Jain & Mills (2010)

Jain and Mills (2010) looked at 66 studies on various types of biofield therapies that included Reiki and therapeutic touch. Their findings covered additional outcomes including pain-related conditions; cancer patient pain, fatigue and quality of life; postoperative patients in and out of hospital; dementia sufferers; and, cardiovascular issues.

Outcomes for “pain-related disorders” “suggest strong (level 1) evidence for biofield therapies to provide reductions in pain intensity” (p. 9). “Positive findings from a few high-quality RCTs suggest that biofield interventions positively impact health-related quality of life domains such as physical functioning” (p. 9).

Outcomes for “cancer patients” demonstrated “moderate (level 2) evidence for positive effects on acute cancer pain. To date, there is conflicting (level 4) evidence for longer term pain, cancer-related fatigue, quality of life, and physiologic indicators of the relaxation response. Of note is the relative dearth of total studies in this area compared to the high utilization of this and other complementary and alternative medicine modalities by cancer patients” (p. 10). Interesting to understand that cancer patients utilize complementary therapies, including biofield/energetics. I wonder what the mix of men and women is within the group who uses this as a complementary therapy.

For outcomes with post-operative patients “studies suggest that for hospitalized patients, there is moderate (level 2) evidence for biofield therapies to reduce anxiety (as indexed by results from high-quality RCT of Turner et al. [45], also supplemented by the results from a lower quality RCT of Vitale and O’Connor [44]). Regarding pain in hospitalized patients, there is moderate (level 2) evidence for acute reductions in rated pain as indexed by high-quality RCT of Turner [45] in burn patients, supplemented with the study of Vitale and O’Connor [44] on the results with postoperative surgery patients. Results from two high-quality studies [43, 45], both with placebo controls, suggest conflicting (level 4) evidence on the efficacy of biofield therapies for reducing pain medication usage (notably, the populations were different—with Meehan studying postoperative pain and Turner et al. studying burn patients). There is insufficient evidence for depression, as well as functional or autonomic outcomes for hospitalized patients” (p. 11). From this I do not fully understand how these outcomes relate to the limitations of the studies involved, including length of the study, frequency of sessions, and, length of individual sessions. Link any form of treatment (conventional or otherwise) one cannot expect immediate results as healing can take time. However, I find the results very interesting, especially around burn patients as the pain from a burn is significant.

With dementia patients “while data for the effects of biofield therapies for reducing negative behavioral symptoms in dementia is quite limited, there is moderate evidence (level 2) that suggests this to be a promising and important area for additional research. Findings reported here are also corroborated by a recent case study series report [50] that suggests biofield therapies to be helpful in reducing negative symptoms in dementia while also being well tolerated by participants” (p. 11). This is very heartening research. It is difficult to watch those we love slip away from us with this condition, and equally difficult to witness their confusion and suffering.

And finally, for cardiovascular patients “while data is particularly limited in this area, results from the high-quality studies of Quinn [51, 52] and Seskevich et al. [53] suggest conflicting (level 4) evidence for biofield therapies to reduce anxiety acutely for cardiovascular patients. High-quality studies of Quinn [52] and Beutler et al. [54] that examined blood pressure suggest there is little evidence for biofield therapies in reducing systolic blood pressure. There is conflicting (level 4) evidence that biofield therapies may reduce diastolic blood pressure compared to no treatment for cardiovascular patients, but more studies examining this outcome in cardiovascular patients are needed. Given that other studies with healthy populations have noted positive outcomes for biofield therapies on cardiovascular indices associated with the relaxation response (i.e., [55, 56]), further examination of biofield therapies’ effects on cardiovascular indices seems warranted” (p.12). This finding is not surprising. Cardiovascular conditions can be very chronic, and it is unlikely that a few sessions will reverse years of damage. The most promising outcomes for these patients lie in anxiety reduction.


Jain, S., & Mills, P.J. (2010). Biofield Therapies: Helpful or Full of Hype? A Best Evidence Synthesis. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 17 (1), 1-16. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-009-9062-4