1. Health

Benefits of Therapeutic Touch

By

Updated January 29, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Therapeutic Touch is a type of energy medicine (a class of alternative medicine that also includes reiki and acupuncture). In a typical Therapeutic Touch session, the practitioner places his or her hands over the patient's body (usually without making contact) and performs a series of techniques meant to re-balance the patient's energy. By improving the patient's energy flow, Therapeutic Touch is thought to stimulate healing and help treat a range of health conditions.

Uses for Therapeutic Touch

Proponents of Therapeutic Touch claim that the therapy can aid in treatment of the following health problems:

In many cases, Therapeutic Touch is used in combination with standard medical care. Practiced in hospitals across the United States, Therapeutic Touch is often performed by nurses.

Health Benefits of Therapeutic Touch

To date, there is limited scientific support for the health benefits of Therapeutic Touch. Here's a look at several findings from the available research:

1) Dementia

Therapeutic Touch may be of some benefit to people with dementia, according to a study published in 2009. The study involved 65 nursing-home residents with dementia, each of whom was assigned to one of three groups: The first group received Therapeutic Touch with contact on the neck and shoulders, delivered twice daily for 3 days; the second group received a sham version of Therapeutic Touch treatment; and the third group received routine care only. Analyzing their findings, researchers determined that Therapeutic Touch led to a greater reduction in restlessness (compared to the sham treatment and routine care).

2) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In a 2001 study of 21 people with carpal tunnel syndrome, researchers found that Therapeutic Touch was no more effective than placebo in treating the condition. Study participants underwent treatment with either Therapeutic Touch or a sham version of the therapy once weekly for six consecutive weeks.

3) Biopsy-Related Anxiety and Pain

For a 2007 study of 82 women undergoing biopsies for suspicious breast lesions, researchers assigned subjects to receive either Therapeutic Touch or a sham treatment (administered during the biopsy). Results showed that Therapeutic Touch was no more effective than the sham treatment in terms of its effects on discomfort or anxiety.

4) Osteoarthritis

Therapeutic Touch may help ease the pain of osteoarthritis, according to a small study published in 1998. For the study, researchers assigned 25 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee to treatment with Therapeutic Touch, sham Therapeutic Touch, or standard care. Compared to subjects who received the sham treatment or standard care, members of the Therapeutic Touch group experienced significantly greater decreases in pain and dysfunction.

Using Therapeutic Touch

Although Therapeutic Touch is generally considered safe, some individuals may experience certain side effects (such as restlessness and irritability) when undergoing the treatment. If you're considering the use of Therapeutic Touch for any health condition, make sure to consult your physician before beginning treatment.

Sources

American Cancer Society. "Therapeutic Touch".

Blankfield RP, Sulzmann C, Fradley LG, Tapolyai AA, Zyzanski SJ. "Therapeutic touch in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome." J Am Board Fam Pract. 2001 Sep-Oct;14(5):335-42.

Frank LS, Frank JL, March D, Makari-Judson G, Barham RB, Mertens WC. "Does therapeutic touch ease the discomfort or distress of patients undergoing stereotactic core breast biopsy? A randomized clinical trial." Pain Med. 2007 Jul-Aug;8(5):419-24.

Gordon A, Merenstein JH, D'Amico F, Hudgens D. "The effects of therapeutic touch on patients with osteoarthritis of the knee." J Fam Pract. 1998 Oct;47(4):271-7.

Winstead-Fry P, Kijek J. "An integrative review and meta-analysis of therapeutic touch research." Altern Ther Health Med. 1999 Nov;5(6):58-67.

Woods DL, Beck C, Sinha K. "The effect of therapeutic touch on behavioral symptoms and cortisol in persons with dementia." Forsch Komplementmed. 2009 Jun;16(3):181-9.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.