While trawling the internet for victims the other day, I kept coming across a video promoting the benefits of reiki.
The video is produced by the Reiki Federation, a professional body promoting the interests of reiki practitioners (but not necessarily those of their poor customers).
Many of the Federation's members are using the video to promote their professional services. On this website, for example, the video has been plonked at the top of the page.
Since it's so widespread, I'd like to know whether any of the video's health claims are true or whether they are, in fact, bunkum. It's no surprise to see this claim:
"[Reiki is] a system of natural healing"
Or even this one, which is a marvel of medical cherry-picking:
"With women having abdominal hysterectomies, there was a pilot data [sic] that suggested not only do they feel more relaxed before the surgery, [but] the surgery itself was reduced from an average of 72 minutes to 59 minutes and they required less pain medication afterwards"
Some of the video's claims, though, infringe onto the territory of loopiness:
"I broke my ankle five years ago, [it was a] complicated breakage. I had problems healing, the bones wouldn't heal. I was recommended reiki... within the course of a few months, we actually speeded up the healing process. I didn't need another operation..."
ASA complaint follows!
"I'm writing to complain about a promotional video produced by the Reiki Federation.
Because the video features on the homepage of the Federation's website and in prominent positions on the websites of dozens of the Federation's members, where it used to promote the members' reiki services, I think it's important that the health claims the video makes should be challenged.
The video is primarily available at the addresses:
0.23 "[Reiki is] a system of natural healing"
I'd like to challenge whether the use of the word "healing" in this description is misleading.
0.25 "Practitioners tap into this [reiki] life energy which reinforces the body's natural ability to heal itself on all levels: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual"
I challenge whether the claim that reiki can "reinforce the body's natural ability to heal ifself" on the "physical" level can be substantiated.
0.41 "[Reiki has] proved particularly useful for... acute injuries and in surgery"
I challenge whether these two claims can be substantiated.
0.48 (Comment from Rosemary Pharo) "With women having abdominal hysterectomies, there was a pilot data [sic] that suggested not only do they feel more relaxed before the surgery, [but] the surgery itself was reduced from an average of 72 minutes to 59 minutes and they required less pain medication afterwards"
I challenge whether the use of an unnamed pilot study as the only medical evidence cited in the video is misleading. I also challenge whether the claims that reiki can reduce the length of surgical operations and the quantity of pain relief administered during them can be substantiated using rigorous clinical evidence.
1.25 (Testimonial from Teie Neiiendam, a "Reiki Client") "I broke my ankle five years ago, [it was a] complicated breakage. I had problems healing, the bones wouldn't heal. I was recommended reiki... within the course of a few months, we actually speeded up the healing process. I didn't need another operation..."
I challenge whether the testimonial claim that reiki can increase the rate of healing for broken bones, even those that do not respond to an initial (conventional) medical intervention, is misleading.
1.50 "...reiki is used to help with many conditions"
I challenge whether the advertiser can substantiate their claim that reiki can be used to "help with many conditions".
1.56 (Comment from Melanie Hoffstead, "Reiki Master and Practitioner") "People who come to me who've suffered for many years with arthritis and then with quite a few treatments seem to be almost pain-free. People who suffer from depression seem to be able to have more of a sense of life [and it] can be more manageable"
I challenge whether the advertisers can substantiate their claims that reiki can render sufferers of arthritis "almost pain-free" and that reiki can treat clinical depression.
2.19 "Increasingly, medical professionals are using reiki alongside more orthodox treatments"
I challenge whether this claim can be substantiated, and whether it misleadingly implies that the current scientific concensus broadly supports the claims of reiki practitioners, when in fact the opposite is the case.
2.25 "Reiki has been known to support some cancer patients"
I challenge whether this claim is misleading and can be substantiated.
3.31 "Research into the effectiveness of reiki is ongoing, but it's clear that for many the benefits are immeasurable."
I challenge whether this claim is misleading, because it omits the fact that rigorous clinical trials for reiki exist and have so far been universally negative.
I'd also challenge whether the claim that "benefits" of reiki are "immeasurable", in the sense that reiki has profound medical benefits, can be substantiated.
I can confirm that I have no connections with the advertiser or with the alternative medicine industry in general."