What is it? One of many traditional Asian energy therapies based on rebalancing the life force known as qi after illness, surgery, stress, or other disruption. The therapist's hands are placed at each of 12 to 15 specified points for a few minutes to read and rechannel the patient's qi.
Supporters say: Reiki can treat pain and myriad other health conditions. In a small 2003 study, reiki plus standard pain drugs relieved pain and improved quality of life in one group of cancer patients more than drugs and rest did in another group. Other evidence indicates it may reduce symptoms of psychological distress.
Critics say: Reiki is soothing, which helps relieve stress and anxiety, but its ability to treat specific medical conditions is unsubstantiated. A 2002 study concluded that it didn't help stroke victims recover better or faster. Evidence that qi exists or works as described is absent.
Risks: Light touching seems completely innocuous.