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Therapeutic Touch


Topic Overview

What is therapeutic touch?

Therapeutic touch is a technique to help people relax, relieve their pain, and help them heal faster. It is sometimes called a "laying on of hands" and is based on ancient healing practices.

Therapeutic touch is thought to promote healing through balance in the body. A practitioner will pass his or her hands 2 to 4 inches over the body from head to toe to feel for energy that is out of balance. It can show up as sensations such as heat or cold, tingling or pulsing, or tightness. Even though the technique is called therapeutic touch, the practitioner does not actually touch you.

Why is therapeutic touch used?

People use therapeutic touch to reduce pain, ease tense muscles, speed healing, and improve sleep. It is sometimes used to help people who have pain or discomfort from cancer or other diseases. The technique does not treat cancer or any other disease. But there is some evidence that it may reduce stress or improve well-being in people who have cancer. Research on therapeutic touch is ongoing.

Some nursing schools in the United States teach the technique. It may be used in certain medical settings—for example, before and after surgery—to help comfort people.

Is therapeutic touch safe?

You can safely use therapeutic touch along with conventional medical treatments. But it is not considered appropriate or safe for serious, life-threatening situations or to replace other proven treatments that are known to help with a disease. There is no known risk in adding therapeutic touch to your medical treatment.

No studies have proved that therapeutic touch works for treating any type of disease. But some health professionals think it may be useful in helping with stress and anxiety. Some people who receive therapeutic touch say they have a refreshed spirit, heal faster, and feel better.

Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about adding one to your regular medical treatment. It may not be safe to replace your medical treatment with an alternative therapy.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Coughlin P, Micozzi MS (2002). Principles and Practice of Manual Therapeutics, 1st ed., pp. 184–197. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

  • Freeman L (2009). Therapeutic touch: Healing with energy. In L Freeman, ed., Mosby’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Research-Based Approach, 3rd ed., pp. 519–532. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

  • Spencer JW, Jacobs JJ, eds. (2003) Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach. St. Louis: Mosby.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMarc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Last RevisedJune 29, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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