Changing the conversation about health

Complementary Medicine Roundup – February 2019


In my October 2018 blog I cited the article Shining Example by Jane Sheehan MFHT who established a complementary therapy service used by the NHS.

On 13th August 2018, the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council published a blog titled Healing in the NHS written by Shuna Watkinson, a CNHC registered healing practitioner who is the Complementary Therapy Coordinator at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust which “covers 3 hospitals – one large general hospital in Stevenage and 2 smaller hospitals which are mainly for outpatients and diagnostics”. Shauna is now funded by the Respiratory and Endoscopy Departments at the Trust. Her blog may be read here.

Previously, in my March 2018 blog, I commented on the book The NHS Healer: Onwards and Upwards by award-winner (see below) Angie Buxton-King of the, also award-winning, Sam Buxton Sunflower Healing Trust. Angie was employed as a Healer by University College London Hospital (UCLH) from 1999 to 2011. The book was given an excellent review by the Senior Divisional Nurse Clinical Haematology UCLH.

Furthermore, Angie was interviewed by Kevin Durjun of UK Health Radio at the Complementary Therapy Awards 2018 when she referred to the practise of healing, including Reiki.

As indicated above, Reiki is a type of energy healing which is practised in a number of NHS hospitals as well as in health clinics.

Previously, I have not focused at length on a specific CAM therapy, although I have provided links to research abstracts relevant to numerous CAM modalities.

However, in view of the NHS Healing practice initiatives described above and following the success, at the 2018 Complementary Therapy Awards, of award winners practising healingand because some perceive healing to be esoteric and therefore of questionable value as a contribution to healthcare, I thought it appropriate to present a ‘spotlight’ on Reiki, which is a type of healing.

In 2003 the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) produced (in print) the, now obsolete (refer to my March 2018 blog), guidelines for its members titled Complementary therapies in nursing, midwifery and health visiting practice: RCN guidance on integrating complementary therapies into clinical care (Publication code 002 204: October 2003) consisting of 13, A4 size pages. These guidelines observed, among other things, with regard to Reiki (page 3: The need for integration strategies): 

‘…The most recent annual survey of RCN Complementary Therapy Nursing Forum Members (RCN, 2003a) shows that the use of Reiki healing by nurses has gained in popularity…’

Since then, some 15 years later, Reiki healing continues to be established especially when used to relieve the symptoms and the side-affects of treatments prescribed for cancer by a consultant or oncologist.

The highly respected charity Cancer Research UK, defines Reiki on its website as follows:

‘…Reiki is a hands-on type of healing used as a complementary therapy.

Reiki is a Japanese healing art that was developed by Dr Usui in Japan in the early 20th century. It is pronounced ray-key. You may also hear it called:

  • Reiki healing
  • Usui system of Reiki
  • Therapeutic touch

The Japanese word Reiki means universal energy. Eastern medicine systems work with this energy, which flows through all living things and is vital to well being. The energy is known as ‘Ki’ in Japan, ‘Chi’ in China and ‘prana’ in India. Reiki isn’t part of any type of religion or belief system. It is best described as a hands-on healing used as a complementary therapy.

A Reiki practitioner aims to change and balance the energy fields in and around your body to help on a physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual level…’

Following on from my March 2018 blog, which focused on cancer and CAM, I list below some links to research about Reiki. I hope this information will be of interest to existing and prospective CAM and conventional medicine practitioners and to students as well as to Reiki patients.

While, of course, there are research papers that are inconclusive about the effectiveness of Reiki, the following extracts (click on the italicised hyperlinks below to read more) clearly demonstrate a contribution to patient health. It is interesting to note how frequently the Nursing sector, a leading primary care profession, is mentioned in these papers:

Effects of Reiki on pain, anxiety, and blood pressure in patients undergoing knee replacement: a Pilot Study.

‘…This blinded, controlled pilot study investigated the effects of Reiki on 46 patients undergoing knee replacement surgery. Of the 3 groups, Reiki, Sham Reiki, and Standard of Care, only the Reiki group showed significant reductions in pain, blood pressure, respiration rate, and state anxiety, which provides evidence for a full-scale clinical study…’;

 The increasing use of Reiki as a complementary therapy in specialist palliative care.‘…Reiki is a more recent addition to the range of CTs [complementary therapies] available to cancer patients. As an energy-healing intervention it has gained in popularity as a non-invasive and non-pharmacological approach. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the profound relaxation effect has a positive impact on alleviating anxiety, stress, perception of pain and promotes a feeling of wellbeing particularly relating to the nature of psychospiritual wellbeing…This article will consider the position of reiki as an emerging CT within SPC…’;

Use of complementary therapies in hospice and palliative care.

‘…patients were evaluated for changes in symptoms such as pain reduction, ease in breathing, stress/anxiety reduction, and increased relaxation, with the results being predominantly beneficial…’;

The effects of Yoga, Massage, and Reiki on patient well-being at a Cancer Resource Center. 

‘…Reiki reduced the pain of patients with cancer to a greater extent than either massage or yoga…’;

An exploratory study of Reiki experiences in women who have cancer.

‘…Key themes identified were: limited understanding of reiki prior to receiving any reiki; release of emotional strain during reiki-feelings of a release of energy, a clearing of the mind from cancer, inner peace/relaxation, hope, a sense of being cared for; experience of physical sensations during reiki, such as pain relief and tingling; physical, emotional and cognitive improvements after reiki, such as improved sleep, a sense of calm and peace, reduced depression and improved self-confidence…’;

Reiki for cancer patients undergoing Chemotherapy in a Brazilian Hospital: A pilot study.

