Therapeutic touch
Delores Krieger, RN, PhD, and Dora Kunz, a natural healer, developed Therapeutic Touch (TT) in the early 1970s. TT is an adaptation of several ...

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Theory

The way therapeutic touch may affect the body is unknown. It is theorized that TT affects patients through the connection of energy fields within and outside of the body. Energy is thought to stimulate internal mechanisms to treat physical symptoms. The autonomic nervous system is felt to be particularly sensitive to TT, followed by the lymphatic, circulatory, and musculoskeletal systems. Female endocrine disorders are believed to be more sensitive than those affecting males. Manic and catatonic patients have been reported to respond to Therapeutic Touch. Most scientific studies of TT have examined the effects on pain and anxiety.

A controversial study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 reported that a group of TT practitioners were unable to sense energy fields. The study was widely publicized and hailed as a landmark article, but has been criticized by some TT providers because it did not measure improvements in patient symptoms or patient satisfaction.

Evidence

DISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Pain: Therapeutic touch may reduce pain and improve joint mobility in people with osteoarthritis, decrease pain and anxiety caused by burns, and improve chronic muscle and joint pain in elderly patients. Preliminary research reports that patients treated with therapeutic touch may need less pain medication after surgery. However, most studies of therapeutic touch have not been well designed and therapeutic touch has not been clearly compared to common pain treatments such as pain-relieving drugs. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Grade: B

Psychiatric disorders (children): There is some evidence that therapeutic touch may reduce anxiety in children with life-threatening illnesses, reduce stress in teenagers with psychiatric disease, and help relax premature infants. More research is needed before therapeutic touch can become a standard treatment for psychiatric disorders in children.
Grade: B

Stress: There is some evidence that therapeutic touch may reduce anxiety in chemically dependent pregnant women, reduce stress and anxiety in the work place, and reduce stress in teen-agers with psychiatric disease. Further study is needed to show that therapeutic touch is an effective way to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Grade: B

Alzheimer's dementia: Studies suggest that therapeutic touch may reduce behavioral symptoms of dementia such as searching and wandering, tapping and banging, anxiety, agitation, and vocalization in people with dementia. Well-designed studies are needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Grade: C

Carpal tunnel syndrome: Therapeutic touch may provide limited benefit in carpal tunnel syndrome. More studies are needed to determine if therapeutic touch is an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Grade: C

Central nervous system disorders: There is some evidence that therapeutic touch may affect some properties of the central nervous system. However, further research is needed to examine whether therapeutic touch could have any effects on central nervous system disorders.
Grade: C

Depression: Therapeutic touch may offer some benefits when used with standard therapies to treat depression. More research is needed.
Grade: C

Diabetes: Therapeutic touch may not have any effects on blood sugar levels in diabetics. There is not enough evidence to recommend therapeutic touch as an effective treatment for diabetes.
Grade: C

Fibromyalgia: Preliminary research suggests that therapeutic touch may be an effective treatment option in relieving pain in patients with fibromyalgia. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Grade: C

Headache: Therapeutic touch may reduce pain in patients with tension headache. Further study is necessary in order to make a recommendation.
Grade: C

HIV/AIDS: There is currently not enough evidence that therapeutic touch can benefit immunity or emotional well-being in AIDS patients. More research is needed.
Grade: C

Hypertension (high blood pressure): Therapeutic touch has been suggested to relieve anxiety and stress, which may help to lower blood pressure. However, there is currently insufficient evidence that therapeutic touch is effective in treating hypertension. More research is needed.
Grade: C

Mastectomy adjunct: Therapeutic touch may affect physical and emotional outcomes in women who have had mastectomies. However, there is not enough evidence for or against using therapeutic touch in patients undergoing mastectomies.
Grade: C

Phantom limb pain: There is very little evidence that therapeutic touch can relieve phantom limb pain after amputation. More research is needed before therapeutic touch can be recommended as a treatment for phantom limb pain.
Grade: C

Well-being in cancer patients: Early research suggests that therapeutic touch may improve well-being in advanced cancer patients. Pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue have been reported as improved in patients receiving therapeutic massage and healing touch. More studies are necessary to confirm these results.
Grade: C

Wound healing: Although some studies report an improvement in wound healing with therapeutic touch, others show no benefits.
Grade: C

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