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Alternative Medicine: What is “Therapeutic Touch?”

separator Therapeutic touch, also called healing touch, is a complementary therapy that’s derived from an ancient healing technique called “laying-on-of-hands.” The theory behind therapeutic touch is that the body is surrounded by an energy field. If the energy field is out of balance, illness can result. Practitioners of healing touch don’t actually touch the patient. Instead, they place their hands over the patient’s body to assess the health of the patient’s energy field and to promote healing by balancing the energy.

A typical healing touch session lasts from 10 to 30 minutes. The patient lies down fully clothed. The practitioner places his or her hands over the patient, sensing for blockages of energy, and then directs healing energy from him or herself to the patient.

There are currently several studies being conducted to determine results of healing touch. Some previous findings from the last several years show:
  • 35 women who had cancer in England saw improvements in stress and relaxation, severe pain and discomfort and depression/anxiety. Those who had the most severe symptoms saw the greatest improvement. None of the women experienced adverse effects due to healing touch.
  • A study of 230 cancer patients who received healing touch and massage therapy showed that both therapies in combination lowered blood pressure, respiratory rate and heart rate, mood disturbance, and pain, and healing touch decreased fatigue.

The truth is that there hasn’t been a lot of research done on healing touch, but it seems to be soothing to many people. It’s not harmful, so if you’re going through cancer treatment and you have time and money to spend on something that may help you feel better, there’s no real reason why you shouldn’t give therapeutic touch a try. Your nurses or a nurse practitioner may be able to refer you to a practitioner of therapeutic touch, and if they don’t know someone, they should be able to suggest where, in your community, you will find one.

European Journal of Oncology Nursing, March 2004; Integrative Cancer Therapy, December 2003; The National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
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