Munson Health

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Principal Proposed Uses

  • None

Other Proposed Uses

  • Increasing Wellness
  • Treating Diseases of All Types

What Is Reiki?

Most forms of Asian medicine make use of the concept of Qi, a form of vital energy that flows through the body. Free-flowing, abundant Qi is said to create health, while stagnant or deficient Qi is thought to lead to illness. Reiki practitioners believe that they can improve this energy by holding their hands in certain positions over parts of the patient’s body; advanced practitioners believe they can produce this effect from a remote distance. The net result, according to the theory, is accelerated healing and increased wellness.
In many ways, Reiki resembles Therapeutic Touch , except that the instructions given to its practitioners are more specific. A certified practitioner of Reiki has spent time learning specified hand movements and positions and has also undergone an “attunement” to an already-certified Reiki practitioner. This chain of attunements goes back to Mikao Usui, the method’s founder.
In its most popular Western form, Reiki is learned in three stages. The first stage involves an attunement that permits physical healing. The second stage grants the ability to carry out healing over a distance. The third degree of training allows the practitioner to perform healing on a spiritual level and to give attunements to students. Generally, each level is obtained by paying a fee and completing a weekend course.

What Is the Scientific Evidence for Reiki?

The only truly meaningful way to determine whether a medical therapy works is to perform a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. (For the reasons why this is true, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Trials? ) For hands-on therapies such as Reiki, however, a truly double-blind study is not possible—the Reiki practitioner will inevitably know whether he or she is administering real Reiki rather than fake Reiki! The best that can be hoped for is a single-blind study in which participants do not know whether they received real or fake Reiki and in which the medical outcome is evaluated by an observer who is also kept in the dark (a blinded observer). In a 2008 review of 9 randomized controlled trials on the effectiveness of Reiki for various purposes, researchers stated that no firm conclusions could be drawn from any of these studies. 4 In a subsequent controlled trial, 100 patients with fibromyalgia received Reiki or direct touch therapy from either a true Reiki master or an actor posing as a Reiki master. 6 There was no difference in symptom improvement between the two groups. Interestingly, in 1 review of 3 Reiki studies, researchers found that more experienced practitioners appeared to have a greater effect on pain reduction. 5 This observation could not be explained.
A simpler study design compares Reiki to no treatment. However, studies of that type cannot provide reliable evidence about the efficacy of a treatment: If a benefit is seen, there is no way to determine whether it was caused by Reiki specifically or just attention generally. (Attention alone will almost always produce some reported benefit.)
Finally, there are many case reports in which people are given Reiki and then seem to improve. Such reports, unfortunately, do not mean anything at all; numerous people receiving placebo in placebo-controlled studies also seem to improve. Thus, such reports cannot say anything about whether Reiki itself offers any benefit, and we do not report them here.
In one study, which we have only been able to obtain in an incomplete abstract form, female nursing students received either real Reiki or a placebo form of the treatment called “mimic Reiki.” 1 Before and after tests failed to find any improvement in general well-being attributable to Reiki treatment.
In another study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of Reiki (in combination with a related technique called LeShan) in 21 people undergoing oral surgery for impacted wisdom teeth. 2 Each participant received two surgeries, one with Reiki and the other without (in random order). People reported less pain when they received Reiki than when they received no treatment; however, due to the lack of a fake treatment group, the results mean little.
One series of studies commonly described as an attempt to determine whether Reiki treatments improved wound healing actually involved Therapeutic Touch . 3


Thornton LC. A study of Reiki: An energy field treatment, using Roger’s science. Rogerian Nurs Sci News. 1996;8:14-15.

Wirth DP, et al. The effect of complementary healing therapy on postoperative pain after surgical removal of impacted third molar teeth. Complement Ther Med. 1993;1:133-138.

Wirth DP, Richardson JT, Eidelman WS. Wound healing and complementary therapies: a review. J Altern Complement Med. 1996;2:493-502.

Lee MS, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Effects of reiki in clinical practice: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Int J Clin Pract. 2008 Apr 10.

So PS, Jiang Y, Qin Y. Touch therapies for pain relief in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;CD006535.

Assefi N, Bogart A, Goldberg J, et al. Reiki for the treatment of fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2008;14:1115-1122.


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