Reiki's effect on patients with total knee arthroplasty: A pilot study

Nursing. 2016 Feb;46(2):17-23. doi: 10.1097/01.NURSE.0000476246.16717.65.


Background: In the immediate postoperative period, managing postsurgical pain with pain medication can contribute to complications. A more effective approach might include a combination of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic measures, such as Reiki therapy.

Purpose: The purpose of this pilot study was to determine the impact of Reiki therapy on the pain perception of patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty (TKA) following Reiki sessions, satisfaction with Reiki therapy, satisfaction with the hospital experience overall, and pain medication use following surgery. WHAT IS REIKI?: Reiki is a technique for relaxation and stress reduction that also promotes healing.

Literature review: Reiki has been studied in women undergoing abdominal hysterectomies and in patients with cancer who were receiving chemotherapy. A review of 66 biofield therapy studies, including Reiki, suggested, "strong evidence for the effects of biofield therapy in the reduction of pain intensity in pain populations and moderate evidence for decreased pain in hospitalized patients."

Theoretical framework: Martha Rogers's Theory of Unitary Human Beings formed the framework for this study.

Methods: The sample included 43 patients undergoing TKA, who were randomized into Reiki (N = 23) and non-Reiki (N = 20) groups. All subjects in this pilot study had unilateral TKA at the same hospital. Pain was assessed before and after Reiki therapy using the numeric rating scale in the preoperative area, postanesthesia care unit (PACU), and on each of 3 postoperative days. A questionnaire was distributed the day of discharge to measure satisfaction with Reiki and the hospital experience.

Results: All Reiki therapy sessions resulted in statistically significant reductions in pain, except those sessions in the PACU. Subjects receiving Reiki responded positively to questionnaires completed on the day of discharge. No statistically significant differences were found in pain medication use.

Discussion: Reiki may be an effective component in the management of surgical patients' postoperative pain.

Limitations and implications: Subject numbers were limited due to the difficulty of meeting with the patients and obtaining informed consent. Due to the nature of Reiki therapy, the study was not blinded. Music played during Reiki therapy could have contributed to the effect experienced by the patients. Not all questionnaires were collected before patient discharge.

Recommendations for further studies: Future studies should include more subjects, control for music use during the Reiki session, and measure the length of time pain is decreased following Reiki treatments.

Unanticipated outcomes: As a result of positive feedback and decreased pain ratings following Reiki sessions, a Reiki program has been established at the hospital. Ten nurses became trained and certified in Reiki.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee*
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / psychology
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Therapeutic Touch / nursing*
  • Treatment Outcome