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

Of all the many forms of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), Reiki is perhaps the one that has the least plausibility. It assumes that a Reiki healer can send healing energy into the body of a patient which, in turn, stimulates the self-healing ability of the body and thus cures illness. Neither the source of the energy, its nature, or its effects have ever been convincingly demonstrated. These facts, however, do not stop enthusiasts to conduct clinical trials of Reiki.

The aim of this randomised clinical trial was to investigate the effect of the application of Reiki on fatigue and sleep quality in people with MS. A total of 60 people (control group = 30, intervention group = 30) participated in this study. Personal Information Form, Piper Fatigue Scale (PFS) and Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) were used as endpoints.

It was found that the PFS and PSQI total and subcomponent scores of the intervention group decreased after Reiki compared to the control group and this was statistically significant (p<0.05). The study showed that Reiki was significantly effective in improving fatigue and sleep quality in people with MS.

The authors concluded that, as Reiki is a simple, inexpensive and accessible method, it was suggested that its use in the management of MS should be encouraged and maintained in nursing practice.

In the introduction, the authors state this:

Reiki is a non-invasive, low-cost, easy-to-apply practice with no side effects and no negative effects on the existing treatment, and prevents acute and chronic conditions. It is frequently preferred in rehabilitation centres, emergency care units, nursing homes, elderly care centres, paediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynaecology clinics. Reiki can be applied by trained practitioners such as health professionals who have received first level reiki training in hospitals and clinics, caregivers or patients themselves. Reiki can be administered from with the patient or remotely when the patient and practitioner are in separate locations. Both types of Reiki are based on the premise of a universal source of healing energy that the Reiki practitioner can channel through intention.

For me, this begs the questions:

  • If all of this were true, why do we need a study?
  • If anyone believes such BS, are they the ideal people to conduct a study of Reiki?

Anyway, we should ask why this study generated a positive result. The most plausible explanation is that, as the study was not blind, the Reiki healers managed to maximise patient expectation. This, in turn, has generated a placebo respose which affected the subjective outcome measures. In other words, Reiki has no specific effect but patients tend to improve because of non-specific effects.

One Response to Reiki for the management of Multiple Sclerosis: Yet another dodgy study produces a false-positive result

  • Let’s just ask some questions:

    One of these non-pharmacological approaches is Reiki, an energy therapy. Reiki is significantly effective in restoring the balance of body, mind and spirit …

    What exactly is it that is ‘balanced’? And how can one tell? And what are these things called ‘mind’ and ‘spirit'(*)? How are they defined? How is their presence and state determined?

    *: Now I don’t mind a wee dram of spirit every now and then, but it does tend to upset my balance …

    … by activating the parasympathetic nervous system23;47.

    How does this work, exactly? Does it actually work at all? As far as I know, the parasympathetic nervous system works through electrical and chemical signalling, neither of which is used in Reiki.

    Reiki is based on the principle that an imbalance or a disease occurs …

    There is that ‘balance’ again. WHAT is (un)balanced? And oh, now it can be either imbalance or disease? What kind of disease are we talking about? Infectious disease? Metabolic disease? Immune disease? Oh, I get it, ALL disease!

    … when there is an obstruction or a blockage at an energy center48.

    What exactly is blocked or obstructed? And what ‘energy centers’ are we talking about? I doubt if this is about climate protestors blocking the access to coal plants. The only ‘energy centers’ in the human body that I know of are called mitochondria.

    By touching the energy points in the recipient’s body, …

    WHAT ‘energy points’? Where are they located in the body? Are we still talking about mitochondria? And how can these be touched?

    … a reiki practitioner becomes a channel for universal energy11

    What ‘universal energy’ are we talking about? How can it be objectively detected and measured? And about this practitioner ‘becoming a channel’ for said energy: isn’t that dangerous? Generally, if humans become channels for any significant quantities of energy such as a lightning bolt or a high-voltage power line, they tend to be the worse for the experience – and so is anyone they touch during such an event.

    … and tries to balance the energy flow of the individual’s body34.

    There’s that ‘balance’ again, this time of ‘energy’ instead of mind and spirit. How exactly can one balance this energy? Is it a bit like balancing the fuel in airplanes’ wing tanks? And how can you tell it is balanced? I reckon that practitioners must not only deliver, pardon me, ‘channel’ energy, they must also have a kind of feedback gauge to tell when the mark patient is all topped up and balanced. And what happens when the energy overflows? Or when the balancing goes wrong? Can we get huge outbreaks of fire disease around the fuel station practitioner?

    Reiki can be practiced close to the patient or remotely with the practitioner and the patient at different locations.

    Oh, great … so we’re all exposed to all this ‘energy’ flying around just because those Reiki practitioners are too lazy to actually go and visit patients. How does this ‘energy’ know in which person to land? How can you tell that this has indeed happened? And hey, could we send a bad overdose of energy to misfits such as Putin and other people the world could do without?

    Both types are based on a universal source of healing energy channeled by a Reiki practitioner7.

    What ‘universal source of healing energy’? And how exactly is this ‘channelled’? Why do we need to spend money on expensive Reiki courses and practitioners before we can use it? After all, everything else that is beneficial and ubiquitous (e.g. air) is free …

    The aim of practitioners of this therapy is to enable individuals to achieve maximum well-being23.

    Well, that is good to know! Much better than all those darned regular medicine practitioners whose aim it is to make their patients feel miserable!

    Just asking questions …

    (Also thanks to Richard Rawlins for inspiring some of those paragraphs.)

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