This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Therapeutic touch advocates believe that this therapy can reduce stress, promote relaxation, relieve pain, and stimulate healing. It is usually used as adjunct therapy to conventional medical treatment.
Studies have shown that the technique helps reduce anxiety in patients awaiting or recovering from surgery. At Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, patients may request therapeutic touch during or after an operation. A survey of 10 patients who were initially "extremely skeptical" of the technique found it to be "remarkably helpful."
A 1998 study, published in the Journal of Family Practice (http://www.jfponline.com/), showed that therapeutic touch significantly reduced pain and increased function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Another 1998 study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing showed that therapeutic touch reduced pain and anxiety in burn victims.
More controversial is a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998, which tested whether therapeutic touch practitioners could actually detect the human energy field. In the study, which was conceived, designed, and carried out by a 9-year-old student, researchers had 21 practitioners place their hands through a screen so that the practitioners couldn't see them. A researcher then held one of her hands over one of the practitioner's hands and asked the practitioner to tell which hand she was near, by feeling for the energy field of the hand. The practitioners chose the correct hand only 44% of the time, a result similar to that expected from random chance. Critics of therapeutic touch believe that this study shows the therapy's lack of validity. Some therapeutic touch advocates even question the worth of the study, believing that it was badly designed.