MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

There are many terms for this type of treatment: energy healing, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, spiritual healing and para-normal healing are just some of the better-known ones. These interventions are based of the belief that some sort of ‘energy’ can be channelled by the healer into the body of the patient to assist its capacity for self-healing. Needless to say that their biological plausibility is suspiciously close to zero.

This new study was aimed at testing the effectiveness of energy healing on the well-being of patients and at assessing the influence on the results of participating in a randomized controlled trial. A total of 247 colorectal cancer patients were included in the trial. One half of them were randomized to either:

  • healing (RH) or
  • control (RC)

The other half of the patients was not randomized and had either:

  • self-selected healing (SH) or
  • self-selected control condition (SC)

All patients completed questionnaires assessing well-being Quality of Life (QoL), depressive symptoms, mood, and sleep quality), attitude toward complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and faith/spirituality at baseline, 1 week, and 2 months post-intervention. Patients were also asked to indicate, at baseline, whether they considered QoL, depressive symptoms, mood, and sleep quality as important outcomes.

Compared with controls, no overall effect of healing were noted on QoL, depressive symptoms, mood, or sleep quality in the intervention groups (RH, SH). Effects of healing on mood were only found for patients who initially had a positive attitude toward CAM and considered the outcome in question as important.

The authors of this study arrived at the following conclusions: Whereas it is generally assumed that CAMs such as healing have beneficial effects on well-being, our results indicated no overall effectiveness of energy healing on QoL, depressive symptoms, mood, and sleep quality in colorectal cancer patients. Effectiveness of healing on well-being was, however, related to factors such as self-selection and a positive attitude toward the treatment.

Survey after survey shows that ‘energy healing’ is popular amongst cancer patients. But medicine is no popularity contest, and the existing clinical trials have mostly failed to show that these treatments work beyond a sometimes remarkably strong placebo-effect. Consequently, several systematic reviews have arrived at conclusions that were far from positive:

There is no robust evidence that Therapeutic Touch promotes healing of acute wounds

We found inconclusive evidence that interventions with spiritual or religious components for adults in the terminal phase of a disease may or may not enhance well-being

The serious methodological and reporting limitations of limited existing Reiki studies preclude a definitive conclusion on its effectiveness

…the majority do not and the evidence does not support a recommendation either in favour or against the use of intercessory prayer

 …the evidence is insufficient to suggest that reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore the value of reiki remains unproven

Since the publication of our previous systematic review in 2000, several rigorous new studies have emerged. Collectively they shift the weight of the evidence against the notion that distant healing is more than a placebo

This new and fairly rigorous trial clearly points in the same direction. Thus we a faced with the fact that these treatments are:

  1. utterly implausible
  2. not supported by good clinical evidence

What follows seems as simple as it is indisputable: energy healing is nonsense and does not merit further research.

9 Responses to ‘Energy healing’ is nonsense

  • Promoters of “energy healing” need to fully grasp ALL of the implications from the fact that a clever nine-year-old debunked this quackery more than a decade ago:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Rosa

  • Then there are the reiki adverse reactions…

    Knudsen’s News: Alternative Medical Adverse Events on the Rise, New Study Claims…..:

    What Dr. Grimes DC discovered allowed him to piece together Timmy’s final moments. During Reiki therapy sessions, a practitioner sends his own healthy energy into the patient in order to correct imbalances. Unfortunately, the normal flow of energy reversed during Timmy’s session. While a well recognized complication, and one that countermeasures have been developed for, such as counting backwards from ten or crossing the big and second toe of the dominant foot, the unskilled student working on Timmy was unaware of these techniques because he not started chapter 4 (“Management of Energy Flow Reversal and Energy Stream Crossing Emergencies”) in his Clinical Reiki textbook.

    • Alan, of course adverse reactions to reiki are primarily experienced by its practitioners. The adverse reactions in their clients are so minor that they are never worth documenting, let alone worthy of RCTs.

    • @Alan 😀
      Even JK Rowling would have thought this to silly

  • But what about all those clinical trials that show energy healing does have positive effects on health? One can google energy medicine clinical trials and find many examples, so what am I missing?

    Example of a study on energy and other types of “woo woo” healing: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10841809_Science_and_spiritual_healing_A_critical_review_of_spiritual_healing_energy_medicine_and_intentionality

  • The problem is that there are so many people trying to cash in on it and claim themselves to be energy healers when they are not they are nothing more than snake oil salesman/Saleswomen and that is one thing that must be understood. There are far fewer real energy healer’s then there are fake ones because in order to achieve healing abilities it takes grace and meditation meaning a strong connection with God and no I’m not talking about just praying I’m talking about day in and day out simultaneously connecting with God and with your energy while removing all doubt within yourself because doubt is what keeps you from from connecting directly with God. Praying is just words what you feel is what matters and the reason meditation is important is because meditation is what brings concentration. When you are dealing with energy you have to be able to focus on that energy so that you can feel every aspect of the energy and use your mind to direct it. Plus meditation also helps you become one with yourself and with God while not being misguided by emotions of yourself or others to the point in which while you are directing energy someone can tap you on the shoulder and it would be as if it didn’t happen because you were so focused… Learning wisdom is a big portion of it as well because wisdom that’s what helps you to become a better person and release human desires for control, ego, sexual impulses, anger, ect. That wisdom is gained directly through that connection with God as each experience calls for it and as a gift God grants abilities healing being one of them among many others as someone progresses along their path. These gifts are also a test in themselves because they can go to your head if you allow them to though. One must remember without God these gifts would not be here and they can only be used while staying on the path they must not be abused and are not to be shown off.

    The evidence for all of this is first-hand experience I have nothing to prove believe what you want that is your choice but this is not some thing I read somewhere this is what I’ve been doing for seven years now.

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