Reiki (pronounced "RAY-kee") is a form of "energy healing" that uses vibration drawn through the practitioner into the recipient, in accordance with the recipient’s need. Proponents hypothesize that Reike re-establishes the energy balance in areas of the body associated with discomfort, thus promoting healing and increasing quality of life. Researchers have evaluated Reike in patients with cancer for its impact on anxiety, depression, pain, and fatigue.
Effectiveness Not Established
Gonella, S., Garrino, L., & Dimonte, V. (2014). Biofield therapies and cancer-related symptoms: A review. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 18, 568–576.doi: 10.1188/14.CJON.568-576
- FINAL NUMBER STUDIES INCLUDED = 13
- TOTAL PATIENTS INCLUDED IN REVIEW = 1,003
- SAMPLE RANGE ACROSS STUDIES = 16–230 patients
- KEY SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS: Various tumor types, patients in active treatment undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy
Phase of Care and Clinical Applications:
Interventions considered to be BT were healing touch, Reiki, and therapeutic touch. The effect on pain was examined in seven studies. There were some mixed findings, but most showed a reduction in pain over short time periods. Fatigue was assessed in five studies. These demonstrated fatigue reduction post-treatment, but data were conflicting over a longer period of four to eight weeks. Anxiety and depression were examined in seven studies. All but one found a significant reduction in mood disorders, but a study comparing Reiki, sham Reiki, and usual care found no difference between the sham and actual Reiki groups. Most studies were of descriptive or quasi-experimental design; potential confounding variables were not examined, and placebo effects could not be ruled out.
Studies using biofield therapies for relief of pain, anxiety, fatigue, and depression generally showed benefit; however, the evidence is not strong due to the limitations of the studies included.
Low-quality design studies and the short duration of study follow-up
BT therapies have not demonstrated effectiveness in well-designed clinical studies; however, though it is weak, evidence suggests potential benefit. There were no adverse effects of these interventions reported. Biofield therapies are not expensive and are low-risk, so they can be considered in the management of cancer-related symptoms. Well-designed clinical trials are needed to establish efficacy.
Joyce, J., & Herbison, G.P. (2015). Reiki for depression and anxiety. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 4, CD006833.doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006833.pub2
- TOTAL PATIENTS INCLUDED IN REVIEW = 124
- FINAL NUMBER STUDIES INCLUDED = 3
- SAMPLE RANGE ACROSS STUDIES: Sample sizes not completely reported, verbal review information suggested a low sample size.
- KEY SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS: One study was with men with prostate cancer, one study was with community-dwelling adults
Studies reviewed did not ensure that patients studied had depression or anxiety, so validity of examining impact of Reiki intervention on these problems is questionable. Two of the three studies had high risk of bias. No studies showed a statistically significant benefit.
There is insufficient evidence to evaluate efficacy of Reiki for anxiety and depression.
- Very few studies
- Poor quality studies
The evidence regarding effects of Reiki for anxiety or depression is insufficient to draw any conclusions. If Reiki is to be seen as a serious option for treatment, well-designed research to investigate effects is needed.
Research Evidence Summaries
Potter, P.J. (2007). Breast biopsy and distress: Feasibility of testing a Reiki intervention. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 25, 238–248.doi:10.1177/0898010107301618
To determine the feasibility of testing a Reiki intervention, a complementary therapy, on women undergoing breast biopsy; to determine the effectiveness of a Reiki intervention in the sample
Intervention Characteristics/Basic Study Process:
Two-group design: conventional care group (CCG) and Reiki intervention group (RIG)
- The sample was composed of 32 participants; 17 in RIG and 15 in CCG.
- Mean participant age was 52 years (SD = 8.86 years); the age range was 37–75 years.
- All participants were female.
- Of all participants, 32 were undergoing diagnostic breast biopsy.
- Most participants were Caucasian: in RIG 13, or 76%, were Caucasian; in CCG, 13, or 87%, were Caucasian.
- United States
Phase of Care and Clinical Applications:
Randomized controlled single-blind trial
- State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), by Spielberger
- Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD)
- Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS)
Neither group displayed significant distress (as operationalized by the three measures) either before or after breast biopsy. Likewise, the study showed no significant difference in any of the measures between groups (RIG and CCG) over time. Over time (pre- to post–breast biopsy), the A state did not decrease significantly in either group (F (2) = 4.78, p = 0.0119) in regard to the HADS total (F (1) = 6.18, p = 0.0187) or HADS anxiety subscale (F (1) = 12.96, p = 0.0011).
One cannot conclude that Reiki was an effective intervention for reducing biopsy-related distress.
- The study had a small sample, with fewer than 30 participants.
- The degree of blinding is unclear; the study contains contradictory information.
- Data-collection time points are not clearly described—how long exactly after biopsy, what was the range of time points for collection of T3 data? Furthermore, the author discusses postintervention telephone interviews, but neither the purpose of the interviews nor the data collected in them are reported.
- Data-collection procedures for the CCG group were not explained: Who was interviewed, both groups or only RIG participants?
- Many practitioners provided the intervention; treatment variations may have resulted.
Findings do not support the effectiveness of Reiki under the conditions of the study.