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Author Topic: A Large-Scale Effectiveness Trial of Reiki for Physical and Psychological Healt  (Read 34 times)


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The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Vol. 25, No. 12 pp. 1156-1162 (2019)

Natalie L. Dyer (1), Ann L. Baldwin (2), and William L. Rand (3)

1 Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
2 Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, University of Arizona and Laboratory of Consciousness and Health,Tucson, AZ.
3 Department of Research, Center for Reiki Research, Southfield, MI.


Objectives: The main purpose of this study was to measure the effect of a single session of Reiki on physical and psychological health in a large nonclinical sample.
Design: The study design was a single arm effectiveness trial with measures at pre-and postintervention.
Settings: The study took place at private Reiki practices across the United States.
Subjects: Reiki practitioners were recruited from an online mailing list to participate in the study with their Reiki clients. A total of 99 Reiki practitioners met the inclusion criteria and participated in the study. Reiki practitioners were instructed to give a flyer to each of their Reiki clients that contained information about the study and invited the client to complete a survey before and after their Reiki session.
Interventions: Trained and certified Reiki Masters conducted the Reiki sessions in person, with each session lasting between 45 and 90?min.
Outcome measures: The well-validated 20-item Positive and Negative Affect Schedule was used to assess affect, and brief, single-item self-report measures were used to assess a wide range of physical and psychological variables immediately before (pre) and after (post) the Reiki session.
Results: A total of N=1411 Reiki sessions were conducted and included in the analysis. Statistically significant improvements were observed for all outcome measures, including positive affect, negative affect, pain, drowsiness, tiredness, nausea, appetite, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, and overall well-being (all p-values <0.001).
Conclusions: The results from this large-scale multisite effectiveness trial suggest that a single session of Reiki improves multiple variables related to physical and psychological health.


"Reiki is a Japanese word that means spiritually guided life force energy.1 It is a form of biofield therapy, which is based on the principle that fields of energy and information surround living systems and that these fields can be influenced by a practitioner to stimulate healing responses.2 Most biofield therapies involve an energetic exchange between practitioner and client, which can be draining for the practitioner. Reiki is different in that the practitioner simply allows the Reiki energy to flow passively through their hands and into the client.3 Reiki helps to restore the client's energies to a state of balance on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels, thereby enhancing the client's natural ability to heal.4

"Over 800 hospitals (15%) in the United States currently offer Reiki to patients.5 According to the latest information available, in a 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) use by Americans, more than 1.2 million adults and 161,000 children had used energy healing such as Reiki in the previous year.6 Despite its widespread use, there is little research investigating Reiki's effectiveness in real-world settings, where Reiki often occurs. In particular, there has been no large-scale study examining how Reiki affects physical and psychological symptoms common to a variety of diseases and conditions, such as pain and anxiety in a general population sample.

"Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of Reiki reveal that it has statistically significant improvements in many physical and psychological symptoms common to a wide range of diseases such as mood problems, anxiety, depression, fatigue, pain, and nausea.7–13 From 1989 to 2018, a total of 74 peer-reviewed research articles have been published on Reiki. Of the higher quality studies, those comparing Reiki to at least sham-Reiki or standard-of-care largely support the hypothesis that Reiki may reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and burnout and may increase relaxation and well-being.

"A number of controlled experiments found Reiki to be more effective than sham Reiki.12 Over the past 5 years, 31 peer-reviewed research articles have been published on Reiki. All but three of these were small-scale or pilot studies, and one of the larger scale studies was on hospitalized patients.14 To date, there is yet to be a pragmatic effectiveness trial assessing individuals receiving Reiki in a nonclinical setting, despite this being where people often receive Reiki for managing their symptoms. Furthermore, Reiki provides immediate relief, whereby symptoms are commonly reduced during or immediately after the Reiki session.14"

"In a typical Reiki session, the client lies down on a massage table, bed, or sits comfortably in a chair. The client remains fully clothed and often has a blanket for extra comfort. A typical session lasts around 60 min whereby the Reiki practitioner places their hands above or gently resting on different locations on the client's body while they allow the energy to flow, which is often felt as heat, tingling, or other sensations. The number of hand positions depends on the Reiki tradition or needs of the client. Each position is held between 1 and 5?min or until the Reiki practitioner feels a sensation that the energy has stopped."


