Treatment can help patients deal with pain, anxiety
[00:00:00] Host Amber Smith: Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York invites you to be "The Informed Patient" with the podcast that features experts from Central New York's only academic medical center. I'm your host, Amber Smith. Today I'm talking about an energy healing technique known as reiki with Bob Crandall. He's an assistant chaplain in Upstate's spiritual care department, and he coordinates the adult reiki team. Welcome to "The Informed Patient," Mr. Crandall.
[00:00:28] Bob Crandall: Thrilled to be here.
[00:00:30] Host Amber Smith: People may have heard of reiki without understanding what it is or how it works. Can you explain?
[00:00:36] Bob Crandall: The National Cancer Institute defines energy healing as form of complementary and alternative medicine based on the belief that a vital energy flows through the human body. The goal of energy healing is to balance the energy flow in the patient.
So let me put it in terms that people already knew, that they don't realize that it's energy healing. One -- if a person if comes up behind you and you just feel uncomfortable, their energy is off from yours, it feels creepy, if I can use that word. And then on the other side of that, the positive side, a toddler's running around, skins their knee, comes running to mom, and as soon as mom gets close, the pain actually goes away, and the child settles down. She's actually using positive energy, which actually has a healing effect.
We also know that when a person is in a negative zone, so to speak, the immune system doesn't seem to work as well. When they are comfortable and relaxed, the immune system is at its peak. That's why doctors try to relax the patient before going into an operation. We know from research it just works better and that's why we use energy healing.
[00:01:59] Host Amber Smith: Well, reiki has been around for a while. Can you tell us about the history?
[00:02:04] Bob Crandall: Well, the term has been around from the early 1900s or 1920s or so. The actual energy healing piece has been around for 2,500 years. There's a Greek physician, back 500 years before Christ, a guy named Hippocrates. And he is quoted as saying, "it is believed by experienced doctors that the heat which oozes out of the hand on being applied to the sick is highly saluatory." Now he actually goes on to say that disease and infection can sometimes be pulled from the patient. So this energy healing stuff has been around for 2,500 years.
Now he was Greek. In the time of Christ, there's people mentioned called gentiles. Many of the gentiles were Greek physicians, so they were doing this hands-on type of thing, in addition to Christ. And I'm not going to say the results were the same. They weren't. But that's how it continued on. Down through the Christian world, there's still some of that going on. It's not as prevalent. But in the Eastern side of this, Eastern medicine, it continued. Now it kind of died down a little bit, 19th, 20th century.
But like I -- we like to say "refound" it. A guy named Usui Mikao, he was doing some meditation in that, and he found that he had this power. Again, we all have it, but the bigger issue is learning to get out of the way of it and allowing it to work.
Now, I also should say the term reiki, many people think that's a Japanese term, meaning re and kei, which it is not. It's a Sanskrit word. Sanskrit is a language that was around way, way, way, way, way back, thousands and thousands of years ago before the languages split to different languages. It was all one. So San Sanskrit is a base language, and in Sanskrit, reiki means spiritual healing. You could say it means laying on of hands. Same concept.
[00:04:15] Host Amber Smith: So today, in modern times, is reiki used instead of, or in addition to medical treatment?
[00:04:23] Bob Crandall: I would never say instead of. There's good reason why the great medical care that we give here at Upstate, for example. There's reasons for pain meds. There's reason for other kinds of medical techniques. Reiki is what we like to call a complimentary, or the better term, integrative medicine. It's used with. An example of that would be we work with pain management. Pain meds are really important. We found that if we do a lot of pain meds, that sometimes it can have a lasting effect. So they take pain down where it's manageable. But sometimes they will ask us to go also, and we can take it down some more, without messing with the brain.
An interesting piece of that is an amputation. When there's an amputation, there is a phantom pain. So very often orthopedics or pain meds, pain management will ask us to go, and we'll do reiki on that limb. And the phantom pain goes away, probably within five or 10 minutes. So we work with, never instead of.
[00:05:38] Host Amber Smith: Are there scientific studies backing up that reiki works?
