SciencePunk

i-b3ab3d366a82985e7c7a59f419ab7c0c-Reiki_CC_Cesar_Flickr.pngWhen I first stumbled across the page entitled “50 Reiki One-Liners” I thought it was going to be some kind of introspective quack humour. Silly me. No, this is the real deal:

On July 30, 2008 I started a new service in the microblogging world by sending out this one-liner about Reiki:

Reiki is living with wisdom & compassion.

Since then Reiki One-LinerSM has gone out to Plurk and Twitter everyday between Monday and Friday, with two breaks of a few days since its inception.


Now I know that Reiki – a ‘therapy’ that doesn’t even require the practitioner to be in the same room as the patient during the act of healing – is probably the world’s laziest form of quackery. Just stick an ad in the local paper, take down people’s credit card details by phone and tell them: “Yep, healing you right now. You feel that? Cool, that’ll be £50.” But still, this ‘service’ has to be a joke, right? After all, a few lines of PHP and you could automate that. Force the world to sign up to Twitter and boom! no more disease, right? We could eradicate malaria in no time.

Perhaps I’m being too cynical. After all, this is a totally new delivery system for medicine. Perhaps in the future doctors can send you trite quips via SMS, regardless of what is making you sick. No more clinics, pharmacies, hospitals. Just *beep* and the malady is gone, kinda like Cillit Bang. Given their aversion to actually seeing patients, Reiki practitioners clearly think diagnosis is just some kind of foolish Western misconception anyway.

Comments

  1. #1 Donna B.
    February 2, 2009

    I see some possible usefulness for western medicine practitioners here. After all, the line “take two aspirin, and call me in the morning” has been around a long time.

  2. #2 Pamir | Reiki Help Blog
    February 2, 2009

    The particular service you’re making fun of is the one-liner itself. It’s not a delivery method for ‘healing.’ Neither is there a fee. I started the Reiki One-Liner as a way to educate the uninformed, inspire Reiki practitioners, and keep my own thinking about Reiki fresh.

    For a science writer, this post is thin on evidence and journalism. It’s easy to belittle someone or a practice just to have a new blog post up. The fact is, Reiki is enormously popular worldwide, both with practitioners and recipients, and is an active part of many hospital integrative medicine programs.

    However, Reiki isn’t really ‘medicine’ (much misunderstood), and is in fact a spiritual teaching.

  3. #3 Sam C
    February 2, 2009

    No, Pamir, Reiki isn’t “spiritual teaching”. It’s nonsense. OK, it’s more than nonsense, it’s fraud, it’s drivel, it’s lies, it’s trash. It’s the way of the idiot.

    And a world without idiots feeding idiocy to other idiots would be a better place.

    Help your fellow practitioners by suggesting they take up honest work instead of feeding them waffles.

  4. #4 Violet Aston
    February 2, 2009

    Frank, at first read your blog is a blatant insult to Reiki practitioners and patients alike. On second read it is your ignorance about this method of healing that is obvious. Reiki has helped many people the world over including myself personally and many of my clients. Perhaps researching the topic you are blogging about would be more helpful for you in your articles.

    Sam C… you are calling us idiots?? Telling people Reiki is nonsense and we are being fraudulent?? You have absolutely no right to make such statements. I have dedicated my life to helping people and I know that I am doing good in this world. You on the other hand are acting like an adolescent having a temper tantrum so everyone will hear you.

    It is a world without closed minded people feeding idiocy to other closed minded people that would be a better place. But we need the diversity I suppose. Everyone has a right to their own opinion but one does not have to be slanderous to others for their beliefs. It is such behavior that I thought we were above in this day and age.

  5. #5 Stephen
    February 3, 2009

    “Just stick an ad in the local paper, take down people’s credit card details by phone and tell them: Yep, healing you right now. You feel that? Cool, that’ll be £50″

    Unfortunately this sort of behavior is all too common among thieves in England, where I found time and time again people were out to rip others off to get a few quid.

    The Reiki practitioners I know couldn’t even think these sorts of thoughts, it is diametrically opposed to their whole way of life.

    If there are Reiki practitioners out there who do employ these practices then they are simply not in the flow and will find out quickly that just like all the other “Dell Boys” out there, they simply won’t get far.

    Perhaps you’d like to have a good look at your own thought processes.

  6. #6 JustAsItSounds
    February 3, 2009

    @Pamir:
    The fact is, Reiki is enormously popular worldwide, both with practitioners and recipients, and is an active part of many hospital integrative medicine programs.

    Integrative medicine is the equivalent of ‘Intelligent Design’ in medicine. It’s another trojan horse trying to sneak in woo-woo under another name, now that CAM is being exposed as the fraud it is, a la ‘creationism’ the shills and fraudsters have just applied a new label.

    However, Reiki isn’t really ‘medicine’ (much misunderstood), and is in fact a spiritual teaching.

