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Reiki versus rest for treating cancer-related fatigue.

18 May

In a pilot study, researchers from the University of Calgary find that seven sessions of Reiki help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy with fatigue, pain, anxiety and overall quality of life..

Researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, investigated the efficacy of a technique called Reiki, a type of energy touch therapy, in helping with fatigue, pain, anxiety, and overall quality of life of cancer patients during chemotherapy treatments.

For the Reiki condition, subjects received Reiki for 5 consecutive daily sessions, followed by a 1-week washout monitoring period of no treatments, then 2 additional Reiki sessions, and finally 2 weeks of no treatments. For the rest condition, subjects rested for approximately 1 hour each day for 5 consecutive days, followed by a 1-week washout monitoring period of no scheduled resting and an additional week of no treatments. Then the conditions were switched. Reiki people got the rest condition and the Rest people got the Reiki condition.

Measures included the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Fatigue subscale [FACT-F]) and overall quality of life (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy, General Version [FACT-G]) before and after all Reiki or resting sessions. They also completed a visual analog scale (Edmonton Symptom Assessment System [ESAS]) assessing daily tiredness, pain, and anxiety before and after each session of Reiki or rest.

Sixteen patients (13 women) participated in the trial: 8 were randomized to each condition (Reiki then rest; rest then Reiki). They were screened for fatigue on the ESAS tiredness item, and those scoring greater than 3 on the 0 to 10 scale were eligible for the study. They were diagnosed with a variety of cancers, most commonly colorectal (62.5%) cancer, and had a median age of 59 years.

The study found that fatigue on the FACT-F decreased within the Reiki condition (P=.05) over the course of all 7 treatments. In addition, participants in the Reiki condition experienced significant improvements in quality of life (FACT-G) compared to those in the resting condition (P <.05). On daily assessments (ESAS) the Reiki group showed significant decreases in tiredness (P <.001), pain (P <.005), and anxiety (P<.01), which were not seen in the resting condition. The study recommends that future research should further investigate the impact of Reiki using more highly controlled designs that include a sham Reiki condition and larger sample sizes.

Citation: Tsang KL, Carlson LE, Olson K. Pilot crossover trial of Reiki versus rest for treating cancer-related fatigue. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2007 Mar; 6 (1): pages 25-35.
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award