The Science of Reiki ~ what does the research say?
When we stimulate the body with Reiki energy, our body goes into deep relaxation. This tones the vagus nerve, which increases our health and well-being in a systemic fashion.
SUMMARY of findings
Science is becoming more interested in how energy medicine works
Scientists are becoming increasingly more interested in how energy medicine works. A growing number of scientific studies on Reiki are being conducted and published in peer-review journals. Reiki is one of several types of therapies based on our bio field, the energy that regulates everything from our cellular function to our nervous system. This method is being studied with evidence-based science in order to understand the full value of what this type of healing method may offer the medical world. So far, clinical research looks promising. (more to come)
Promising data for Reiki as a Complimentary Healing Method
There has been compelling evidence from clinical trials studying chronic conditions and acute illnesses to show that Reiki has the potential to act as a complimentary healing method to provide valuable support for a broad range of conditions. Reiki has been found to be measurably more effective than placebo for reducing pain, anxiety and depression, and for improving self-esteem, mobility, and quality of life. It caused positive changes in perception and personality. Research has been provided to suggest that Reiki may be useful as an adjunctive healing therapy in acute settings as an aid to recovery after major surgical procedures. Data suggests Reiki may significantly reduce pain and the need for analgesics following other surgeries, and it has been found to improve vital signs post-op which are crucial for recovery. The promising data from the studies that have been done suggest more studies are warranted.
POLYVAGAL THEORY (PVT) & THE NEUROVISCERAL INTEGRATION MODEL (NVIM) may explain why
Relaxing the Nervous System
Reiki is profoundly relaxing and Reiki has been found to be better than placebo for inducing relaxation. It may be that the positive effects of Reiki are due to the deep relaxation response Reiki naturally induces in the body. Data indicates that Reiki has a positive effect on the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls how the body responds to its environment. The two main branches of the ANS, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which corresponds to fight or flight mode, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), which corresponds to relaxation mode, have a complimentary oppositional relationship. In a healthy individual, the activity of the branches can be rapidly modulated in response to changing environmental demand: they exist in a state of homeostasis, or dynamic balance. When the SNS is overstimulated, due to high stress levels and trauma, it may result in a state of chronic inflammation, as we’re continually releasing adrenaline and cortisol stress hormones.
Parasympathetic Nervous System Dominance
The vibrational frequency of the Reiki energetic current is effective in activating PSNS dominance via this relaxation response. The physiological response to Reiki is measured in markers such as reduced heart rate, reduced blood pressure, and increased heart rate variability (HRV). When the PSNS is stimulated, the stress response is reduced, and the body can relax. During this state of relaxation, healing can occur. Reiki’s ability to activate the PSNS and increase HRV can be understood in terms of the PVT and NVIM. According to these models, these effects are due to the increase of the PSNS activity via the vagus nerve.
The Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve represents the main component of the PSNS and is known as the body's superhighway, having pathways to almost every organ in the body, it is the longest nerve in the body. The vagus nerve is the regulator of the PSNS, and it overseas a vast array of crucial bodily functions and mood regulations. According to the PVT and the NVIM, the vagus nerve plays a key role in many regulatory responses in the body that regulate health including blood sugar, inflammatory response, glandular function, hormone levels, and the immune response. The PVT attempts to explain how our thoughts, feelings and body are connected through the nervous system. The vagus nerve is thought to be responsible for the mind-body connection, and as the mediator between thinking and feeling, it plays a large role in our physical and mental health.
Vagal tone is thought to be key to well-being: a well-functioning vagus nerve supports healing throughout the mind and body. The measure of the vagal tone is a measure of how healthy, strong, and functional the nervous system of the body is, and has become a new way to measure stress vulnerability. So far we know that irregularities in the vagal tone can cause distress in physical and emotional conditions. Stress, anxiety, trauma, poor posture, infection, and surgical complications may cause damage and impair function of the vagus nerve. Relaxation on the other hand, heals vagal tone, and stimulation of the PSNS via the vagus nerve has been shown to reduce the perception of pain, reduce depression, and improve mood and quality of life.
Reiki stimulates the vagus nerve and the body experiences much relief from this. Due to Reiki's ability to tone the vagus nerve, it is a safe and natural way to provide support for a broad range of conditions. It may be excellent for conditions that are related to high levels of (systemic) inflammation caused by stress.
Heart Rate Variability
The NVIM tells us about the relationship between the central nervous system and cardiac activity as measured by heart rate variability (HRV). Increased HRV is associated with good health and improvement in overall well-being. It supports mental and physical health, as well as emotional well-being. It is associated with increased emotional flexibility and better regulation of emotional responses, more positive emotions and increased social connectedness, and reduced pain sensitivity. Conversely, a compromised ANS, characterized by reduced HRV, is associated with cognitive and physical abnormalities, which are major risk factors for developing chronic anxiety and depression. More research is needed to determine how many Reiki sessions are needed to increase HRV and stabilize that increase, and thus heal vagus nerve damage.
Decrease in Pain
The perception of pain, like other feelings, is an affective state that is governed by the ANS. Chronic pain and poor emotional health are associated with abnormalities of the ANS and reduced HRV. Increased HRV indicates greater capacity of the ANS for affect regulation and reduced pain sensitivity. The decrease in pain many experience while being treated with Reiki, is likely due to Reiki's effect on vagal tone and HRV.