Reiki: Is it real?

by Susan E. Davis, PT

“If you know your enemy, you will win most of the time.  If you know yourself, there is no enemy”
—Sun Ysu, 500 B.C.
If you have ever experienced Reiki, you probably found it relaxing and beneficial. 

I first became aware of Reiki from my human Physical Therapy patients, who had sought this type of treatment for medical issues.

I was skeptical about it until I entered the veterinary world and observed it being given to animals. 

I became intrigued and scheduled a session for myself.

The Reiki [practitioner explained that the Reiki system of healing was lost for many centuries but rediscovered by Dr. Usui in the late 1800s.

Dr. Usui was a religious teacher who had an enormous amount of scholarly and technical information about healing, but he lacked “spiritual” power or ability needed to heal.  He went on a 21-day pilgrimage of meditation and fasting, where he lost consciousness and was filled with energy and healing powers. After this, he began to heal many people in Japan and started to pass along his gift to other healers through a ceremony and “attunements”. Reiki continues to be passed along to students who study and receive it and are attuned by a Reiki Master.

My session consisted of lying on a table, fully clothed, while the practitioner placed her hands gently in various positions on and just above the body.  

The hands felt warm and sometimes even hot. She told me I might experience “waves”, “vibrations” or see images, different colors. I asked her “you mean like in the sixties”? (Just kidding, I had to say it!). Though I did not have any of those sensations, I did feel a deep relaxation and sense of well-being.

This same practitioner worked with me at a shelter I service weekly and sensed that I had natural healing energy. 

She said that being attuned to the first level Reiki would be an added benefit or dimension to my skills as a Physical Therapist. There are 3 levels of Reiki and the first is a hands-on type, the other 2 are distance-level.  I finally did receive attunement, after studying and receiving Reiki over the course of a few weeks.

The attunement was a little “freaky ‘Friday” for me, being a Western, traditional type of medical professional, but I enjoyed the experience.  It involved positions, hand placement, drinking water and contracting certain body areas, symbols “drawn” over me with the hand, etc.  In the end, there was a type of “thumping” on the top of my head, where the Reiki is supposed to enter you, but I honestly did not feel anything.

I had been advised to eat lightly and drink a lot of water the few days prior, as my body would want to cleanse itself afterward.  I promptly ignored this advice, thinking it sounded a bit silly.  Well, it wasn’t so funny the next day when I was driving to a PT Conference and I became in serious need of finding the nearest bathroom STAT!  I will spare you the details, but just know I became a believer right then and there!

So, is Reiki “for real”?  

Well, my answer is: I don’t know for sure, but I think so”.  I truly hope I am not offending any Reiki Masters who might be reading this. I am just providing my own perspective as a novice.

I do use the first level Reiki during many PT sessions, usually after massage or trigger point releases. 

I lay my hands lightly on various places of the animal’s body (using recommended placements and my intuition).  I close my eyes and try to relax and just let the energy flow through me.  My hands feel warm and sometimes tingly.

The animals usually always love it! 

They get very relaxed and other pets in the house become quiet and still.  Whether it is Reiki, the Holy Spirit, my love for animals, or all of the above, it seems to be very effective.

I’ve also seen some amazing effects of Reiki treatment, given by the Master Practitioner I work with at the shelter.  

One time was in the medical recovery when she stood outside of the cages where animals were coming out of anesthesia from spay/neuter or other surgery.  With her hands raised in the direction of the animals, I would observe the initial whining and crying from the semi-conscious animals start to wane and even stop when she started “flowing” Reiki toward them.  They couldn’t “see her” but they obviously sensed her presence or the Reiki energy or both, and it comforted them.

Another time involved some injured cougars that arrived at the zoo from Texas, who were anxious and aggressive.  The Reiki Master gave them distance energy from the other side of the barn, through thick walls and they became quieter and calmer.

So, it seems there is some evidence that Reiki is “real”.  

I understand it from a biofield perspective, where charged particles in atoms produce currents of energy on and around the body surface.  I don’t have an understanding of “Chi”, “Chakras”, etc. but respect those who have this knowledge.  Health practitioners working with animals need to keep an open mind regarding Reiki and other holistic forms of healing, for the benefit of an animal’s health and well-being!


Susan E. Davis (Sue) is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 30 years of practice in the human field, who transitioned into the animal world after taking courses at the UT Canine Rehabilitation program.  She is located in Red Bank, New Jersey.

She has been providing PT services to dogs and other animals through her entity Joycare Onsite, LLC in pet’s homes and in vet clinics since 2008.

She also provides pro bono services at the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, NJ.  Sue is the proud “dog mommy” to Penelope, a miniature Dachshund with “attitude”.  For more information see her website , or follow on Twitter @animalPTsue.

Sue is also the author of a fantastic book on physical therapy, Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation For Animals: A Guide For The Consumer.  

Physical therapy can do so many great things for your dog. Understanding all the possibilities physical therapy can offer will change your dog's life. This book definitely belongs on the shelf of every dog lover.

Articles by Susan E. Davis:
Functional Strengthening Exercises: the What, Why and How
One Thing Leads To Another: Why The Second ACL Often Goes Too
Compensation: An Attempt To Restore Harmony
Paring Down to the Canine Core
Canine Massage: Every Dog ‘Kneads’ It”
Photon Power: Can Laser Therapy Help Your Dog?  
Physical Therapy in the Veterinary World  
Reiki: Is it real? 
Dog Lessons: Cooper  
The Essentials Of Canine Injury Prevention: 7 Tips For Keeping Your Dog Safer 
It's Not Just Walking, It's Therapy! 
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part I)
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part II Physical Therapy)
Range Of Motion: It’s A Matter Of Degree…
The Weight Of Water And How It Helps Dogs 
By Land or By Sea? A Comparison of Canine Treadmills 
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part I)
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part II) 
Scar Tissue: Is it Too Much of a Good Thing? 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ramps! 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Indoor Duo Dog Exercises!
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Best Practices After Your Dog’s Surgery


  1. This is a great article. I've always been curious about Reiki but find it hard to get true, honest information about it that isn't somehow biased. Nice to hear about someone who is a healthy skeptic but still open to the possibilities above and beyond what they initially believed.

    1. Glad you liked the article!

      I think if something is harmless one just might try it and see. Why the heck not, right? The worst case scenario is that it won't work.

      I think the bottom line is that matter is mainly energy, isn't it? No reason why chemical treatment should work better than an energy one then.

      Keeping an open mind and trying everything once is my policy with such things.


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