Hands-on relief: Reiki can prompt relaxation along the road to recovery
Among the ways cancer patients at Upstate cope with the stress and pain of their disease and treatment is Reiki, a touch therapy that can promote relaxation and a sense of well-being.
The service is offered free by appointment at the Cancer Center by spiritual care volunteers and Reiki masters Bob Crandall of Baldwinsville and Gary Kassel of Syracuse. They are among the many Reiki practitioners who have offered the service at Upstate University Hospital for about the past 13 years, says the Rev. Terry Culbertson, manager of the spiritual care department.
Culbertson says Reiki is one of the many ways her staff meets the spiritual and emotional needs of a broad array of patients, family members and staff. “A spiritual practice is the laying on of hands, so I see it as an outgrowth of many faith traditions, done in a way that gives dignity and respect to people,” she says.
Crandall and Kassel describe Reiki as helping to “settle” a patient who may be agitated, nervous or in pain. “Some patients have found relief from the side effects of chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments,” Crandall says.
The patient will usually lie fully clothed on a table in the Cancer Center‘s Integrative Therapy Room, with low light and soothing music. The Reiki master will place his hands over the patient or on the patient in a series of positions for 20 to 30 minutes. Sometimes he may work with patients in the center‘s infusion area.
“When I‘ve worked with Bob and Gary, I experience a great sense of calm,” describes Bailey Colvin, a brain cancer patient who has undergone radiation treatments. “Afterward, I‘d feel much more balanced … and I leave with such a positive outlook, that everything is going to be all right.”
Crandall says Reiki complements medical treatments. “It does not take the place of evidence-based medicine,” he says. “Reiki is a spiritual practice, but it will work for any denomination, for any belief system or nonbeliever. It will even work for a person who doesn‘t believe in it. It will not work for someone who doesn‘t want it.”
When the Cancer Center was in the planning stages, a survey showed a high demand for Reiki, says Linda Veit, the special projects manager at the center. Eventually, she hopes to offer more services, such as massage and stress management techniques.
What is Reiki?
Reiki (pronounced RAY-kee) is an Asian system of touching with the hands based on the belief that such touching by an experienced practitioner strengthens and normalizes certain vital energy fields held to exist within the body.
Reiki, whose Japanese name means “universal life energy,” claims to provide many of the benefits of more traditional massage therapy, such as reducing stress, relieving pain and promoting healing, leaving one with feelings of warmth, relaxation and well-being.
Schedule a Reiki session by contacting Upstate Connect at 315-464-8668.
This article appears in the spring 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine