Therapeutic Touch

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What is it?

Therapeutic touch is an alternative medicine approach to treating medical conditions, especially pain, anxiety, and stress. It was developed by Dolores Krieger, PhD, RN, in the 1970s. There is no standard training or licensing requirement for practitioners of therapeutic touch, although this technique is used most commonly by nurses.

Therapeutic touch is used for pain, cancer, osteoarthritis, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

It is effective?
Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

Possibly Effective for …

  • Anxiety. Most research shows that therapeutic touch can reduce anxiety in people with different types of anxiety. But patients in these studies knew they were receiving therapeutic touch. So it’s possible that the benefit is due to “the placebo effect.”
  • Pain. Therapeutic touch seems to reduce pain when compared with no touch in people with long term or short term pain. But patients in these studies knew they were receiving therapeutic touch. So it’s possible that the benefit is due to “the placebo effect.”
  • Stress. There is some evidence that therapeutic touch can help college students feel less stressed. Therapeutic touch also seems to reduce stress in children who have experienced a stressful event and in people that have faced a natural disaster. But patients in these studies knew that they were receiving therapeutic touch. So it’s possible that the benefit is due to “the placebo effect.”

Possibly Ineffective for …

  • Wound healing. Most evidence shows that therapeutic touch does not speed up wound healing.

Insufficient Evidence to Make a Determination for …

  • Burns. Early research shows that therapeutic touch seems to reduce anxiety, but not pain, in burn patients in the hospital.
  • Pain in people with cancer. There is some evidence that therapeutic touch might produce short-term pain relief in some patients with cancer. However, therapeutic touch does not seem to reduce the need for pain-killing medications.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. Developing research shows that therapeutic touch does not reduce symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Nausea and vomiting caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research shows that therapeutic touch might reduce nausea in women receiving drug treatment for breast cancer. But patients in these studies knew that they were receiving therapeutic touch. So it’s possible that the benefit is due to “the placebo effect.”
  • Diseases, such as Alzheimer disease, that interfere with thinking (dementia). Early research shows that therapeutic touch can improve behavior problems in some people with dementia. But patients in these studies knew that they were receiving therapeutic touch. So it’s possible that the benefit is due to “the placebo effect.”
  • Fibromyalgia. Early research shows that therapeutic touch might decrease pain and improve function in people with fibromyalgia. But patients in these studies knew that they were receiving therapeutic touch. So it’s possible that the benefit is due to “the placebo effect.”
  • HIV/AIDS. Early research shows that therapeutic touch does not improve coping ability or disease activity in people with HIV/AIDs.
  • Breast-feeding. Early research shows that therapeutic touch does not increase the flow of breastmilk in mothers feeding preterm infants.
  • Nerve pain. There is some evidence that therapeutic touch might decrease pain and improve feelings of well-being in people with pain related to spinal cord injury. But patients in these studies knew that they were receiving therapeutic touch. So it’s possible that the benefit is due to “the placebo effect.”
  • Osteoarthritis. Developing research shows that therapeutic touch can reduce pain in some people with osteoarthritis of the knee.
  • Pain after surgery. It is unclear if therapeutic touch reduces pain after surgery. Early research shows that therapeutic touch seems to reduce pain after some types of surgery, but not others.
  • Growth and development in premature infants. Early research shows that therapeutic touch might decrease anxiety, hospital stay, and complications in premature infants.
  • Quality of life. Research shows that therapeutic touch does not improve quality of life in people with colon cancer.
  • Anxiety before surgery.
  • Tension headache.
  • Colic.
  • Trauma.
  • Heart disease.
  • Pain.
  • Burns.
  • Swelling (inflammation).
  • Fever.
  • Ulcers.
  • Autism.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Asthma.
  • Stroke recovery.
  • Measles.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of therapeutic touch for these uses.

How does it work?
Practitioners of therapeutic touch believe that the world is an energy system. They think that they can heal medical conditions by manipulating a “human energy field” that hovers just above a person’s skin. Practitioners of therapeutic touch sense problems in a person’s energy field, and then use their hands to unblock areas of congested energy or restore the proper energy balance in a person.

There is no reliable scientific evidence to support these beliefs.

Is there concern for the safety of its use?
Therapeutic touch is LIKELY SAFE for most people.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Therapeutic touch is POSSIBLY SAFE when used during pregnancy and breast-feeding. There’s no reason to believe that it might be harmful.

Children: Therapeutic touch is POSSIBLY SAFE when used in children. There’s no reason to believe that it might be harmful.

Are there any drug interactions?
There are no known interactions with medications. Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

Are there any interactions with herbs and supplements?
There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Are there any interactions with food?
There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?
Therapeutic touch involves three steps. The first step is called “centering.” In this phase, the therapeutic touch practitioner focuses or meditates on the intent to treat the person. The second step is “assessment.” In this step, the practitioner moves his or her hands over the person’s body. The hands never touch the body, but they are kept within a few centimeters of the surface of the skin. This step helps the practitioner sense problems in the energy field. The third and final step is “intervention.” During this phase the practitioner moves his or her hands over the person’s body, without touching the body, to unblock areas of congested energy or restore the proper energy balance in the person.

By what other names is the product known?
Energy Healing, Energy Medicine, Energy Work, Médecine Énergétique, Toque Terapéutico, Touch Therapy, Toucher Thérapeutique, Toucher Guérisseur, TT.

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