By Kathy Best, CNTC, CRM, CRRC, ILC
November 19, 2022
Although energy healing has been practiced for thousands of years, skepticism remains about the therapeutic effects of these complimentary healing methods.
Some scientists believe that stimulating the human energy field should be combined with modern medicine practices to treat and understand the whole human body. Holistic treatments like reiki, healing touch, massage, acupuncture and music therapy are used to address energetic imbalances that can lead to early aging and disease.
If you’ve been dealing with chronic health issues like fatigue, pain, prolonged stress and moodiness, it may be time to explore the many varieties of energy healing that have been practiced by ancient healers for centuries.
What Is Energy Healing? How Does It Work?
Research published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine, defines energy medicine as “the therapeutic applications of subtle energies.” Traditional allopathic medicine focuses primarily on physiology and can provide limited results based on its narrow focus, whereas practitioners of energy healing tend to have a broad focus that encompasses physical, mental, emotional and energetic systems.
Our physical bodies interact with our environment through ambient fields of light, sound, electricity and magnetism. According to scientific research, these energy fields generate massive amounts of information.
Did you know that humans have voltage capacities that regulate cell function? These energy elements are enmeshed in the therapeutic effects of healing energy.
The purpose of energy medicine is to bring the body back to homeostasis or balance by treating energetic imbalances. Energy medicine proposes that disturbances or imbalances in human energy patterns correlate to disease and aging.
According to research published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine mentioned above:
“If Western medicine applied the principles of modern physics, it would understand human beings are composed of information (energy) interacting with other energy (environment) to profoundly impact our physical and emotional health.”
There are many types of energy healing. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular forms of energy healing:
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture originates from Traditional Chinese Medicine practices and involves using stimulating specific energy points on the body with thin needles. The purpose of acupuncture is to balance the flow of energy or life force using specific meridians in the body.
- Acupressure: Acupressure is a form of touch therapy that’s seeks to improve the flow of “qi,” or life force energy in the body. The theory behind this practice is that stress impedes the body’s energy flow and stimulating energy meridians, or pathways brings the body back into balance. acupressure benefits
- Reiki: Reiki is a form of energy medicine that originated in Japan. A reiki practitioner works with a patient’s energy fields using light touch or by hovering their hands over the body to activate and support the innate, natural healing processes. The general aim of reiki is to promote positivity and healing.
- Reflexology: Reflexology has been practiced for over 4,000 years and involves the use of hand and foot massage to stimulate the nervous system and immune system into triggering a healing response. Reflexology supports the flow of life force energy, so the body can thrive and heal itself. Reflexology is based on the principles of the zone theory, which indicates a correlation between reflex zones on the hands and feet and the organs of the physical body. Stimulation of each zone triggers a response in the corresponding organ or body part.
- Healing Touch: Healing touch, or therapeutic touch, is another energy-based approach to healing that involves the use of physical touch to influence the human energy system. This practice is meant to benefit the patient’s physical, emotional and mental health by balancing the body’s energy fields.
- Music Therapy: Music therapy is a type of energy therapy where musical instruments are used to involve as many sensory organs as possible. Patients using music therapy incorporate sight, sound and touch using the music to stimulate and work through painful emotions, like grief, sadness, loneliness and frustration, among other music therapy benefits.
- Sound Energy Therapy: Sound therapy is another type of energy therapy that stimulates a relaxation response using specific tones. Tuning forks may also be used or applied directly to the body to induce balance and healing. The vibrations that come from sound help promote deep relaxation, stress reduction, and improved sleep.
- Healing Prayer: Healing prayer is a combination of spiritual practices, including meditation, visualization and other mindfulness techniques. These practices support our mental and physical resilience against stressors, keep cortisol levels balanced and protect against stress-related diseases.
Top Benefits and Uses
1. Reduces Pain
Research on forms of energy healing like acupressure, acupuncture and Reiki suggests that energy medicine may help relieve numerous forms of pain.
Healing energy can help alleviate headaches and migraines; back, knee, shoulder and neck pain; and arthritic pain.
One meta-analysis showed that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain, while a 2014 study found that acupressure was effective for reducing pain associated with conditions like chronic headaches, labor pains, menstrual cramps and lower back pain.
“Reiki sessions cause patients to heal faster with less pain,” says Marilyn Vega, RN, a private-duty nurse at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in New York.