"This large-scale study was a real-world effectiveness trial of the effect of Reiki on common physical and psychological symptoms in a nonclinical population. Given the preliminary nature of Reiki research, and its widespread use in health care and private practice settings, large-scale effectiveness trials are an important first step toward conducting more rigorous controlled trials."

"The current results point to the therapeutic potential of Reiki for a variety of conditions that correspond with multiple physical and psychological health symptoms."

"Although not addressed in the current study, a common criticism of Reiki is that its beneficial effects are due to a placebo response. However, experiments with sham Reiki active controls, in which a person untrained in Reiki uses the same hand positions as a Reiki practitioner on client or patient, also have a therapeutic effect, such as reducing self-reported anxiety.4,12,32 Although sham Reiki has some therapeutic benefits, Reiki appears to be more effective than sham Reiki based on current pilot studies,10,25,26,33–36 although one study reported no difference between sham Reiki and Reiki for treating fibromyalgia.37 It is difficult to study the placebo response in a population who is paying Reiki practitioners to provide them with Reiki. However, one solution would be to pay Reiki practitioners through research funding to give Reiki sessions for free to a group of clients knowingly recruited for research. Half of those clients could be randomly selected as the control group and would be met by a colleague of the practitioner untrained in Reiki but with knowledge of the hand positions, to act as a sham provider.

"The current study had several limitations that warrant discussion. First, this was a pragmatic effectiveness trial assessing the effect of Reiki in clients that were already seeking Reiki, increasing the likelihood of expectation effects. Future work will take this into account by including measures of clients' expectation. Second, while the authors understand the limitation of no control group, the study design was a pragmatic approach, a useful methodology for assessing the impact of outcomes in a real-world scenario. Therefore, the authors would like to suggest that the real-world generalizability of these results is a strength of the current study. This pragmatic approach has recently been championed by National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine (NCCIH), which has been making great efforts to foster and support real-world research and implementation science."

"In conclusion, Reiki acutely improved physical and psychological symptoms associated with many health conditions, including affect, pain, depression, anxiety, tiredness, drowsiness, nausea, shortness of breath, appetite, and overall well-being. Reiki can provide immediate relief for many health conditions and is used for this purpose inside and outside of the hospital setting."

"These results are highly preliminary and should be interpreted as such."

"N.L.T. received funding from the International Center for Reiki Training to conduct this study. This research did not receive any additional grants from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors."



As usual, there was no mention of the fact that Reiki is totally inconsistent with scientific knowledge, or even a suggestion that it is controversial. It is unfortunate that Harvard and the University of Arizona are associated with this nonsense.

Edzard Ernst discussed the study in his November 3 post.

Here are his comments:

"This ‘large scale’ effectiveness trial’ could make you laugh and cry at the same time.
•    Laugh, because it is almost comically daft.
•    Cry, because the conclusion is bound to mislead a lot of gullible people.

"Without a control group, the study cannot even attempt to determine anything like the effectiveness of Reiki. What the results truly show is that consumers who consult (and pay) a Reiki master expect to have a positive effect. The expectation translates into a sizable placebo response. The investigators seem to be clueless scientists, or they wilfully mislead the public (the senior author is from the ‘The Center for Reiki Research‘ which, according to its mission statement, is dedicated to gaining acceptance for the practice of Reiki by the medical community).

"The only conclusion that can honestly be drawn from the data is that consumers who pay for a service often like this service (otherwise they would not use it!). It’s a bit like the thing with the hamburger joint that I often cite: if you ask people eating in a McDonalds whether they enjoy hamburgers, most will answer in the affirmative.

"But there might be a valuable lesson in this paper after all: never trust the JACM further than you can throw it."
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