Reiki Therapy: Also Crap

Posted by : Rev. Ouabache | Friday, April 16, 2010 | Published in

As I mentioned, this has been World Homeopathy Awareness Week. Somebody forgot to tell the Indianapolis Star though because they completely skipped over it in their Health section this week. Or maybe this is one of those homeopathic things where the less reporting you do the more effective it becomes. At any rate, instead of discussing homeopathy they decided to report on something as worthless as homeopathy (but not quite as dangerous), Reiki therapy. In quick SAT analogy form:

Reiki : Massage :: Homeopathy : Medicine

Reiki is a not-so-ancient Japanese version of therapeutic touch therapy. As the Indy Star put it:

In Reiki, a light-touch healing treatment, the practitioner gently places his or her hands in specific positions on a person's body. The therapy, which originated in Japan more than 100 years ago, draws on the belief that our bodies have a universal energy source around them. Reiki practitioners harness that energy and transmit it to their clients.
Translation for those that don't speak woo: a therapist waves their hands around your body and this somehow makes you feel better. They say that they are rearranging your "Chi" but they never feel explain what exactly they mean by "chi" and "energy" nor do they tell us how we might be able to detect these things. The entire concept relies very heavily on animism, the belief in an innate soul/energy that resides in all living creatures. They also never explain how moving your hands very slowly over someones body can rearrange that energy. I'm guessing that you have to concentrate really hard, breathe slowly and hold your tongue just right.

I'm not touching you. I'm not touching you. I'm not touching you...
(Photo via the Indy Star)

The weird thing is that reiki does work... kinda. Sorta. People report that it makes them feel more relaxed and can help alleviate pain. The obvious answer isn't that reiki aligns your energy but that it is tapping into the placebo effect. You are forced to lie completely still for about an hour while someone does an elaborate (and useless) ritual around you. Of course you are going to start feeling relaxed. The article even mentions that people occasionally fall asleep during the procedure (probably from boredom). There doesn't seem to many scientific studies on reiki yet but I would love to see how it stacks up against things real massage therapy, hypnosis, or simply having the patient to rest in a darkened room while listening to soothing music. I'm guessing that they would fare roughly equal to one another.

As a side note that is sorta buried in the original story, reiki therapy is being used by nurses at St. Francis Hospital which is very obviously a Catholic hospital. That really surprised because I was under the impression that Catholic bishops were banning the use of reiki. Either they've softened lately or they haven't gotten around to Indiana yet.

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