The effect of distant reiki on pain in women after elective Caesarean section: A double-blinded randomised controlled trial

Sondra Van Der Vaart, Howard Berger, Carolyn Tam, Y. Ingrid Goh, Violette M.G.J. Gijsen, Saskia N. De Wildt, Anna Taddio, Gideon Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Approximately 25% of all babies in North America are delivered via Caesarean section (C-section). Though a common surgical procedure, C-section recovery can be painful. Opioids, specifically codeine, are commonly used to ease pain; however, its active metabolite, morphine, passes into breast milk, and may produce unwanted side effects in neonates; therefore, alternatives to opioids are being sought. Reiki is an ancient Japanese form of healing where practitioners transfer healing energy through light touch and positive healing intention. Although 1.2 million Americans use reiki to reduce pain or depression, there is a lack of strong evidence supporting its effectiveness. A recent systematic review showed existing studies to be of poor methodological quality, with the common limitation of lack of blinding. To overcome this issue, the authors used distant reiki to assess its effectiveness in reducing pain following an elective C-section. Methods: In this randomised, double-blinded study, women who underwent an elective C-section were allocated to either usual care (control, n=40) or three distant reiki sessions in addition to usual care (n=40). Pain was assessed using a visual analogue scale (VAS). The primary endpoint was the Area Under the VAS-Time Curve (AUC) for days 1-3. Secondary measures included: The proportion of women who required opioid medications and dose consumed, rate of healing and vital signs. Results: AUC for pain was not significantly different in the distant reiki and control groups (mean±SD; 212.16104.7 vs 223.16117.8; p=0.96). There were no significant differences in opioid consumption or rate of healing; however, the distant reiki group had a significantly lower heart rate (74.368.1 bpm vs 79.867.9 bpm, p=0.003) and blood pressure (106.469.7 mm Hg vs 111.9611.0 mm Hg, p=0.02) post surgery. Conclusion: Distant reiki had no significant effect on pain following an elective C-section.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000021
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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