‘…The Reiki practice delivered as part of the integrative care in oncology did produce clinically significant effects, although not statistically significant results, for more than half of the patients undergoing cancer treatment…’;

Reiki’s effect on patients with total knee arthroplasty: A pilot study.

‘…As a result of positive feedback and decreased pain ratings following Reiki sessions, a Reiki program has been established at the hospital. Ten nurses became trained and certified in Reiki…’;

Effects of Distant Reiki on pain, anxiety and fatigue in Oncology patients in Turkey: A Pilot study.

‘…The control group demonstrated greater levels of pain (p=0.002), stress (p=0.001) and fatigue (p=0.001). The Reiki group pain score (p<0.0001), stress score (p<0.001) and fatigue score were also significantly lower…’;

Effect of Reiki therapy on pain and anxiety in adults: an in-depth literature review of randomised trials with effect size calculations.

‘…Although the number of studies is limited, based on the size Cohen’s d statistics calculated in this review, there is evidence to suggest that Reiki therapy may be effective for pain and anxiety…’;

Development of a hospital reiki training program: training volunteers to provide reiki to patients, families, and staff in the acute care setting.

‘…This program demonstrates that a volunteer-based program can successfully support nurses in meeting patient, family, and staff demand for Reiki services…’;

Reiki and related therapies in the dialysis ward: an evidence-based and ethical discussion to debate if these complementary and alternative medicines are welcomed or banned.

‘…While a classical evidence-based approach, showing low-grade efficacy, is likely to lead to a negative attitude towards the use of Reiki in the dialysis ward, the ethical discussion, analyzing beneficium (efficacy) together with non maleficium (side effects), justice (cost, availability and integration with mainstream therapies) and autonomy (patients’ choice) is likely to lead to a permissive-positive attitude…’;

Reiki training for caregivers of hospitalised paediatric patients: a pilot programme‘…Based on the successful completion of this pilot program, we conclude that a hospital-based Reiki training program for caregivers of hospitalized pediatric patients is feasible, and may realistically be incorporated into a hospital’s teaching offerings. We also conclude that such a program is able to positively impact and empower patients and their families. While participants in our program subjectively reported perceived benefits, there is a need for more rigorous trials to assess the benefits of Reiki in the paediatric population…’

Symptomatic improvement reported after receiving Reiki at a cancer infusion center.

‘…Reiki results in a broad range of symptomatic benefits, including improvements in common cancer-related symptoms…’;

Reiki as a pain management adjunct in screening colonoscopy.

‘…Results from this pilot study suggest that there may be a decrease in meperidine needed during screening colonoscopy when patients receive Reiki treatments before the procedure…’;

Benefits of Reiki therapy for a severely neutropenic patient with associated influences on a true random number generator.

‘…Statistically significant relationships were documented between Reiki therapy, a quieting of the electronically created white noise of the RNG during healing sessions, and improvement in the patient’s ANC. The immediate clinical result was that the patient could tolerate the high-dose interferon regimen without missing doses because of absolute neutropenia. The patient was initially a late responder to interferon and had been given a 5% chance of clearing the virus. He remains clear of the virus 1 year after treatment…’;

The effects of Reiki therapy on pain and anxiety in patients attending a day oncology and infusion services unit.

‘…Overall, the sessions were felt helpful in improving well-being, relaxation, pain relief, sleep quality and reducing anxiety. Offering Reiki therapy in hospitals could respond to patients’ physical and emotional needs…’;

Effects of Reiki on Pain and Vital Signs when applied to the Incision Area of the body after Cesarean Section Surgery: A single-blinded, randomised, double-controlled study:

‘…The Reiki group was observed to use fewer analgesics throughout the study and to need them after a longer time than the sham Reiki and control groups (P < .05…);

A phase II trial of Reiki for the management of pain in advanced cancer patients.
Olson K, Hanson J, Michaud M.
Faculty of Nursing and International Institute for Qualitative Methodology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Participants experienced improved pain control following Reiki treatment; 

Using Reiki to manage pain: a preliminary report.
Olson K, Hanson J.
Cross Cancer Institute, Edmonton, Alta

Research showed a highly significant reduction in pain following Reiki treatment;
Pilot crossover trial of Reiki versus rest for treating cancer-related fatigue.
Tsang KL, Carlson LE, Olson K.
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Participants experienced a decrease in cancer related fatigue and a significant improvement in quality of life;

Energy therapies in advanced practice oncology: an evidence-informed practice approach.Potter P J 

 ‘…Reiki as supportive interventions in cancer care…bring harmony and balance to the system in the direction of health…research literature demonstrates the safety of these therapies…’;

Effect of Reiki therapy on pain and anxiety in adults: an in-depth literature review of randomised trials with effect size calculations. Thrane S & Cohen S M

 ‘…Although the number of studies is limited, based on the size Cohen’s statistics calculated in this review, there is evidence to suggest that Reiki therapy may be effective for pain and anxiety…’;

The empowering nature of Reiki as a complementary therapy.
Nield-Anderson L, Ameling A. Yale University School of Nursing, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
The reasons for the increased success of Reiki as an alternative and complementary healing method in the Western world are addressed as well as the practice of Reiki as a healing method for self and others;

Feasibility of Energy Medicine in a Community Teaching Hospital (including Reiki)

‘…This study successfully implemented EM provided by a solo practitioner in inpatient and emergent hospital settings and found that acceptability and demand justified its presence. Most patients experienced marked, immediate improvement of symptoms associated with their chief complaint…’;