Reiki for the Management of Neuropathic Pain in Soldiers with Extremity Trauma


Name: Petra Goodman

Rank: COL(ret)

Organization: The Geneva Foundation

Performance Site: Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Year Published: 2012

Abstract Status:


The proposed study examines the efficacy of Reiki therapy [compared to a control condition, sham Reiki], on primary pain outcomes, pain intensity levels, perceptions of pain relief, and Patient Global Impression of Improvement (PGI-I) in a randomized, [double-blind, placebo-controlled] clinical trial with a sample of combat injured service members with major limb trauma experiencing neuropathic pain evaluated over a 4-week study period.  

The aims are to a) test the efficacy of a 2-week course of Reiki treatments on pain outcomes (present, average, and worst pain intensity levels and perceptions of pain relief) compared to sham Reiki interventions; b) examine the effects of a 2-week course of Reiki compared to sham Reiki intervention on the quality of sleep, pain interference, and character and quality of pain; and c) describe differences in patterns of responses to Reiki therapy and sham interventions for pain outcomes based on neuropathic pain type, the duration of pain, and the presence or absence of a diagnosis of PTSD. Results will be used to estimate the magnitude of treatment effects to design a larger clinical trial. 

The study is a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial using a repeated measures design with intention-to-treat involving exposure to one treatment (Reiki) for two weeks and a control group receiving sham interventions. Sixty participants will be randomized to either receive Reiki treatments (n=30) or sham interventions (n=30). All participants will receive usual standard care. Participants in the Reiki group will receive three 60-minute standardized treatments per week for two weeks. All participants will complete outcome measures (Brief Pain Inventory, Neuropathic Pain Scale, Patient Global Impression of Improvement Scale, Pittsburgh Quality of Sleep Scale, and McGill Pain Questionnaire-SF) at established times. Opioids and other analgesic requirements will be collected by research team members. For the first aim, repeated measures (RM) analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) will be used to detect between group and within-subject differences from baseline to the end of the 4-week study period. For the second and third aims, mixed effects modeling will examine within-subject variability over time and differences in trends for subgroups of participants.

Despite aggressive pain control with multimodal analgesia, service members still experience significant pain from their injuries. A growing number of nurses are administering Reiki as a nonpharmacological therapy to service members with positive anectodal outcomes. More scientific evidence is needed to support its use. If Reiki is effective in the treatment of neuropathic pain, this could have important implications for lessening analgesics and reducing adverse effects.