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Energy therapies

Energy therapy is based on the belief that the body has an invisible energy field, and that when this energy flow is blocked or unbalanced, you can become sick. Unblocking this energy can help promote healing and wellbeing.

This vital energy or life force is known by different names in different whole medical systems – for example, qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine and prana in Ayurvedic medicine.

Examples of energy therapies include polarity therapy, reiki, healing touch and therapeutic touch. Some of these are covered here.

Benefits: Energy therapies are very gentle and do not require the therapist to make any heavy physical adjustments. They are used to help people feel relaxed and less anxious, and to improve overall wellbeing. There is no scientific evidence of an energy field or that energy therapies have any benefits.

Side effects: As energy therapies are not invasive, they are considered to be safe.


What it is: The term reiki is a Japanese word meaning universal life energy. It is a form of gentle hands-on therapy using energy fields within and around the body.

Why use it: People use reiki to improve physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

What to expect: During a reiki session a client sits or lies down fully clothed. The therapist places their hands in a series of positions on or slightly above your body. The aim is to use their own healing energy to identify energy imbalances and promote health. This may generate a feeling of warmth.

Evidence: Anecdotal evidence suggests that reiki is calming and relaxing, often helping to relieve pain and anxiety, reduce stiffness and improve posture.

Healing touch

What it is: The placement of hands in specific sequences above or on the body to assess and determine areas of energy imbalance, which are generally  experienced as temperature, texture or vibration changes.

Why use it: Healing touch works with your personal energy field to support the body’s own natural ability to heal.

What to expect: Healing touch can be practised while you are sitting, standing or lying down. Before beginning, the therapist may perform a meditation and then assess your energy field by observation and movements of the hands over the body.

Evidence: There is little evidence as studies have not been well designed, conducted or reported.

Featured resource

Understanding Complementary Therapies

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed April 2018 by the following expert content reviewers: Suzanne Grant, Senior Acupuncturist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Craig Hassed, Senior Lecturer, Department of General Practice, Monash University, VIC; Mara Lidums, Consumer; Tanya McMillan, Consumer; Simone Noelker, Physiotherapist and Wellness Centre Manager, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Byeongsang Oh, Acupuncturist, University of Sydney and Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, NSW; Sue Suchy, Consumer; Marie Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Prof Anne Williams, Nursing Research Consultant, Centre for Nursing Research, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and Chair, Health Research, School of Health Professions, Murdoch University, WA.