When it comes to cancer treatment, most people think of radiation and chemotherapy. And while treating the physical causes of cancer is an obvious part of treatment, alternative treatments that address the spiritual and emotional needs of cancer patients have begun increasingly popular at cancer treatment centers and programs.
One such treatment, reiki, is now being offered at the Cancer Center at Paoli Hospital. The Japanese practice is based on the belief that spiritual energy can be channeled through the hands of reiki practitioner.
“Although reiki does not physically treat cancer, many patients find that it helps alleviate pain and promotes relaxation during a time when, typically, they can feel stressed or anxious,” explains Margaret Standing, who is certified as a reiki master and volunteers at the Cancer Center.
So what goes on during a typical reiki session? A licensed reiki practitioner places their hands on a patient in a series of different positions designed to promote healing. Each position is held from anywhere from two to five minutes, for a total of one hour when a session is complete. The practice itself does not hurt, but some patients have felt sensations like heat, tingling, or pulsing at the positions used during the session.
For some patients, one reiki session might be enough. But most patients report needing three sessions to feel the benefits it offers, which include relaxation, speeding healing, improved sleep, and an enhanced ability of the body’s ability to heal itself.
Despite the reported benefits, studies don’t support the claim that reiki can help treat cancer, though that may not necessarily matter for cancer patients.
“Reiki has increased the well-being of patients and refreshed their spirits in the midst of treatment,” says Gwen Burgess, RN, BSN, OCN, a radiation oncology nurse who is trained as a Reiki practitioner. “When something provides that kind of a benefit for patients, you can’t overlook it.”
And, of course, the benefits of reiki are most effective when they accompany traditional cancer treatments.
“Reiki is not a substitute for traditional medical treatment, it is a supplement. But for patients looking for a way to deal with the emotional stress of cancer treatment, it can provide relief,” says Burgess.
Visit our website for more information on reiki or other alternative treatments being offered at Main Line Health cancer centers.