[00:05:43] Bob Crandall: Absolutely. Let me go back a little ways: 1963, Syracuse University. A couple of professors were playing around with a device, and they found that there was some energy coming from the heart, emanating. And they measured it. And it's actually what got us going with the EKG that we use today.
That's energy within the body and the heart, so it's there. Later on around the 1980s, a couple of guys at the University of Colorado started playing around with this body energy and found that certain organs of the body work on certain frequencies, anywhere from a half a cycle to 30. For example, bones work on seven cycles. Later on, probably around the year 2000, when people were using reiki, or healing touch, they measured what was coming from a practitioner's hands. They found it was a half a cycle, a 30. And in so doing, they found that that complemented the normal energy of the body.
[00:06:50] Host Amber Smith: Let's talk about the potential health benefits of reiki. Who's a good candidate, and what sorts of conditions have you been able to use reiki to help?
[00:07:00] Bob Crandall: Let me tell you how we got going with this. My background is actually as an engineer, electrical engineer for 30 years. When I came to Upstate, which was in 2014, one of the things that I wanted to find out, or kind of just understand myself, is what benefit there was going to be for both cancer patients and inpatients. So I was taking some data. Now it's not an official research project, you know, with all the control studies and all that, but it gives an idea, at least subjectively what was going on. And we found a 60, 65% reduction in pain. Now, that's for someone who has pain. If they don't have pain, we didn't count them. Someone who was anxious, we found up to 70% reduction in anxiety. We also found with sleep, it actually will help a person to sleep because it relaxes them. And it's very often that when someone's getting reiki, within 10 or 15 minutes, they're asleep. So we've had cases where they haven't slept well for two or three days, and yet we'll provide some reiki and they will actually fall asleep.
We've had all sorts of things. We work a lot with pain management, as I mentioned. Pain meds are awesome. We believe in them. The staff will provide pain meds, and they'll take it down to where it's manageable, to a four or five. They may ask us to integrate with them and take it down some more. And very often we can take it to zero.
[00:08:25] Host Amber Smith: Do you think that reiki could be of help as someone who is skeptical of its powers?
[00:08:32] Bob Crandall: If they're skeptical it will probably still work. If they're totally uncomfortable with it, then it will not. And it's funny how many people are like, "well, I don't know." And then we'll try it, and they go, "whoa." We find that a lot with people who are in pain. They may be really skeptical if is this even going to help. "My pain is so bad." And then they're amazed at how well it will work. We do a lot of work with burn patients who always have pain. And I mentioned, the amputee. A lot of times the doctors will ask us to go in when there is an amputation, and it can relieve the phantom pain. There's other things they do that aren't quite as effective, but we find within five or 10 minutes it's gone. It stays away while they're in the hospital. I don't know if it's permanent, whether it goes away, I'm not sure. But at least while they're here, we know it works.
[00:09:25] Host Amber Smith: Now, do you recommend people commit to a series of reiki sessions, or is there benefit from a single session?
[00:09:31] Bob Crandall: I'm going to separate here, the outside world with us here at Upstate.
The outside world, when practitioners are doing reiki, very often it's a preventive type of thing, where they come in every couple of weeks or once a month, similar to having massage therapy. It's a great preventive for things.
In the hospital, we kind of triage it. Someone's got a lot of anxiety, we'll try it, see how it's working. They go back a couple times a week. Someone with pain, we try to see them more often, because the pain typically will come back because of their condition. So we try to see them three, maybe four times a week, wherever we have enough folks to do that. So it's really a triaged kind of thing.
With cancer patients, we see them when their appointments are. So if someone's on a treatment schedule of chemotherapy every two weeks, we set up, we see when their appointment is, and we'll do it during those treatments.
[00:10:33] Host Amber Smith: This is Upstate's "The Informed Patient" podcast. I'm your host, Amber Smith. I'm talking with Bob Crandall, an assistant chaplain from Upstate's spiritual care department. He's the coordinator of the adult reiki team, and we're talking about the potential benefits of reiki.
So why does Upstate offer reiki?
