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Reiki 霊気 is a Japanese form of energy healing, which is a subset of alternative medicine. Reiki practitioners use a technique called palm healing or hands-on healing through which a “universal energy” is said to be transferred through the palms of the practitioner to the patient in order to encourage emotional or physical healing.
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Reiki is a pseudoscience, and is used as an illustrative example of pseudoscience in scholarly texts and academic journal articles. It is based on qi (“chi”), which practitioners say is a universal life force, although there is no empirical evidence that such a life force exists.
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Clinical research does not show reiki to be effective as a treatment for any medical condition, including cancer, diabetic neuropathy, or anxiety and depression; therefore it should not replace conventional medical treatment. There is no proof of the effectiveness of reiki therapy compared to placebo. Studies reporting positive effects have had methodological flaws.
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Reiki’s teachings and adherents claim that qi is physiological and can be manipulated to treat a disease or condition. The existence of qi has not been established by medical research. Therefore, reiki is a pseudoscientific theory based on metaphysical concepts.
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A 2008 systematic review of nine randomized clinical trials found several shortcomings in the literature on reiki. Depending on the tools used to measure depression and anxiety, the results varied and were not reliable or valid. Furthermore, the scientific community has been unable to replicate the findings of studies that support reiki.
The review also found issues in reporting methodology in some of the literature, in that often there were parts omitted completely or not clearly described. Frequently in these studies, sample sizes were not calculated and adequate allocation and double-blind procedures were not followed. The review also reported that such studies exaggerated the effectiveness of treatment and there was no control for differences in experience of reiki practitioners or even the same practitioner at times produced different outcomes. None of the studies in the review provided a rationale for the treatment duration and no study reported adverse effects.