Reiki: Hands-off Healing for Amputees

Photo by Julie Davis-Dow. 

Thanks to The Karate Kid, a whole generation of Americans has been somewhat misled about the ancient healing art of reiki.

“It’s actually not a laying on of hands,” explains reiki master Melissa D’Errico, refuting the climactic scene where Mr. Miyagi refreshes Daniel’s injured leg through the power of touch. “It’s more like a hovering of hands. You hold your hands above the body and move them around, trying to find areas where there’s blocked energy.” When your hands start to tingle or feel hot, D’Errico says, “you deliver loving energy to that area and move the blockage out of the way.”

D’Errico was introduced to reiki as a teenager by her father. He, in turn, trained under the great William Rand, who brought reiki to the United States 40 years ago. But despite her impeccable tutelage, D’Errico needed many years to truly believe in her abilities as a healer. What held her back?

“I was born without my left hand,” she says. “So I just thought, ‘I’m probably only half-good at this.’” 

Convinced that her congenital limb difference was disqualifying for such a handsy discipline, D’Errico only practiced reiki on herself until her late 20s, when her infant daughter was suffering with a stubbornly clogged eye duct. Medical treatments had failed, and surgery seemed like the only option left. Then D’Errico thought: Why have I never tried reiki on her? She spent two hours encouraging energy to flow through her daughter’s body. The next morning, her astonished husband reported that the baby’s eye had cleared up.

“That’s when I started to realize, ‘I can really do this,’” she says. 

She’s now a full-time reiki teacher and practitioner at Radiant Healing Hearts (, treating clients for anxiety, eating disorders, depression, trauma, and other maladies. “Some people come in with physical pain, too,” she says, “but most are dealing with emotional pain.” Although D’Errico has never worked with anyone who’s adapting to limb loss, she has practiced on many people facing spinal cord injuries, cancer, scoliosis, and other serious health challenges.

“When you do treat an amputee, you treat the whole body, as if the missing limb is still there,” she says. “There’s so much stuck energy there that’s not processed yet.” Although reiki can’t bring your limb back, she adds, it can ease your distress and help you adapt.

Reiki definitely has helped D’Errico come to terms with her own limb difference. “My practice is no different from someone who has both hands,” she says. “I practice as though my missing hand is there. It is there, energetically. We all have this energy within us. It’s about learning to harness it and choose what direction you want it to flow.”

Next Post