    Reiki, distance-healing etc. has no place in modern, evidence based medicine – I’m glad we agree on that.

    @Violet:
    Sam C… you are calling us idiots?? Telling people Reiki is nonsense and we are being fraudulent??

    I once lived with a girl who was studying for a PhD in Astrophysics and yet she was a full-on Reiki-woo-advocate. I wouldn’t call her stupid or fraudulent by any chalk, just deluded, well-meaning and suffering from cognitive dissonance. When I asked her if she could devise an experiment to prove whether it works or not she took great offense but couldn’t explain why she couldn’t apply the same rationale to Reiki that she did to her studies.

    Closed minded? How about putting your aura-washing skills to the test? Or do the benefits of Reiki vanish as mysteriously as they appear when put under scrutiny?

  7. #7 David Bradley
    February 3, 2009

    Placeeeeeeeeeeeeeebo

  8. #8 PF Anderson
    February 4, 2009

    This is a second attempt to post this comment.

    Sam & Frank, I might encourage you to examine some of the recent research evidence on Reiki:

    http://tinyurl.com/au9wsn

    Within the context of my experience as a consultant working with evidence-based healthcare for the past decade, I would want to mention that insufficient evidence does not always mean that the treatment doesn’t work. It means exactly what it says — that we don’t have enough research to make a conclusive decision. The purpose of systematic reviews that identify insufficient evidence is largely to identify flaws and gaps in the research to be addressed in future studies. I have seen a number of drug trials in similar circumstances, who completely turn around the findings by the time of the customary 5 year update to the review.

    In the case of insufficient evidence, clinicians should look at the BEST AVAILABLE EVIDENCE to support decisions, as well as the balance of potential risk/harm from the treatment. Current clinical trials and systematic reviews of reiki show distinct trends supportive of the effectiveness, and show little or no harm. There just aren’t enough of the trials to have reached statistical significance. So, while results are currently inconclusive, they are encouraging of a positive effect.

    Please note that in the bulk of the research trials, they are examining the effectiveness of the “healing touch” aspects of reiki. In the post, the author seems unaware of this aspect of reiki, which you could not have avoided knowing if you read either the Reiki FAQ: http://www.reiki.org/faq/WhatIsReiki.html or even Wikipedia. Perhaps you should research and define your terms, as politely suggested by Pamir. I would also recommend checking the government stance on Reiki as given by the National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine:

    http://nccam.nih.gov/health/reiki/

    Thanks!

  9. #9 Sari
    February 5, 2009

    I have a chronic pain disorder…I am in a LOT of pain all the time…

    acupuncture and reiki help when the Rx medications haven’t done diddly. Does it make sense, maybe not, but the Reiki has help consistently since I’ve learned to do it for myself.

    Maybe it’s just a coping mechanism… but in my experience, I certainly wasn’t even coping before.

  10. #10 JustAsItSounds
    February 5, 2009

    Int J Clin Pract. 2008 Jun;62(6):947-54. Epub 2008 Apr 10.

    Effects of reiki in clinical practice: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials.

    DISCUSSION: In total, the trial data for any one condition are scarce and independent replications are not available for each condition. Most trials suffered from methodological flaws such as small sample size, inadequate study design and poor reporting.

    CONCLUSION: In conclusion, the evidence is insufficient to suggest that reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore the value of reiki remains unproven.

    Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD006535.
    Touch therapies for pain relief in adults.

    AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS: Touch therapies may have a modest effect in pain relief. More studies on HT and Reiki in relieving pain are needed. More studies including children are also required to evaluate the effect of touch on children.

    I doubt you’d find anyone who would argue that human touch can alleviate pain/anxiety – although how one differentiates between Reiki touching and ‘Sham’ Reiki touching is beyond me. Reading these meta-anlyses the striking thing is that of the published trials out there, a vanishingly small amount actually pass muster wrt. sample size, selection bias, methodology etc. And those that do show absolutely no effect in favour of Reiki distance healing.

    @PF Anderson
    Current clinical trials and systematic reviews of reiki show distinct trends supportive of the effectiveness, and show little or no harm. There just aren’t enough of the trials to have reached statistical significance. So, while results are currently inconclusive, they are encouraging of a positive effect.

    Well, if your criteria for treating patients is that your treatments have been shwon to cause little or no harm and ‘trends supportive of effectiveness’ then I guess I should be practicing lollipop and kiss-it-better therapy.

  11. #11 Mojo
    February 5, 2009

    After all, this is a totally new delivery system for medicine.

    Not entirely new: Jacques Benveniste developed a method for transmitting homoeopathic remedies via the telephone back in the 1990s. They worked just as well as regular homoeopathic remedies.

  12. #12 Sam C
    February 9, 2009

    Yes, Violet Aston, I am calling you a fraud and an idiot. That goes for all other reiki practitioners too. The fact that you have devoted many years to being a fraud and an idiot does not mean anything, except that you are deeply committed to fraud and idiocy.

