Reiki has been a regular topic on this blog (see for instance here, here and here). In my recent book (Alternative medicine, a critical assessment of 150 modalities), I evaluated it as follows:
Reiki is a form of paranormal or energy healing popularised by Japanese Mikao Usui (1865-1926). Rei means universal spirit (sometimes thought of as a supreme being) and ki is the assumed universal life energy.
- Reiki is based on the assumptions of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the existence of ‘chi’, the life-force that determines our health.
- Reiki practitioners believe that, with their hands-on healing method, they can transfer ‘healing energy’ to a patient which, in turn, stimulates the self-healing properties of the body. They assume that the therapeutic effects of this technique are obtained from a ‘universal life energy’ that provides strength, harmony, and balance to the body and mind.
- There is no scientific basis for such notions, and reiki is therefore not plausible.
- Reiki is used for a number of conditions, including the relief of stress, tension and pain.
- There have been several clinical trials testing the effectiveness of reiki. Unfortunately, their methodological quality is usually poor.
- A systematic review summarising this evidence concluded that the evidence is insufﬁcient to suggest that reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore, the value of reiki remains unproven. And a Cochrane review found that there is insufficient evidence to say whether or not Reiki is useful for people over 16 years of age with anxiety or depression or both.
- Reiki appears to be generally safe, and serious adverse effects have not been reported. Some practitioners advise caution about using reiki in people with psychiatric illnesses because of the risk of bringing out underlying psychopathology.
Now a new study has been published. Will it overturn my assessment?
This within-subject design experiment was conducted to test the feasibility and efficacy of Reiki to provide pain relief among paediatric patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).
Paediatric patients undergoing HSCT during the inpatient phase in the Stem Cell Transplantation Unit were eligible to participate to the study. Short and medium effects were assessed investigating the increase or decrease of patient’s pain during three specific time periods of the day: morning of the Reiki session versus assessment before Reiki session (within subjects control period), assessment before Reiki session versus assessment after Reiki session (within subjects experimental period) and assessment after Reiki session versus morning the day after Reiki session (within subject follow-up period). The long-term effects were verified comparing the pain evolution in the day of the Reiki session with the following rest day.
The effect of 88 Reiki therapy sessions in nine patients was analysed following a short, medium, and long-term perspective. Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed a significant difference among the three periods. A decrease of the pain occurred in the experimental period in short and medium term, while in the follow-up period, the pain level remained stable.
The authors concluded that this study demonstrates the feasibility of using Reiki therapy in pediatric cancer patients undergoing HSCT. Furthermore, these findings evidence that trained paediatric oncology nurses can insert Reiki into their clinical practice as a valid instrument for diminishing suffering from cancer in childhood.
This is basically an observational study without a control group. Therefore it cannot possibly test the efficacy of Reiki. The conclusion that Reiki is a valid instrument for diminishing suffering from cancer in childhood is therefore simply incorrect. The only rational verdict therefore remains this: REIKI FAILS TO GENERATE MORE GOOD THAN HARM.
The sooner we stop misleading the public about it, the better for us all.