Article Text

The effect of distant reiki on pain in women after elective Caesarean section: a double-blinded randomised controlled trial
  1. Sondra vanderVaart1,2,
  2. Howard Berger3,
  3. Carolyn Tam2,4,
  4. Y Ingrid Goh1,2,
  5. Violette M G J Gijsen2,5,
  6. Saskia N de Wildt5,
  7. Anna Taddio2,
  8. Gideon Koren1,2,6
  1. 1Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, St Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5Department of Pediatric Surgery, Erasmus MC Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  6. 6Department of Medicine, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gideon Koren; gideon.koren{at}


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; 212.1±104.7 vs 223.1±117.8; 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 (74.3±8.1 bpm vs 79.8±7.9 bpm, p=0.003) and blood pressure (106.4±9.7 mm Hg vs 111.9±11.0 mm Hg, p=0.02) post surgery.

Conclusion Distant reiki had no significant effect on pain following an elective C-section.

Clinical Trial Registration Number ISRCTN79265996.

  • Pain
  • surgery
  • reiki
  • CAM
  • C-section
  • pain management
  • surgery
  • complementary medicine
  • obstetrics and gynaecology

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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Supplementary materials


  • To cite: vanderVaart S, Berger H, Tam C, et al. The effect of distant reiki on pain in women after elective Caesarean section: a double-blinded randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open 2011;1:e000021. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2010-000021

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests SvdV is a reiki practitioner.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the Review Ethics Board (REB) at St Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Ontario.

  • Contributors SvdV and GK conceived the study. SvdV, HB, VMGJG, SNdW, AT and GK designed the study. SvdV, CT, YIG and VNGJG acquired the data. SvdV and GK analysed the data. SvdV drafted the article. All authors interpreted the data, revised the article critically for important intellectual content and approved the final version. GK had full access to all the data in the study and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data available.