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Reiki for Cancer: the Evidence

What does the research say about how Reiki healing can help with cancer pain, fatigue, and tiredness after cancer?

Fatigue and tiredness can be caused by or accompany many physical and mental health problems, including pain disorders like multiple myalgia and fibromyalgia, or mental health issues such as depression and PTSD. Indeed, fatigue and tiredness can also relate to your mind and body healing itself from pain and trauma. Have you ever experienced fatigue after surgery, or found yourself Googling ‘why am I so tired after therapy’?


It’s exhausting doing the things we need to to heal.


Similarly, recovery after cancer, whether you have had surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or any combination, is extremely taxing on the body. I have treated many conditions at The Forest Loft, yet this month was the first time I have provided any of my Reiki healing or meditation support services for symptoms of cancer treatment and recovery.


My client - a woman in her 40s - came to my healing space in the New Forest, near Southampton, UK, because she was feeling extreme fatigue and tiredness after her recovery from cancer. She loves to ride horses and told me she really missed spending time in the saddle, but couldn’t even muster the energy to carry out her daily tasks - let alone go out on a hack.


Following a full consultation to understand her needs and history, I set to work giving my client a Reiki session. She left feeling relaxed, peaceful, and more positive.


The next day, she emailed me. For the first time in 18 months, she was back with her feet in the stirrups! I was ecstatic, and my client will be returning for her second session soon.


But, it got me thinking: why did my client experience such a marked increase in her energy levels after only one Reiki session? And could Reiki help with other aspects of cancer treatment and recovery, such as pain and overall quality of life?



Here’s what the research says:


Fleisher et al, 2013. Integrative Reiki for Cancer Patients: A Program Evaluation. Integrative Cancer Therapies, Vol. 13(1).

https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735413503547


Administered two surveys to 213 people with cancer - one before and one after a multi-session Reiki program. Collectively, these participants experienced a more than 50% decrease in each self-reported measure of distress, anxiety, depression, pain, and fatigue.



Tsang et al, 2007. Pilot Crossover Trial of Reiki Versus Rest for Treating Cancer-Related Fatigue. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735406298986

Assessed the effects of Reiki on the self-reported fatigue, pain, anxiety, and overall quality of life of 13 women and 3 men, through questionnaires and a visual exercise. Reiki healing was shown to increase quality of life while decreasing fatigue, tiredness, and anxiety.


Kirshbaum et al, 2016. An exploratory study of reiki experiences in women who have cancer. International Journal of Palliative Nursing, 22(4). https://doi.org/10.12968/ijpn.2016.22.4.166

Involved 10 women in a qualitative, interview-based study. The key themes identified in the interviews were “a 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”.


Alarcão & Fonseca, 2016. The effect of Reiki therapy on quality of life of patients with blood cancer: Results from a randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Integrative Medicine 8(3). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2015.12.003

Assessed the quality of life of 58 patients with blood cancer following a twice-weekly, month long Reiki therapy course, alongside a control group. The researchers found that “The Reiki group showed significantly more improvements in the general, physical, environmental, and social dimensions” of the quality of life measurement.


Olson, K., & Hanson, J., 1997. Using Reiki to manage pain: a preliminary report. Cancer Prevention & Control 1(2). https://www.lisafontanella.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Preliminary-Report-in-Cancer-Prevention-and-Control.pdf

This study used 20 volunteers who were experiencing pain for many reasons, one of which was cancer. Researchers were exploring alternatives to opioids. 85% of participants experienced pain reduction after Reiki, although the researchers conceded that a lack of control group, a lack of consideration given to how long the effects lasted, and music being played while the Reiki was given may have affected the validity of the data.


Marcus, D., et al, 2012. Symptomatic Improvement Reported After Receiving Reiki at a Cancer Infusion Center. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049909112469275

Researchers administered 145 surveys to a range of people in a hospital, including 47 people with cancer and 98 patients from other wards. Of the cancer patients, 94% rated Reiki as a positive experience and 92% were interested in receiving additional cancer centre. Interestingly, more people from the ‘cancer group’ were interested in receiving future Reiki sessions than individuals from other areas of the hospital, indicating that Reiki may have additional benefits for people with cancer. 89% of people with cancer felt improved relaxation, 75% felt a reduction in anxiety/worry, 81% experienced improved mood, 43% found their sleep to be improved, 45% felt a reduction in pain, 38% reported reduced isolation/loneliness, 75% described an improved attitude, and 30% stated they had an improved appetite. “Response was unaffected by previous exposure to Reiki, massage, or other touch therapy.”


So, why does Reiki seem to make such a difference to people who are suffering with, or who have recovered from cancer?

No one really knows. My guess would be that as Reiki helps you to get rid of painful energy you may be storing, as well as helping to rebalance your energy, the difference it can make to a person is far more noticeable in someone who is suffering from cancer.

Either way, thank you for reading my blog post on Reiki healing for cancer recovery. Hopefully, you’ll consider taking a trip to my dedicated healing space in the New Forest, near Southampton, UK, to see what Reiki can do for you!


See you next time,

Mel x

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