Reiki Supports Individuals Living with Cancer

Elise Brenner

“A diagnosis of cancer comes with a lot of emotional turmoil, stress and anxiety, which can be detrimental to our health,” says Lorenzo .Cohen, Ph.D., director of the integrative medicine program at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. To offset the emotional storm, patients can engage in mind-body practices, such as reiki, to relieve stress.

Reiki is a gentle, non-invasive mind-body healing and meditation practice that can be performed on oneself or others. Reiki practitioners use gentle touch to facilitate a healing state of being in the recipient, allowing for emotional regulation, stress-reduction and mindfulness. As a nonpharmacological option, it can reduce the distressing symptoms patients commonly experience during and after cancer treatment. A recent study found that reiki treatments can bring a noticeable improvement in pain levels. Pre- and post-reiki session surveys for cancer patients showed a more than 50 percent decrease in self-reported distress, anxiety, depression, pain and fatigue.

The American Cancer Society considers reiki a safe, complementary cancer therapy without any contraindications. It induces the body’s natural relaxation response which encourages optimal functioning of the body’s own natural healing system. During a session, the recipient’s nervous system shifts from sympathetic mode to parasympathetic mode, thereby regulating blood pressure and heart rate, relieving tension and anxiety, strengthening the immune system, reducing inflammation and stimulating the brain’s production of endorphins that act to decrease the perception of pain.

While undergoing chemotherapy, reiki sessions, prior to and during treatments, help manage both the mental and emotional suffering as well as some of the post-chemo reactions. Another study found that for cancer patients receiving outpatient chemotherapy, reiki sessions were helpful in improving well-being, relaxation, pain relief, sleep quality and reducing anxiety.

Due to more effective methods of cancer diagnosis and treatment, people are living longer. Yet cancer leaves its marks—the deepest of which may be those on the mental-emotional level: fear, anxiety and depression. For those lucky enough to enter remission, reiki can help with the intense anxiety that comes with the uncertainty of a possible recurrence of the cancer.

Several major area medical facilities, such as Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Spaulding Rehabilitation Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Emerson Hospital, offer reiki sessions for their patients as part of their complementary and integrative healthcare services.

Elise Brenner, Ph.D, reiki practitioner and teacher, and founder and executive director of the nonprofit reiki educational and outreach organization, Celebration of Reiki, Inc., is a strong advocate for reiki outreach, education and empowerment. She assists clients at Brenner Reiki Healing, in Newton, while also providing reiki at veteran’s retreats, community wellness fairs, support groups, schools, hospitals and hospice. For more information, visit

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