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 Reiki reestablishes the energy balance in areas of the body associated with discomfort, thus promoting healing and increasing quality of life. Researchers have evaluated Reiki in patients with cancer for its impact on anxiety, depression, pain, and fatigue.
Effectiveness Not Established
Research Evidence Summaries
Birocco, N., Guillame, C., Storto, S., Ritorto, G., Catino, C., Gir, N., . . . Ciuffreda, L. (2012). The effects of Reiki therapy on pain and anxiety in patients attending a day oncology and infusion services unit. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, 29, 290–294.doi: 10.1177/1049909111420859
To examine the effects of Reiki on pain, anxiety, and global wellness among patients with cancer who are receiving chemotherapy
Intervention Characteristics/Basic Study Process:
Reiki sessions were offered to patients in a day oncology and infusion services unit that provided chemotherapy. Patients sat in a chair or lay on a bed during Reiki sessions. Each session lasted approximately 30 minutes. Each patient received a maximum of four Reiki sessions. Prior to each session, Reiki practitioners assessed levels of anxiety and pain according to a numeric scale. After each session, levels of pain and anxiety were recorded on a visual analog scale. The study was done over three years.
- The study reported on a sample of 118 patients, but only 22 completed all sessions.
- Mean patient age was 55 years, with a range of 33–77 years.
- The sample was 57% male and 43% female.
- Patients had various types of cancer, and all were receiving chemotherapy.
- Single site
- Outpatient setting
Phase of Care and Clinical Applications:
Patients were receiving active antitumor treatment.
A prospective pre/post-test design was used.
- Numeric rating scale
- Visual analog scale (VAS)
Only 48% of patients had more than one Reiki session, and only 22 patients (17%) completed four sessions and were included in statistical analysis. From session 1 to session 4, mean anxiety scores post-Reiki session declined, but scores immediately after each time point were higher than those reported immediately prior to the session.
Findings of this study do not support the effectiveness of Reiki. The study included numerous limitations in study design and methods.
- The study had a small sample size, with fewer than 30 participants.
- The study had risk of bias due to no control group, no blinding, and no random assignment.
- Measurement validity/reliability was questionable.
- The intervention was expensive, impractical, or presented training needs.
- The study reported that pre-session measures, on a numeric scale, were collected by Reiki providers and that post-session measures, per a VAS, were collected by the practitioner. These are two different scales that cannot be directly compared. The study does not make clear what the actual data scale was or the size of the VAS, for interpretation of data.
- Scoring was done by the Reiki practitioners, which could introduce bias. Reiki practitioners required two years of training, one year of additional workshops, and one year of in-hospital practice with tutors.
This study does not support the effectiveness of Reiki. The study and methods were not well designed or reported.
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.
Thrane, S., & Cohen, S.M. (2014). Effect of reiki therapy on pain and anxiety in adults: An in-depth literature review of randomized trials with effect size calculations. Pain Management Nursing, 15, 897–908.doi: 10.1016/j.pmn.2013.07.008
STUDY PURPOSE: To summarize evidence and quantify the effects of reiki on pain and anxiety
- FINAL NUMBER STUDIES INCLUDED = 7
- TOTAL PATIENTS INCLUDED IN REVIEW = 328
- SAMPLE RANGE ACROSS STUDIES: 16–60 patients
- KEY SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS: 48% women; mean age 63 years; three studies were in patients with cancer; two studies tested the intervention in a surgical setting; two studies used reiki in community-dwelling adults
The effects sized for within-group differences ranged from d = 0.24 for decreased anxiety in women undergoing breast biopsy to d = 2.08 for decreased pain in community-dwelling adults. For reiki versus a rest intervention in patients with cancer, the effect for a decrease in pain was d = 0.032, and the effect in community-dwelling adults was d = 0.45. A detailed discussion of individual studies showed some mixed findings, particularly for one study in which reiki was compared to both sham reiki and usual-care groups. The median number of study participants was 24. It was noted that it took more than a year to recruit a small number of subjects in some trials. The timing, number of sessions, and specific applications of reiki varied.
Data were insufficient to draw any generalizations regarding the effects of reiki on anxiety or pain. The magnitude of the effect sizes calculated suggests Reiki may be helpful, but more rigorous trials with larger samples are needed to fully evaluate its efficacy.
- Limited number of studies with only three in patients with cancer
- Sample sizes were small
- No quality evaluation of studies was include
- Timing and length of the intervention varied substantially, and most were for very short durations with few reiki sessions
This review did not demonstrate clear efficacy of reiki for pain or anxiety. However, the effect sizes shown here suggest that additional, wel- designed research is warranted. The authors made a note of the difficulty in recruiting patients to these trials and high attrition rates, particularly in the control groups. They suggested that the of a crossover design would be helpful to address these problems. The timing and length of treatment needs to be considered based on the desired effects and context of the patient situation. As much as possible, the standardization of the reiki intervention and the use of a sham control would be helpful to evaluate potential placebo effects.