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Therapeutic Touch — Clinical Studies

Alzheimer’s agitation
Hawranik P, Johnston P, Deatrich J. Therapeutic touch and agitation in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Western Journal of Nursing Research. 30(4):417-34, 2008.
Fifty-one residents of a long-term care facility with Alzheimer’s disease were randomly assigned to one of three intervention groups comparing the effectiveness of therapeutic touch, simulated therapeutic touch, and usual care on disruptive behavior. Three forms of disruptive behavior comprised the dependent variables: physical aggression, physical nonaggression, and verbal agitation. Physical nonaggressive behaviors decreased significantly in residents who received therapeutic touch compared with those who received the simulated version and the usual care. No significant differences in physically aggressive and verbally agitated behaviors were seen in the three study groups. The study provided preliminary evidence for the potential for therapeutic touch in dealing with agitated behaviors by people with dementia.

Wang KL, Hermann C. Pilot study to test the effectiveness of Healing Touch on agitation in people with dementia. Geriatric Nursing. 27(1):34-40, 2006.
A pilot study was conducted to investigate the effects of Healing Touch on agitation in persons with dementia. Results indicated that agitation levels were significantly lowered and that healing touch is worthy of further study.

Peck SD. “The efficacy of therapeutic touch for improving functional ability in elders with degenerative arthritis.” Nursing Science Quarterly. 11(3): 123-32, 1998.
Therapeutic touch (TT) was compared to routine treatment and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) in 82 elders with arthritis. They received six treatments at one-week intervals. Pain, tension, mood and satisfaction improved after both TT and progressive muscle relaxation. Hand function improved after TT while walking and bending improved after PMR.

Burn Patients
Busch M, Visser A, Eybrechts M, et al. The implementation and evaluation of therapeutic touch in burn patients: an instructive experience of conducting a scientific study within a non-academic nursing setting. Patient Education & Counseling. 89(3):439-46, 2012.
Thirty-eight burn patients received either TT or nursing presence. On admission, days 2, 5 and 10 of hospitalization, data were collected on anxiety for pain, salivary cortisol, and pain medication. Anxiety for pain was more reduced on day 10 in the TT-group. The TT-group was prescribed less morphine on day 1 and 2. On day 2 cortisol level before dressing changes was higher in the TT-group. Further research on TT for burn patients with pain, anxiety for pain, and cortisol levels as outcomes is warranted.

Cancer palliative care
Giasson M, Bouchard L. Effect of Therapeutic Touch on the well-being of persons with terminal cancer. Journal of Holistic Nursing. 16(3): 383-98, 1998.
Ten patients with terminal cancer received three therapeutic touch (TT) treatments while ten cancer patients in the control group participated in three rest periods. Well-being was measured pre-and post-intervention using a scale that measured pain, nausea, depression, anxiety, shortness of breath, activity, appetite, relaxation and inner peace. The results of the study indicated that TT treatments increased the sensation of well-being in persons with terminal cancer.

Critical Care
Cox C, Hayes J. “Physiologic and psychodynamic responses to the administration of therapeutic touch in critical care.” Intensive & Critical Care Nursing. 15(6): 363-8, 1999.
Physiologic and psychological responses were measured pre-, during and post-therapeutic touch sessions. No changes were noted in physiologic variables but significant correlations were found in terms of relaxation and sleep. This can be important in the critical care setting to assist patients’ ability to relax and sleep in a stressful environment.

Woods DL, Beck C, Sinha K. The effect of therapeutic touch on behavioral symptoms and cortisol in persons with dementia. Forschende Komplementarmedizin. 16(3):181-9, 2009.
Sixty-five participants were assigned to one of three groups. The experimental group received therapeutic touch with contact on the neck and shoulders twice daily for 3 days. The placebo group received a mimic treatment identical in appearance, and the control group received routine care. Restlessness was significantly reduced in the experimental group compared to the control group. There was a significant difference in morning cortisol variability among groups across time periods. Findings suggest that therapeutic touch may be effective for management of symptoms like restlessness coupled with stress reduction.

Woods DL, Craven RF, Whitney J. The effect of therapeutic touch on behavioral symptoms of persons with dementia. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine. 11(1):66-74, 2005.
Fifty-seven residents, aged 67 to 93 years, exhibiting behavioral symptoms of dementia, were randomized to one of the three groups therapeutic touch, placebo therapeutic touch or usual care. The intervention consisted of therapeutic touch given twice daily for 5-7 minutes for three days. Results indicated a significant difference in overall behavioral symptoms of dementia, manual manipulation and vocalization when the experimental group was compared to the placebo and control groups. Therapeutic touch was more effective in decreasing behavioral symptoms of dementia than usual care, while the placebo group indicated a decreasing trend in behavioral symptoms of dementia compared to usual care.

Drug addiction
Hagemaster J. Use of therapeutic touch in treatment of drug addictions. Holistic Nursing Practice. 14(3): 14-20, 2000.
This pilot study was undertaken to examine the efficacy of therapeutic touch (TT) in the treatment of people with alcohol or drug abuse. The study included three groups of alcohol and drug abusers over five months. Group 1 received TT, group 2 received Mimic TT and group 3 received no intervention. Preliminary findings indicate that the use of TT may be effective in prolonging periods of abstinence.

Denison B. Touch the pain away: new research on therapeutic touch and persons with fibromyalgia syndrome. Holist Nurs Pract. 18(3):142-51, May-Jun 2004.
This pilot study tested the effectiveness of 6 therapeutic touch treatments on the experience of pain and quality of life for persons with fibromyalgia syndrome. Results indicate that therapeutic touch may be an effective treatment for relieving pain and improving quality of life in persons with fibromyalgia syndrome.

