Amongst all the implausible treatments to be found under the umbrella of ‘alternative medicine’, Reiki might be one of the worst, i. e. least plausible and outright bizarre (see for instance here, here and here). But this has never stopped enthusiasts from playing scientists and conducting some more pseudo-science.
This new study examined the immediate symptom relief from a single reiki or massage session in a hospitalized population at a rural academic medical centre. It was designed as a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data on demographic, clinical, process, and quality of life for hospitalized patients receiving massage therapy or reiki. Hospitalized patients requesting or referred to the healing arts team received either a massage or reiki session and completed pre- and post-therapy symptom questionnaires. Differences between pre- and post-sessions in pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and overall well-being were recorded using an 11-point Likert scale.
Patients reported symptom relief with both reiki and massage therapy. Reiki improved fatigue and anxiety more than massage. Pain, nausea, depression, and well being changes were not different between reiki and massage encounters. Immediate symptom relief was similar for cancer and non-cancer patients for both reiki and massage therapy and did not vary based on age, gender, length of session, and baseline symptoms.
The authors concluded that reiki and massage clinically provide similar improvements in pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and overall well-being while reiki improved fatigue and anxiety more than massage therapy in a heterogeneous hospitalized patient population. Controlled trials should be considered to validate the data.
Don’t I just adore this little addendum to the conclusions, “controlled trials should be considered to validate the data” ?
The thing is, there is nothing to validate here!
The outcomes are not due to the specific effects of Reiki or massage; they are almost certainly caused by:
- the extra attention,
- the expectation of patients,
- the verbal or non-verbal suggestions of the therapists,
- the regression towards the mean,
- the natural history of the condition,
- the concomitant therapies administered in parallel,
- the placebo effect,
- social desirability.
Such pseudo-research only can only serve one purpose: to mislead (some of) us into thinking that treatments such as Reiki might work.
What journal would be so utterly devoid of critical analysis to publish such unethical nonsense?
Ahh … it’s our old friend the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Say no more!