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Read Original Story

Good energy for bad: Reiki, a Japanese practice of clearing away negative energy, is finding acceptance in U.S. medicine

Rating

3 Star

Good energy for bad: Reiki, a Japanese practice of clearing away negative energy, is finding acceptance in U.S. medicine

Our Review Summary

Reiki, the Japanese practice of “energy healing” is one of many complementary or alternative medical services now available at select health centers in the U.S. This story describes the use of Reiki therapy for several diseases and conditions. Although the story attempts to describe the evidence to support reiki therapy, ultimately it fails to provide the reader with balanced information on what reiki can or can’t do.

Although the story describes the benefits of treatment in two studies, the story fails to provide adequate information on the nature of the benefits. For example, the story states that “more than 75% reported increased energy” and “those receiving Reiki took fewer pain medications.” Neither statement provides adequate information on the benefits. How much energy? How many fewer medications? Also, because the story does not explain the design of these studies, the reader does not know how much of this benefit may be due to placebo effect. The story didn’t discuss the limitations of small studies (22 patients in one) or of studies that rely on patients’ self-reporting of improvement.

Although the story mentions several trials, the reader is not provided with enough information to evaluate the strength of the available evidence. How were the studies designed? What were the outcomes measured? How long was the follow up? The story mentions that Reiki is available at a handful of institutions, but this is insufficient information on availability. How many Reiki practitioners are there around the country, and in what types of settings? Are they licensed or certified? If so, by whom? If not, what does that mean? A major concern with many alternative practices is that providers have minimal training yet still are paid quite a sum of money to “practice” their art, regardless of whether it is proven effective.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story does describe the cost of treatment for one patient – about $500 for two months of sessions. But the story could have explained whether this is representative of usual Reiki costs. It did mention that the profiled patient’s charges weren’t covered by insurance. Is this the norm?

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story does describe the benefits of treatment in two studies, the story fails to provide adequate information on the nature of the benefits. For example, the story states that “more than 75% reported increased energy” and ” those receiving Reiki took fewer pain medications.” Neither of these statements provides adequate information on the benefits. How much energy? How many fewer medications? Also, because the story does not explain the design of these studies, the reader does not know how much of this benefit may be due to placebo effect.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention harms. One harm may be that patients would delay seeing their physician for a problem, resulting in a late diagnosis.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story mentions several trials, the reader is not provided with enough information to evaluate the strength of the available evidence. How were the studies designed? What were the outcomes measured? How long was the follow up?

In discussing one study in people with AIDS, the story said “Of those who received Reiki, more than 75 percent reported increased energy, compared with no change in the control group.” There was no discussion of the limitations of such self-reporting. The story also mentioned a study of the effects of Reiki on patients who were having abdominal hysterectomies – a study of 22 patients – without any discussion of the limitations of such a small study.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Applicable

The story discusses Reiki being used for several conditions, and doesn’t focus on any one, so disease mongering is not applicable in this case.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The story quotes three Reiki practitioners. The story should have quoted other practitioners or reseachers who could provide additional perspectives. Nonetheless, we give the story the benefit of the doubt on this criterion.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not give any context about alternatives to Reiki for any of the conditions for which it is being used. For the claims that Reiki can “heal broken bones,” the story does mention bone stimulators and spinal fusion surgery, but does not give any context for or perspectives about these alternatives.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story mentions that Reiki is available at a handful of institutions, but this is insufficient information on availability. How many Reiki practitioners are there around the country, and in what types of settings? Are they licensed or certified? If so, by whom? If not, what does that mean?

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story adequately describes how reiki was developed in Japan and has gained acceptance in the U.S.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

Because the story used sources from several different institutions, it does not appear to have relied solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 4 of 9 Satisfactory

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