Chronic Headaches
Sutherland EG, Ritenbaugh C, Kiley SJ, et al. An HMO-based prospective pilot study of energy medicine for chronic headaches: whole-person outcomes point to the need for new instrumentation. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. 15(8):819-26, 2009.
Thirteen participants received at least three Healing Touch sessions at approximately weekly intervals. Assessments were based on pre- and post-treatment qualitative interviews. Twelve of 13 participants experienced improvement in frequency, intensity, or duration of pain after three treatments. In addition, 11 of 13 participants experienced profound shifts in their view of themselves, their lives, and their potential for healing and transformation. These changes lasted from 24 hours to more than 6 months at follow-up.

Pain and anxiety in the elderly
Lin Y, Taylor AG. “Effects of therapeutic touch in reducing pain and anxiety in an elderly population.” Integrative Medicine. 1(4):155-62, 1998.
This study investigated the effectiveness of therapeutic touch (TT) in reducing chronic musculoskeletal pain and anxiety in an elderly population. Ninety-five participants were divided into three groups: those receiving TT, mimic touch (a placebo) and standard care. Participants in the TT group received a 20-minute TT session given at the same time on 3 consecutive days. Pain reduction and anxiety in the TT group was significantly reduced when compared with control groups as measured by self-reported rating scales. Salivary cortisol levels,however, showed little change.

Post-surgical pain
McCormack GL. Using non-contact therapeutic touch to manage post-surgical pain in the elderly. Occupational Therapy International. 16(1):44-56, 2009.
Ninety participants were randomly assigned to three groups (experimental, control and placebo). The experimental group received the non-contact touch intervention, the control group received routine care and the placebo group received the sound of a metronome set at a steady slow pace. In the experimental group, 22 out of 30 (73%) showed a statistically significant decrease in pain intensity scores from pre-test to post-test.

Post-surgery recovery
MacIntyre B, Hamilton J, Fricke T, et al. The efficacy of healing touch in coronary artery bypass surgery recovery: a randomized clinical trial. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine. 14(4):24-32, 2008.
Patients were randomized into 1 of 3 treatment groups: no intervention, partial intervention (visitors), and a Healing Touch group in 237 patients undergoing first-time elective coronary artery bypass surgery. This study consisted of 6 outcome measures: postoperative length of stay, incidence of postoperative atrial fibrillation, use of anti-emetic medication, amount of narcotic pain medication, functional status, and anxiety. Though no significant decrease in the use of pain medication, anti-emetic medication, or incidence of atrial fibrillation was observed, significant differences were seen in anxiety scores and length of stay. All healing touch patients showed a greater decrease in anxiety scores when compared to the visitor and control groups.

Premature Infants
Whitley JA. Rich BL. A double-blind randomized controlled pilot trial examining the safety and efficacy of therapeutic touch in premature infants. Advances in Neonatal Care. 8(6):315-33, 2008.
A pilot randomized, double-blind, controlled trial on two groups of 10 infants explored whether therapeutic touch (TT) reduces stress to a clinically important degree and is safe to use in preterm infants. Gestational age was less than 29 weeks. Each infant received either TT or no therapeutic touch for 5 minutes on 3 consecutive days at the same time of day, behind a curtain. Heart period variability (HPV) was measured 5 minutes before, during, and after the treatment phase. There were no increase in adverse events in TT group compared with the control group. Heart rate variability showed an increase for the therapeutic touch group compared with the control group.

Stress and anxiety
Maville JA, Bowen JE, Benham G. Effect of Healing Touch on stress perception and biological correlates. Holistic Nursing Practice. 22(2):103-10, 2008.
This study investigated the effect of Healing Touch on state/trait anxiety and physiological measures of heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, skin conductance, and skin temperature in 30 healthy adults. Physiological data were collected for 10 minutes before intervention, during 30 minutes of Healing Touch treatment, and for 10 minutes post-treatment. During the course of the treatment, changes were seen for all psychological and physiological measures, with the exception of muscle tension that remained constant. Results suggest that Healing Touch treatment is associated with both physiological and psychological relaxation. Further study is warranted to explore the efficacy of Healing Touch as an intervention for stress in healthy adults.

Lafreniere KD, Mutus B, Cameron S, et al. Effects of therapeutic touch on biochemical and mood indicators in women. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. 5(4): 367-70, 1999.
Forty one healthy female volunteers were randomly assigned to an experimental group that received therapeutic touch (TT) or a control group that did not over three consecutive monthly sessions. Results indicated significant reductions in tension, confusion and anxiety in the group that received TT and a significant increase in vigor across sessions as measured by pretest and post-test urine samples and personality and mood inventories.

Substance Abuse
Larden CN, Palmer ML, Janssen P. Efficacy of therapeutic touch in treating pregnant inpatients who have a chemical dependency. J Holist Nurs. 22(4):320-32, 2004.
Fifty-four English-speaking, hospitalized women were randomly assigned to receive either (a) daily Therapeutic Touch over a 7-day period for 20 minutes each day, (b) shared activity with a registered nurse for 20 minutes over a 7-day period, or (c) standard ward care. Results suggest that Therapeutic Touch is effective in reducing anxiety scores in patients on the first three days of treatment and that it may therefore be of value as an additional treatment of chemical dependency among pregnant women.


Content last modified on Jun 13, 2014