    And no, I am not an adolescent throwing a tantrum, I am someone who has a scientific mind and a deep dislike of hypocrites, especially those who fleece the weak-minded and encourage an anti-rational world view. Anyway, I’d rather be an adolescent than a fraud and an idiot!

    Of course talking cures work, of course people feel better when nice things happen to them, of course it’s good to be touched nicely and massaged, but that doesn’t make reiki (now with added bollocks!) anything other than quackery.

    Show the world a proper trial of reiki-based therapies working together with some sort of plausible explanation for the mechanism of its action and I’ll reconsider and so with the rest of the evidence-based medicine community.

    Until then, if it’s quackery. You’re a quack, your fellow practitioners are quacks, you’re a disgrace.

  13. #13 Sam C
    February 9, 2009

    Thanks PF Anderson; I’ve looked at the evidence you suggest and it confirms to me that there is no reason to think that reiki is anything other than mumbo-jumbo and quackery.

    Of course, reiki is going to do little direct harm as it involves no significant intervention, and the attention of an apparently caring practitioner is likely to make the patient (victim?) feel better. That with well-understood placebo-related effects (such as regression to the mean, confirmation bias, and simple healing or improvement with the passage of time) taken with the poor quality of most alternative therapy trials are easily sufficient to explain the meagre slightly positive results.

    What about indirect harm? As far as I am aware, reiki practitioners do not share some of the actively evil practices of some homeopaths in trying to turn their customers away from effective medicine. But they do lighten their wallets, and they do contribute to the overall amount of irrationality and superstition in the world, impairing the customer’s critical faculties. People should be encouraged to learn how to look after themselves properly, not sold magic pixie dust and snake oil.

    But the “insufficient evidence” excuse is not good enough. It is not up to me or other scientists to disprove reiki – it is up to the suppliers and fans of reiki to prove it, via effective science rather than wooful anecdote. It is not unfair for me to assume that the absence of evidence is probably evidence of the inability of the reiki folk to produce it.

    Remember the adage that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”? You can dress that up as proper application of Bayesian reasoning; this adage is good science. On that basis, something like reiki that has no good evidence base for its effectiveness and no physical mechanism for its proposed action must be dropped into the “nonsense” bucket. Practitioners’ claims that they have stung plenty of mugs do not mitigate this judgement. Muttering about “healing energy” or chi (apparently transmissible over phone lines with the aid of a photograph!) is not a mechanism.

    Or, just use Ockham’s Razor: what’s the simplest explanation of reiki? That it’s plausible bollocks, I’d say.

    For a doctor (I am not one), I can see the dilemma when a patient feels happier with a bit woo and quackery that they’re getting from outside sources. Then the doctor’s priority must be the patient’s wellbeing and happiness rather than scientific truth, so I have no problem with the doctor letting the patient follow any benign quackery without complaint. But I do not think any doctor should promote this nonsense. To do so is unethical.

    All we get from alternative “medicine” people is the same old bleating about not being taken seriously. Take yourselves seriously, run proper trials (randomised, blinded, controlled trials, not a collection of anecdotes from fans), do some proper statistics on it, then show us the results and you’ll be taken seriously. Till then – assumed guilty of quackery.

  14. #14 Pareidolius
    February 10, 2009

    Sweetiedarling. I’m off to my Reiki, a spirulina colonic and lunch at Harvey Nic’s. Where’s my driver? Is my aura on straight . . . Pats! Pats! Get off the floor, we’re going to be late . . .

  15. #15 calj
    February 13, 2009

    Isn’t there someone who tries to sell homeopathy downloads which you can listen to on your MP3 player?

    These people are idiots

  16. #16 George Nixon
    March 5, 2009

    @calj: That’s right, you haven’t seen low until you’ve been to healingdownloads.com. You need to register to see most of it, but you can hear the creator describe it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIlKF8vTK6Y. As well as AIDS, the site even intimates it can cure cancer, though not legally allowed to say it. He does this with homeopathy embedded in jazz sound files. We must get this man to a radio station, he can save the world!

  17. #17 Ben
    August 31, 2011

    re @George Nixon:
    Forget the radio station, we can save the world by throwing a few vials of poison into the Atlantic Ocean. At such a dilution, it’s bound to affect every sick person on Earth.

    I can’t over the fact that we are living in the information age, where there really is no excuse for ignorance – yet it’s epidemic! Google should have eradicated WOO like vaccines eradicated polio!!!
    ….At least it lets us into the minds of the Woo-nuts, that’s good for entertainment factor at least ….alas, if they didn’t bilk the sick, the weak, the infirm, it would actually be funny.

    I better shut up lest the Reiki racket emanate negative energy upon thee… First thing tomorrow morning I’m getting a white Eagle feather blessed by a Shaman (his woo is older and thus stronger), that should protect me for now.

    In other news, I’m feeling really tired, am going to take some tranquilizers (and drink a lake) so I can wake up…