The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Therapeutic touch

Therapeutic touch

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 painful conditions including breast biopsy, cancer, nerve pain, osteoarthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. It is also used for stress, anxiety, dementia, colic, trauma, heart disease, burns, swelling (inflammation), fever, ulcers, autism, multiple sclerosis (MS), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), asthma, stroke recovery, measles, and many other conditions.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database 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.

The effectiveness ratings for THERAPEUTIC TOUCH are as follows:

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for…

  • Breast biopsy-associated anxiety and painResearch to date shows that therapeutic touch does not significantly reduce pain, discomfort, or fear in women undergoing breast biopsy.
  • Cancer pain. 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 suggests that therapeutic touch does not significantly ease symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Dementia. Early research shows that therapeutic touch can improve behavior problems in some people with dementia.
  • 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.
  • Osteoarthritis. Developing research suggests that therapeutic touch can reduce pain in some people with osteoarthritis of the knee. It also seems to improve the way the affected knee works.
  • Stress. There is some evidence that therapeutic touch can help college students feel less stressed.
  • Anxiety.
  • 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.

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.

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 attempts to move his or her hands over the person’s body in a way that unblocks areas of congested energy or otherwise restores the proper energy balance in the person.

There is no reliable scientific evidence to support these beliefs.

Therapeutic touch seems to be safe for most people. There are no known safety concerns.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of therapeutic touch during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

It is not known if this treatment interacts with any medicines.

Before using this treatment, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

There are no known interactions with foods.

The appropriate or safe use of therapeutic touch depends on several factors such as the condition being treated or the person administering the treatment. Be sure to seek and follow relevant directions from your physician or other healthcare professional before using this treatment.

Energy Healing, Energy Medicine, Energy Work, Healing Touch, Médecine Énergétique, Toque Terapéutico, Touch Therapy, Toucher Thérapeutique, Toucher Guérisseur, TT.


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For the latest comprehensive data on this and every other natural medicine, health professionals should consult the Professional Version of the Natural Medicines. It is fully referenced and updated daily.

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