that if your energy is at a healthy level, then you are more likely to be happy and healthy.


reiki 1

Photo by Mette Storm


A person does not need any certain background or religious belief to become a reiki practitioner. All that is required is to receive what is called an “attunement” from a reiki master. This will make the practitioner attuned to Qi, which enables them to become a vessel for healing. There are three levels of attunement, and one becomes a reiki “master” upon reaching level three. There are no licensing standards required to perform reiki.


Practitioners of reiki claim that it has been shown to have a positive effect on every illness and that it makes a very good complimentary form of medicine. A reiki session consists of the recipient laying fully clothed on a massage table while the practitioner places his hands on certain chakras on the body and allowing healing Qi to flow through the practitioner’s body and into the recipient’s. There is no ingestion of any substance, and no application of any product to the skin. No manipulation of the tissue is applied in a normal reiki session, although some massage therapists may use it during their sessions. Some reiki sessions do not involve the practitioner placing his hands on the recipient at all. Instead, he works with the Qi surrounding the body.

There isn’t much scientific research behind reiki, but what little has been done does not support reiki’s claims. Sixty-six percent of reiki practitioners were not able to detect a recipient’s energy field when she let her hand hover over theirs, unbeknownst to them. This was a study done in the 1990’s. The only evidence to support reiki’s healing power is feedback from people who have received reiki.

Personal opinion time: there is no significant evidence that reiki has any effect at all on a person’s wellbeing, positive or negative. That being said, it is incredibly irresponsible for reiki practitioners to claim that it can heal. Are they scam artists? No. I think that people who practice reiki truly believe that what they do helps people.

It is true that humans have some sort of energy. We give off a static electricity and heat, which is energy generated through cellular activity. This is how we can detect when someone is near us without seeing, or how we end up with that unpleasant electric shock. Does this energy need healing from time to time? Probably not.

My final “judgement” (so to speak) is that reiki may provide a sort of placebo effect if the recipient truly believes that it works, but it does not provide any real healing. I had a reiki session done because I wanted to know if it was something I might be interested in providing to my clients. I walked out of the session feeling exactly the same as when I had walked in, even though the practitioner claimed that my chakras were open now, when they hadn’t been before. This is why I do not provide reiki services. I feel that it would be wrong and manipulative to accept payment for a service that is not helping my clients.

Again, I do not believe that reiki practitioners are bad people, or that they are out to make a quick buck. They really believe that what they do heals, balances, and helps. They’re wrong.

But hey, if any research is ever done to prove the claims, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m wrong.


Bodyworks That Don’t Work


Polarity Therapy



The International Center for Reiki Training

What is Reiki

The Blue Heron Wellness Center


QiGong Studio



Reiki is Nonsense by Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Take Charge

What Does the Reasearch Say About Reiki


About Tonya Sapiel, LMT

My goal with The Wellness Seeker blog is to educate the general public on the benefits of massage therapy, why it is an important addition to their health care routine, and what they can do to help themselves in between their massage therapy sessions. I welcome feedback and questions. I also accept requests for post topics. For more information about me or my practice, please visit

3 responses to “Bodyworks That Don’t Work: Reiki

  1. Pingback: Bodyworks That Don’t Work: Reflexology | The Wellness Seeker

  2. Pingback: Bodyworks That Don’t Work: Polarity Therapy | The Wellness Seeker

  3. Pingback: Bodyworks That Don’t Work: Cupping | The Wellness Seeker

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