[00:10:52] Bob Crandall: I think partially, you know, being a teaching hospital, they're open to a lot of different modalities, integrative therapies. There's more than just reiki that's done here. I mean, that's my forte. But we find it's a good mix. It's like with anxiety, you can do some things with pain meds for anxiety, but it's not per se, the best way. So a lot of times we'll use reiki, where we can settle a person down. Same way with sleep. You can use sleeping pills, but we're using this in conjunction with all of the other things very effectively.
So, we do it for patients. We do it for cancer patients, outpatients. We do it for staff. We also do it for caregivers. I had a guy, he was working on something, a doctor, and he was holding his back, and I just said, "would you want to try some reiki?" And he continued doing what he was doing, and I just did something to his back and took that pain away. We feel if we can do it for staff, then they can take care of their patients that much better. So we offer to them, and we're trying to take the stress down one nurse or one doctor at a time.
So it's always open to them with families. We try to do it through the caregiver. So if we have a husband, let's say, who's had a heart attack or whatever, and they're looking for reiki, and the wife is there, we will have the wife put her hand over, her husband. And I will do reiki, or any one of us will do reiki, on the wife's back. She will get the benefit of it, but she'll also provide it to her husband, which has a huge, I don't know if it's psychological, whatever it is, but when you're visiting a patient, it can be exhausting because there's not a lot you can do. You can get them a drink of water, but it's a little frustrating. It's like us guys, when our wives are having children, you know, it's hard not to be able to have something to do. By doing it through, they're now part of the solution. And I find it makes it much better.
I'll give you a little funny story of a person who, they were Oriental, and mom didn't speak much English. But I went in to see her daughter who was probably 25, 30. And I was doing some reiki for her, and then I asked Mom, "would you like to help?" And the daughter translated. And she came over and sat and again, we were doing it through. The next time I came in, the mom was sitting in the chair, and I just said that her daughter, "would like some reiki today?" And the mom goes, "wait, wait, wait, wait, wait," and come over and sat down next to her. So it was kind of cute, but she, I think partially too, she wanted to be able to do something. So that's something we do.
[00:13:40] Host Amber Smith: How many sessions of reiki are typically given in a week?
[00:13:45] Bob Crandall: Twenty to 25? Last year we did almost 2000, 1,960 sessions.
Twelve hundred ninety of those were inpatients, 153 were outpatients, 131 were family caregivers. And 300 of staff. So we get around. Besides me, we have six volunteers that come in. A couple of them in a couple days a week; others, one day a week. So it's dependent on, between sickness and vacations and all that, it all depends on how many we have here, but roughly 20 to 25 sessions a week is what we're doing.
So how does a patient set up a session of reiki, and is there a charge?
Everything is free, whether it's in the hospital or out of the hospital. And be honest with you, part of that is we don't want to get into the hassle of recording it and not putting it in insurance, all that kind of stuff is just too much of a hassle. We're doing it because we want to do it. I happen to be on staff because I'm coordinating it, but our six volunteers are here because they love it, love doing it for people.
But how does this happen? We'll take burn patients. When burn patients come in, I'm part of that team, and I will go to them and ask them if they would like it. For others, we may get a consult from a nurse, sometimes from a nurse practitioner or even a doctor who asks us to go try it with them. So it's all sorts of different ways. Sometimes we're just looking at the (patient) census, and if we see somebody that's come in with a lot of pain, well one of us will just go and talk to them.
The other piece of it, and I think this is unique for Upstate, is that if you get reiki today, we go into your chart and we put a note in a comment section that says, "reiki." If you're discharged tomorrow and come back two years from now, that pops up again. So we will go right back to providing it again. It doesn't take another referral.
It's the same way with cancer patients. We actually look at when their appointments are, and we set it up for someone to go see them when they're there. Now it doesn't mean we don't miss somebody. But a patient also sometimes just tells the nurse, can you ask someone to come over? And we do that. So it's a lot of different ways, but what we're trying to be is proactive. Some of that, I think, is my engineering piece of making lists and databases and all those kinds of things.
