Reiki (pronounced RAY-key) is a healing art traced to spiritual teachings from Japan in the early 20th century. The name combines two Japanese words, rei (universal) and ki (life energy). Reiki practitioners use the technique to help ease clients' anxiety and stress...chronic or postsurgical pain...menopausal hot flashes...menstrual cramps...migraines... and nausea and fatigue from chemotherapy.

How it works: The principle is that the practitioner taps into a universal life energy that exists within and around us...then channels this energy to the client, enhancing the body's innate healing abilities. The modern scientific theory is that reiki promotes profound relaxation, increasing levels of pain-relieving, mood-boosting brain chemicals called endorphins.

What to expect: During a typical 60-minute reiki session, the client (fully dressed) sits in a chair or lies on a massage table. The practitioner places his/her hands, palms down, on or just above a dozen or so different spots on the client's body, holding each position for several minutes. Clients become deeply relaxed, and some perceive sensations of warmth or tingling at the spot being treated.

Cost of treatment: About $75 to $100 per session.

How to find a practitioner: Reiki has no formal licensing process, so locating an experienced practitioner is largely a matter of word-of-mouth.

Helpful: Get a referral from a local hospital that has an integrative medicine center.

Bottom line: While no large-scale clinical trials on reiki have yet been done, studies show benefits from various touch therapies. There are no negative effects from reiki. If you have a serious health problem, try reiki as an adjunct to standard medical treatment. Some people say that reiki works only due to a placebo effect—and that may be so. However, practitioners often encounter clients who are skeptical at first...but who, after experiencing reiki firsthand, report that the therapy has helped them.

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