By Katie Demeria
WINCHESTER -- April Adams is trained to practice Reiki therapy. After joining Winchester Medical Center, she noticed her boss was suffering from a headache. Within just a few minutes of Reiki, the headache was gone.
"And she looked at me and said, 'We need this in the hospital,'" Adams said.
Reiki is a form of energy therapy. Therapists use their hands to guide energy throughout the body, and are trained to recognize the type of energy each patient has at any given time.
Adams, the Integrative Care Program Coordinator, described feeling an individual's energy as recognizing that someone has recently been in an aggressive dispute as soon as they walk through a door, even though they appear at ease.
"That's their energy entering the room before them," Adams said.
Practitioners can perform the therapy by either touching the skin or holding their hands above someone. Adams has performed the therapy on NICU babies, who she cannot touch, but are, for example, having trouble sleeping.
"And the parents feel the energy, as well, and usually find a new calm," she said.
The medical center's Integrative Care Program includes animal assisted therapy and music therapy as well as Reiki, all of which are offered without charge. Patients also have the option to participate in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshops for a fee.
The program is hoping to expand within upcoming months to include aromatherapy and art therapy. Aromatherapy is already being used in labor and delivery as a research project, according to Adams.
"They're true essential oils, not fragrances," she said. "They can be therapeutic through inhalation and topical use. Inhaling the lavender oil goes into their olfactory glands and brings a feeling of peace and calm to them. And by reducing their anxiety that also reduces their pain levels."
All the program's therapies are offered to the medical center's staff, as well. Adams has noticed a significant improvement in the mood and energy of nurses, for example, after performing Reiki therapy.
"When they're calm and relaxed, they can pass that feeling onto their patients, and create an environment of healing," Adams said.
Athena Hall, a clinical dietitian who works with the Integrative Care Program, said the benefit is recognizable in patients, as well.
According to data collected between May and December 2013, Reiki practitioners worked with 319 patients. The average pain level for those patients before Reiki was around 4.5 out of ten. After the therapy, pain levels decreased to an average 1.5.
Emotional states improved as well. Patients reported feeling less agitated, stressed and anxious. Instead, according to the program's data, they reported feeling calm, relaxed and rested.
"By the time we leave a half hour later, they're sleeping, relaxed, calm, and completely different than they were," Hall said.
Reiki is entirely free for all hospital staff and patients. Adams and Hall encouraged patients to ask their nurses to send them Reiki practitioners in order to improve their wellbeing.
"We can guide the healing energy into their body," Adams said. "When you're sick or injured or having a hard time, you have a hard time getting energy from the universe yourself because you're not in a place to do it. So a Reiki practitioner facilitates that and brings it to you."
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org