2. Improves Sleep
Researchers have found that healing energy may be useful for reducing insomnia symptoms and helping with overall sleep regularity.
In fact, a systematic review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine indicates that acupuncture was superior to medications regarding the number of patients who experienced increase sleep duration.
3. Used as Complementary Medicine
Studies suggest that energy healing as a form of complementary medicine helps boost immunity and speed up recovery for patients dealing with serious health conditions, including cancer and chemotherapy treatment, childbirth and postpartum healing, and healing after surgery.
Forms of energy medicine that can be used in combination with modern or conventional medicine include reiki, acupuncture, healing touch, healing prayer and reflexology, among others.
Reiki was in use in hospital operating rooms as early as the mid-90’s. A 2008 USA Today article reported that in 2007 15% of U.S. hospitals (over 800) offered Reiki as a regular part of patient services. It is now listed in a nursing “scope and standards of practice” publication as an accepted form of care.
4. Boosts Brain Health
Using healing energy or sensory-stimulating techniques can help boost brain function and promote balance. Energy treatments are meant to purify and balance the body’s life force energy, thus boosting your ability to concentrate and focus.
5. Promotes Mental Health
Many forms of energy healing promote relaxation and an overall sense of well-being. Spiritual healing, in particular, helps you improve peace in your life, thereby reducing stress on the body and working to prevent disease.
Mounting anecdotal evidence confirms the benefits of Reiki consistently. Nurses and physicians who use Reiki in the clinical setting say it: relaxes patients, increases calm and cooperation; mitigates acute and chronic pain; boosts the immune system; decreases stress and the need for pain medication; improves sleep; accelerates the healing process, and has no side effects or contraindications. They also say that Reiki reduces many of the unwanted side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
6. May Improve Healing
Many forms of energy medicine help improve mood and induce a relaxed, balanced state. They are also known to promote healing and support immune function. A trial of music therapy was conducted in 1989 and found it could reduce the incidence of cardiac complications.
The largest ongoing study of Reiki in the clinical setting continues to be conducted at Columbia/HCA Portsmouth Regional Hospital, Portsmouth, NH, where more than 8,000 surgical patients receive pre-and post-surgery Reiki treatments. All the patients who receive Reiki in this study needed less anesthesia, had less bleeding during surgery, required less pain medications, had shorter hospital stays and indicated greater satisfaction with their hospital experience than patients who did not receive Reiki.
Risks and Side Effects
Energy healing appears to be generally safe when practiced by a trained professional. Energy healing should not be used to replace conventional care without a thorough understanding of its limitations, so be sure to find a knowledgeable health care professional who can offer a holistic or functional approach, especially if you are struggling with a health issue.
Make sure to use a reputable practitioner or therapist who has been trained and can offer referrals to minimize potential risks and side effects.
What is the status of the research?
Research attempts have been and continue to be made while the debate on how best to study integrative therapies such as Reiki is gaining traction. Nonetheless, research is just beginning. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has completed five studies looking at Reiki’s ability to benefit people with fibromyalgia, stress, prostate cancer, diabetes and advanced AIDS.
Other published studies have looked at the effect of Reiki on measures of stress hormones, blood pressure, heart rate, and immune responsivity, and on subjective reports of anxiety, pain and depression. The studies to date are typically small, and not every study is well designed. However, overlapping data from some of the stronger studies support the ability of Reiki to reduce anxiety and pain, and suggest its usefulness to induce relaxation, improve fatigue and depressive symptoms, and strengthen overall wellbeing. A five-year clinical experience study from a 396 bed rural hospital was released in 2018 showing symptom relief in patients receiving reiki or massage. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews contains a review on the use of touch therapies (including Reiki) for pain, depression and dementia.
Reiki and other holistic treatments has been increasingly offered as part of workplace wellness programs, in university wellness center and healthcare industries to address burnout and improve skills.
- Healing energy is the therapeutic applications of subtle energies that works to promote the balance and flow of human life force energy force and treat energetic imbalances to bring a patient’s body systems back to homeostasis.
- Practitioners and patients of energy medicine believe that disturbances in human bioenergetic fields are a source of disease and aging. By balancing energy meridians and fields, a patient can experience a relief from pain, mood disorders, insomnia, chronic stress and early signs of aging.
- There are many types of energy medicine, including reiki, acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, healing touch, healing prayer, music therapy, sound frequency therapy and EFT. Each one works to balance energy and promote homeostasis.