Reiki reduces pain in children who undergo Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is an intense therapy, used to treat some pediatric life-threatening diseases. Although HSCT has good clinical outcomes and can increase life expectancy, cancer patients undergoing stem cell transplants experience a high level of distress during the treatment phases. This distress includes several types of symptoms such as emotional distress and fatigue, but the pain is one of the most frequently reported symptom by patients who undergo transplantation. Pain is a symptom that requires careful consideration because it often involves the clinical and physiological experience of the individual, to find the appropriate and personalized control strategy for individual patients.

Although pharmacological strategies remain the most requested and effective interventions recommended by The World Health Organization, clinicians often seek alternatives to standard treatments that address the pain dimension as a whole. Some patients and caregivers are attracted to innovative and nonpharmacologic approaches that seems to reduce some symptoms with minimal risks and without interacting with other medications.

The use of selected complementary therapies, such as Reiki, represents a more integrative approach to pain relief. Complementary therapies support standard medical treatments proposing to alleviate some difficult conditions without involving additional side effects. Reiki is defined by the NCCIH as “a health practice in which practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above the person, with the goal of facilitating the person’s own healing response”. The care used during the therapy makes Reiki suitable even for very fragile patients such as pediatric patients in the hospital setting.


Recently a study called "The Power of Reiki: Feasibility and Efficacy of Reducing Pain in Children With Cancer Undergoing Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation" tested the feasibility and efficacy of Reiki to provide pain relief among pediatric patients.

They recruited nine children and adolescents aged 4 to 18 years receiving HSC. These patients didn't undergo other complementary therapies before admission to the transplantation unit or during the inpatient period. All data were collected and recorded using a single code for each patient. Patients were presented a sheet of paper with the pain scale and they were asked to mark pain score.

The results of this study provide preliminary evidence that the effectiveness of Reiki therapy sessions on the pain of children was different at each considered time point. The Reiki sessions were effective in the short-term relief, decreasing the severity of pain. In the medium-term, Reiki sessions were able to influence the pain progress, maintaining the same level of pain reduced after the Reiki session until the day after. Furthermore, these findings provide evidence that trained pediatric oncology nurses can insert Reiki into their clinical practice as a valid instrument for diminishing suffering from cancer in childhood.

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