As I noted last week, I want all nonsense exposed, even if it appears on my blog. Well, I let a doozey slip through in one of my first posts 11 months ago, when I addressed chiropractic and Reiki. In my conclusion, I wrote, “Reiki teaches that the energy possesses an advanced form of intelligence, and can serve as cosmic doctor and surgeon. It is thus able to diagnose and heal the patient. This is handy for the 100 percent of Reiki practitioners who have no medical training.”
It turns out there are hundreds, probably even thousands of Reiki practitioners who have medical training. Or, more accurately, there are thousands of medical personnel who have been trained on Reiki. Mainstream hospitals are offering the course, and the students include the hospitals’ nurses, who then use the technique on patients. Just to be clear: Registered Nurses in standard U.S. hospitals are using an unproven form of energy to treat their patients. A healing method based on accessing an unknown anatomical feature, using no known law of physics, is considered medicine by some with Western medical education and experience.
Since it lacks standards and its methods are never fully explained, Reiki is hard to pin down. But it is primarily the practice of using human hands can tap into a patient’s life force energy and heal them. There are no instruments used to detect this energy, no way to measure how many joules are derived in this process, and no way to determine the source of this energy or tell how it is being accessed or directed.
Proponents will sometimes point proudly to Reiki’s complete lack of side effects and dangers. This is because it is not medicine or treatment, so overdosing or misuse is impossible. Reiki is often presented as “complementary” medicine, to be used alongside treatments for cancer and pain. This is less dangerous than using it as “alternative” medicine, but this still poses risks. For instance, the patient may decide someone waving hands over their chest is preferable to another dreaded round of chemotherapy, so they skip the latter. Also, it is impossible to establish grounds for Reiki’s legitimacy if it is being used in conjunction with real medicine.
There have been studies done on Reiki, with little to show for it. A National Institutes of Health report found, “Overall there is a lack of high-quality research on Reiki, and the studies that have been done show conflicting results.”
Even John Killen of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a taxpayer- funded research facility that is much friendlier to nonsense notions, concluded, “There is no scientific evidence to prove that such energy exists.” An article in the center’s journal added, “The serious methodological and reporting limitations of limited existing Reiki studies preclude a definitive conclusion on its effectiveness.”
Yet in the Quad Cities, the Genesis Health System website boasts of Reiki’s ability to tap a “universal energy flow” and “positive energy flow.” These are undefined terms and pseudoscientific notions that have no place being endorsed by a reputable institution. It even credits Reiki with regenerating cell growth. There is nothing in scientific literature to support this, and it is irresponsible for a mainstream hospital to dispense this as medical advice.
Most pain comes and goes, and persons are most likely to give Reiki a shot when they are at their most desperate. It may seem to work, owing to natural fluctuations or the placebo effect. But this isn’t backed by double blind studies and the standards are so loose that I know an elementary school student who is a practitioner, a Reiki Rookie if you will.
In a Washington Post article, Reiki practitioner Marydale Pecora, without intentional irony, said, “People come to me when nothing else is working. It’s a last-ditch effort to get relief from a medical challenge and to restore balance.” “Restoring balance” is another meaningless pseudoscience term, one of many that abound in Reiki. Percora’s hospital is one of 800 using Reiki, per the UCLA study cited in the Post article.
Percora has an answer to the lack of double blind studies and scientific proof: “It just works,” she said. Maybe if she says that 1,000 times we can consider that metadata. From the Post article, here’s how Pecora puts this mysterious panacea to work: “Pecora quietly moved through the circle of folding chairs, conducting attunements. Her thin hands fluttered across people’s bodies. She blew on the crowns of heads and faces, as participants focused on realigning and opening the energy channels.”
This is now medicine in some U.S. hospitals. The medical establishment embracing unproven treatments is as strange a mix as astronomers conducting research with horoscope writers.
Still, it is happening. The Tampa Bay Times reports on Kimberly Gray doing the same at her place of work. In the article, Gray tells of patients regaining movement and overcoming severe pain. The Reiki world is full of such claims, but five thousand anecdotes does not equal one piece of data. Double blind studies are needed to eliminate bias, selective memories, and post hoc reasoning, and to account for the placebo effect.
I have written the Genesis Health System administrator, urging him to stop promoting Reiki. I have also e-mailed the media relations coordinator, asking if he can put me in contact with someone who can explain why a hospital is using unproven “energy healing” on its patients. There is a reason why Reiki isn’t used to treat a broken arm or to stop internal bleeding.
The field has its defenders, but I really wonder how deep their belief is. Let’s suppose their child was in a wreck and their life was hanging in the balance. How comfortable would they be with the recovery being left in the circular motions of a Reiki practitioner?