Many so-called “alternative medicine” techniques such as Reiki and acupuncture produce very good outcomes for intractable pain and other chronic illnesses but the efficacy is often dismissed as being psychosomatic. However a plausible mechanism does exist i.e. that the treatments alter the electromagnetic fields in living organisms and thereby prevent or reduce activity of neurons which lead to the pain. Low doses of ionising radiation have similar effects on electromagnetic fields and are known to induce signaling cascades in tissues due to ion gradients. To test this hypothesis cell cultures were exposed to Reiki - like and to acupuncture - like treatments, both performed by qualified practitioners. The cells were exposed either before or after the treatment to x-rays and were monitored for production of direct damage or bystander signals. The data suggest that the alternative techniques altered the response of cells to direct irradiation and altered bystander signal mechanisms. We conclude that alternative medicine techniques involving electromagnetic perturbations may modify the response of cells to ionizing radiation. In addition to the obvious implications for mechanistic studies of low dose effects, this could provide a novel target to exploit in radiation protection and in optimizing therapeutic gain during radiotherapy.