How do you tell people to prepare for a session of reiki? They can be comfortable, is what it amounts to, but there's nothing special. When it's a cancer patient, they're usually sitting, and we'll do it behind a chair and do it on their back. We also have a room in the cancer center that's set up with a massage table, nice lights and music. That's the conventional way in the real world. We don't have that luxury typically, but if someone's getting radiation treatments, for example, they certainly can't do it in the middle of that. They can make an appointment before or after, and we'll use that room. For an inpatient, we take it as it is. However that patient is comfortable, we never move them. And it's going to work no matter. A lot of people have a concept that it's got to be laying down and relaxed and all that. I've actually had cases where I have followed a patient down the hall as they were doing their physical therapy, someone who's in a lot of pain. It still works, even though they're doing something else. But if a patient's on the chair, and they're comfortable there, we'll do it there. We've done it to people in the wheelchairs. It doesn't matter. We actually had one not too long ago, a patient who was very, very anxious about a procedure that was going on. I got there when they were getting her ready to go for that procedure, and I just walked with her, and we talked, and did it as she was going along. And when she got down just before the procedure, she was calm and little bit more comfortable.
I like to add, sometimes, a guided meditation. It seems to fit with the relaxation, and then it also gives control to them.
[00:18:00] Host Amber Smith: How long does a session typically last?
[00:18:03] Bob Crandall: Again, outside world, the typical session is an hour. But what we're trying to do is we're trying to maximize the time that we have, but also the amount of sessions that we can provide. Now for pain, we'll ask how their pain is. A lot of times it's five or 10 minutes, and the pain is down appreciably. Sometimes it's a little longer, and if it takes a little longer, we'll stay until we get it down where it stops going down. But typical sessions for us, maybe 10 or 15 minutes is all they need.
A lot of times even if they've got a lot of pain, they fall asleep. We know their pain's gone down, or they wouldn't be able to sleep. So 10 or 10 or 15 minutes, that's typically it.
Now there's another piece to this, is that we are spiritual care volunteers who happen to do reiki. So we're visiting patients and trying to work on the whole person. So we're going in, we're visiting, see how they're doing. If they're angry, we let them yell at us. And if they're frustrated, we let them download the frustrations and all that, which goes directly with this calming down, helping them feel comfortable. And the reiki becomes integrated with that. And that's the big picture of spiritual healing.
We're not talking about religious healing. Spiritual care -- if I can here a minute --spirituality is the big picture of what gives you some foundation or what is your purpose of those kinds of things. And that's what we're working on. You know, you got the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. So we're working on that. And sometimes the person says "I don't want reiki, but I'd like to talk." So our people will still do that because that's what's important to them.
[00:19:49] Host Amber Smith: I'm curious, will a person feel anything during a reiki session?
[00:19:55] Bob Crandall: Yes. Most times people will feel heat, and that's an interesting thing too. When you're with people that you're really comfortable with, your temperature actually goes up a little bit anyway. You may not notice it. But sometimes that can occur, getting a hug from someone and all of a sudden you feel warmth. But that's what comes from our hands, typically warmth, sometimes a buzzing.
Another funny story: I had a guy -- you know, we had gloves on at that point -- and I was doing some reiki on him, and he said, "wow, let me see those gloves. Those are really cool. They're warm." He didn't realize it was coming from my hands.
[00:20:34] Host Amber Smith: Interesting.
But that's, I guess that's another place I like to do a little sidebar here. It doesn't have to be directly on the patient. We're typically two or three inches away. But we've actually done it where someone has had, say you had reiki on Monday, and now it's Wednesday and we go to see you, and you are sleeping. We'll still do reiki because we know you want it, but we'll do it from the door so that you don't wake up and we'd scare the daylights out of you. We actually had a nurse who was doing it during Covid through the glass door where she didn't have to physically interact, but we found that it kind of stabilized blood pressure, and the oxygen would go up a point. So it can even be through the doors. Well, Mr. Crandall, I appreciate you making time for this interview and telling us about reiki.
I am thrilled to be able to share all the good work we're doing here. My guest has been Bob Crandall. He's an assistant chaplain in Upstate's spiritual care department, and he coordinates the adult reiki team. "The Informed Patient" is a podcast covering health, science and medicine, brought to you by Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, and produced by Jim Howe. Find our archive of previous episodes at upstate.edu/informed. This is your host, Amber Smith, thanking you for listening.