Migraineur’s Guide to CAM: energy and touch therapies
Reiki is a form of energy healing that originated in Japan in the early 1900s. The original practice was founded by Mikao Usui as a form of self-improvement. It is easily recognized by its kanji (Japanese symbol).
The founding principles were written as a meditative affirmation to be repeated often by Usui’s students.
The secret art of inviting happiness,
the miraculous medicine of all diseases:
Just for today, do not anger.
Just for today, do not worry.
Be grateful for everything.
Do your work honestly.
Be kind to all living things.
Every morning and evening, join your hands in prayer.
Pray these words in your heart and chant them with your mouth.
Practitioners claim that Reiki facilitates the body’s natural healing process. It was introduced to the west after the end of World War II and has gained popularity in the U.S. There are many different “schools” of Reiki. What you experience depends greatly on who taught your practitioner as some Masters (those qualified to teach) include concepts borrowed from Hinduism, Christianity, or New Age philosophies. The original practice was secular, without any religious teachings.
Reiki is divided into 3 practice levels. In the first level, students are taught the history and basic hand positions for self-treatment as well as the treatment of others. During the second level, students learn techniques for distance treatments. It is during this second level that some types of Reiki introduce a mix of spiritual practices and philosophies. The third (Master) level is divided into two parts by some instructors. An instructor is someone who has completed the Master level (or Master-Teacher for those who separate the advanced practice skills from the instructor training). There are also many offshoots of Reiki. As Master level practitioners began teaching their own students, some developed their own styles that are unique enough to warrant a different name.
In case you are wondering how I know so much about Reiki, that’s because I am a Certified Reiki Master. It has been my privilege to train dozens of new Reiki practitioners who now use their skills for self-healing and to treat others. A few of my students completed Master training and have gone on to teach others. My ability to stay calm and relaxed during the worst migraine attacks was acquired through Reiki practice. Some of the best results I have seen from Reiki treatments have been with anxiety, trauma, and drug & alcohol addiction. In 2007 I worked with a therapist who confirmed that at least one of my former Reiki clients had maintained her alcohol sobriety and successful recovery from PTSD. This therapist directly attributed our mutual client’s treatment success to Reiki treatments that took place over 10 years ago.
Therapeutic Touch (TT) is another form of energy healing. Its founders describe it as “a holistic, evidence-based therapy that incorporates the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and well-being.” Unlike Reiki, which began as meditative self-improvement, TT has been subjected to scientific research from its inception. TT was developed in the 1970s by two nurses who used control and experimental groups, measuring hemoglobin levels before and after treatment. Like Reiki, physical contact with the client is not required. Most treatments consist of the practitioner placing the hand in close proximity, but not touching the body. Because of its medical origins, TT is more widely accepted than other forms of energy healing.
Cranio-Sacral therapy is a type of body work that focuses on the nervous system. It is closer in relation to Reiki or Therapeutic Touch than massage or chiropractic manipulations. Practitioners use a light touch while clients lie fully clothed on a massage table. Like other energy healing modalities, Cranio-Sacral therapy focuses on both physical and emotional symptoms, tapping in to what practitioners describe as they body’s natural healing abilities.
Quantum Energetics (QE) also related to Reiki and Therapeutic Touch. Unlike them, QE it cannot be learned in an afternoon. Practitioners must attend classes and study for two years in order to complete the program. They must then continue to refresh and expand their knowledge every year, just like other professionals. Unlike other energy healing methods, QE practitioners are taught a thorough knowledge of human anatomy and physiology at about the same level as a massage therapist or physical therapist. QE had its own system of codes and corrections used to identify and resolve problems within the human energy field. QE also uses applied kinesiology to identify problem areas. Occasionally the practitioner will recommend specific herbs or foods for a specific duration to facilitate the body’s healing.
Reflexology is often mistaken for massage therapy or acupressure because practitioners use their hands. However, it is a unique discipline. While acupressure utilizes the same meridians as acupuncture, Reflexology uses the concept of a “body map” reflected by the hands, feet, and ears. By pressing gently on specific areas, it is thought to stimulate the body’s natural healing response specific to that area of the body. Have you ever heard that applying gentle pressure to the soft tissue between the thumb and forefinger can ease the pain of a headache? That’s reflexology at work. Another common one is applying pressure to the soft tissue of the palm at the base of each finger to relieve sinus pressure. Reflexologists use their knowledge of these “body maps” to stimulate natural healing and relaxation.