Issue #99, Sept./Oct. 2002
Massage Magazine

Reiki Induces Relaxation, Liminal State of Awareness
Massage for Spinal-Cord Injury

Reiki Induces Relaxation, Liminal State of Awareness

Reiki reduces anxiety and blood pressure, and increases relaxation, according to recent research.
"Experience of a Reiki Session" was conducted by Joan Engebretson, R.N., Dr.Ph., and Diane Wind Wardell, R.N.C., Ph.D., certified holistic nurses and associate professors at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

The study involved 23 participants, ages 29 to 55, each of whom received a standardized reiki treatment in a soundproof, windowless, softly lit room. A single reiki master provided Reiki Touch, a form of the Usui Reiki System.

According the Usui System of Reiki Healing's Web site, "The Usui System of Reiki Healing is a hands-on healing practice. Reiki-universal life energy-is channeled through the practitioner's hands for self-treatment or treatment of others."

For this study, the practitioner's hands were lightly placed on the subject's face and abdomen for 15 minutes each.

Before and after each session, quantitative information was collected: Participants filled out questionnaires; salivary specimens were gathered; and biofeedback and blood-pressure data were recorded. "These were chosen as markers to explore a physiological relaxation response," state the study's authors.

The measurements all changed in the direction of relaxation. Participant anxiety and systolic blood pressure decreased significantly following the session, while skin temperature and salivary IgA levels rose after receiving reiki, which indicates a physiological relaxation response.

Interviews were conducted and recorded after each session by one of two investigators, who later transcribed and analyzed them for persistent patterns. Participants were asked to describe their experience and answer questions specific to the session. This falls into the category of qualitative data.

"Consistent with other touch studies, these recipients reported a holistic experience," state the study's authors. "Touch therapies appear to engage the recipient in an integrated experience that links body, mind and spirit in a unique manner that allows the recipient to experience paradox."

Subjects described a change in their state of awareness as liminal, or between two known states, such as sleeping and waking, floating and sinking, hot and cold, fear and safety.

"I knew my mind had thoughts, but didn't know what they were," said one participant. The word "threshold" was used by several subjects to describe the reiki experience as bordering on two different states of being.

"Liminal states of consciousness, by definition paradoxical, are frequently associated with profound religious experiences and have been linked to ritual healing practices across cultures," the authors reported.

Qualitative descriptions of the session as peaceful, soothing, quiet and gentle were consistent with the relaxation response indicated by the quantitative data.

However, besides this expected response, the authors of the study noted that the effects of reiki may be beyond the capacity of traditional research. "The narratives suggest that the experience of Reiki is dynamic and incorporates subtle fluctuations and variations; hence it may defy measurement."

-Source: University of Texas Health Science Center. Authors: Joan Engebretson, R.N., Dr.Ph., and Diane Wind Wardell, R.N.C., Ph.D. Originally published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 48-53.

Massage for Spinal-Cord Injury

Massage benefits people with spinal-cord injuries by increasing their range of motion and muscle strength while decreasing anxiety and depression, according to a recent study.

"Spinal Cord Patients Benefit from Massage Therapy" was conducted by Miguel Diego, Tiffany Field, Ph.D., Maria Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D., Sybil Hart, Ph.D., and Tory Field, of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, along with Bernard Brucker of the university's psychiatry department and Iris Burman, co-founder and director of Educating Hands School of Massage in Miami, Florida.

Fifteen males and five females participated in the study. Their average age was 39 and each had C5-C7 spinal cord injuries for at least one year. The subjects were stratified by range of motion and randomly assigned to either a massage-therapy or exercise group.

The massage-therapy group received two 40-minute massages per week for five weeks. The exercise group was taught an exercise routine that they performed on their own twice a week for five weeks.
On the first and last days of the study, a physiotherapist with no knowledge of group assignment assessed participants' range of motion and muscle strength, and administered the Modified Barthel Index, which rates self-care and mobility skills.

The massage group showed a greater increase in muscle strength than the exercise group on the Manual Muscle Test, designed to assess motor function after spinal-cord injury.

Range-of-motion tests revealed that both groups improved in shoulder abduction, but the massage group showed greater improvement in wrist extension and flexion.

The Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale was completed on the first and last days of the study, and the State Anxiety Inventory was used to assess participants' anxiety immediately before and after massage on the first and last days of the study.

Members of the massage group showed a greater decrease in depression scores on the last day of the research. They also had significantly lower levels of anxiety than subjects in the exercise group immediately following massage on the first and last days of the study.

"The increased muscle strength and range of motion may have contributed to the decrease in their depression and anxiety," state the study's authors. "These data suggest that patients with spinal cord injury can benefit from massage therapy."

The authors recommended future studies to assess massage therapy for other problems related to spinal-cord injury, such as spasticity and pain.

-Source: The Touch Research Institute. Authors: Miguel A. Diego, Tiffany Field, Ph.D., Maria Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D., Sybil Hart, Ph.D. Originally published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, 2002, Vol. 112, pp. 133-142.