Reiki is a form of complementary therapy that was developed in Japan in the 1920s. The word itself is Japanese and means 'universal life force energy'. People with multiple sclerosis may decide to use this energy healing therapy alongside more conventional treatments. Several MS Therapy Centres offer reiki sessions.

The principle of treatment with reiki is that a trained practitioner can alter the energy flows through the body by placing his/her hands in a series of positions, on or over the body. Each position may be held for several minutes and the process can last up to an hour and a half. The whole body is treated rather than a specific symptom. This concept of energy flowing through the body is also the basis for other therapies such as acupuncture and Tai Chi.

Although there is no research evidence supporting the use of reiki in multiple sclerosis, it is used by people with MS to help improve various MS related symptoms. In cancer, patient surveys suggest that for some people it can improve anxiety, mood, sleepfatigue and pain.

Research evidence

Recent studies have examined the impact of reiki on a range of symptoms including pain, stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue with mixed results. In cancer patients, research suggests that reiki is particularly effective at reducing pain and decreasing levels of anxiety and fatigue. It has also been found to improve wellbeing and mood during chemotherapy treatment. However, research has shown that results can vary considerably between people, with little more than half of the cancer patients who took part in one study finding any benefit from reiki treatment.

Other research has found that reiki combined with massage reduced levels of stress by 33% and anxiety by 21%. Another study which looked at the impact of reiki on depression concluded that symptoms decreased but were not alleviated completely, leaving participants with a milder form of depression. 

Overall, larger and more rigorous studies including people with MS are required to determine the benefits of reiki on MS symptoms specifically.

Find out more

Marcus DA, et al.
Symptomatic improvement reported after receiving reiki at a cancer infusion center.
American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care 2013;30(2):216-217.
Summary (link is external)
Fleisher KA, et al.
Integrative reiki for cancer patients: a program evaluation.
Integrative Cancer Therapies 2014;13(1):62-67.
Summary (link is external)
Demir M, et al.
Effects of distant reiki on pain, anxiety and fatigue in oncology patients in Turkey: a pilot study.
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention 2015;16(12):4859-4862.
Full article (PDF, 347KB) (link is external)
Orsak G, et al.
The effects of reiki therapy and companionship on quality of life, mood, and symptom distress during chemotherapy.
Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine 2015;20(1):20-27.
Summary (link is external)
Charkhandeh M, et al.
The clinical effectiveness of cognitive behaviour therapy and an alternative medicine approach in reducing symptoms of depression in adolescents.
Psychiatry Research 2016;239:325-330.
Summary (link is external)
Kurebayashi LF, et al.
Massage and reiki used to reduce stress and anxiety: randomized clinical trial.
Latin American Journal of Nursing 2016;24:1-8.
Full article (link is external)
Rosenbaum MS, et al.
The effects of yoga, massage, and reiki on patient well-being at a cancer resource center.
Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing 2016;20(3):E77-E81.
Summary (link is external)
Siegel P, et al.
Reiki for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy in a Brazilian hospital: a pilot study.
Holistic Nursing Practice 2016;30(3):174-182.
Summary (link is external)
On this page