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Reiki Study: Benefits for Cancer patients receiving Chemotherapy

Reiki is a complementary health approach in which practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above a person to promote a sense of well-being. It was founded by the Japanese Buddhist and spiritual teacher Mikao Usui in the early 20th century and brought to the United States in the 1930s, where it has become increasingly popular.

Can Reiki be beneficial for those undergoing Cancer treatment?

Study Findings

Reiki has been investigated for its effects on cancer symptoms such as anxiety and pain as well as its impact on quality of life and well-being. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) of 110 pre-surgical patients with breast cancer found reduced anxiety and mood improvement in the Reiki treatment group. In another study of 24 participants randomized to receive a standard opioid plus Reiki or a standard opioid plus rest, the Reiki group reported significant reduction in pain but no significant reduced opioid use. Furthermore, researchers from a prospective crossover trial of 16 patients with cancer-related fatigue randomized to Reiki or resting control reported reductions in pain, fatigue, and anxiety and improved quality of life in the Reiki group compared to the control group.

Interestingly, in a double-blind RCT, both Reiki and placebo Reiki were statistically significant in increasing post-therapy comfort and well-being compared to standard care in outpatients at a chemotherapy center. Also, researchers conducting a feasibility study reported that compared to usual care, Reiki or companion care led to greater improvements in quality of life and mood in patients with breast cancer. However, a pilot RCT of 54 men undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer randomized to Reiki, relaxation response therapy, or wait list control did not identify statistically significant improvements in anxiety or depression.

The mechanisms of action underlying Reiki’s benefits have not been elucidated, but researchers have attributed them to a relaxation response.

Use in Clinical Practice

Because Reiki does not require equipment and can be done at the bedside or during chemotherapy, it may be easily integrated into the oncology setting. Observational studies have evaluated such integration: In 118 patients undergoing chemotherapy, the 22 patients who received four Reiki sessions had significant reductions in anxiety and pain. As well, results of a mixed methods study of pre-/post-surveys evaluating first-time Reiki sessions in 213 patients with cancer indicated that self-reported distress, anxiety, depression, pain, and fatigue each decreased by more than 50%. However, data from larger, well-powered and -designed studies are needed to establish Reiki’s effectiveness for clinical recommendation.

What can I expect in a Reiki session? Learn more

What are the benefits of Reiki? Learn more

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