What Does the Research Say?
Since the Healing Touch program is relatively new, research on Healing Touch is still in its early stages. As of August 2008, there were 115 completed research studies on Healing Touch.
Both professional organizations, Healing Touch International and the Healing Touch Program, carry out active research programs. Their websites contain completed research projects and research in process. Research in other energy-based therapies like therapeutic touch have also increased understanding of some energy therapies in the areas of pain relief, anxiety, enhancing immune function, and accelerating wound healing.
What are some of the issues with the research?
Researching Healing Touch is challenging since the exact mechanism of action cannot be seen or easily explained.
In addition, researchers have often found it difficult to measure the effects of Healing Touch and to determine whether outcomes can be attributed solely to the Healing Touch techniques or to other factors. It is commonly assumed that the mere presence of the Healing Touch practitioner may have an affect on client outcomes.
What are some of the interesting results?
- Pain relief: Various studies show some pain relief with Healing Touch. In 1995, Slater studied twenty-three patients with pain from abdominal surgery. One group received two Healing Touch techniques and the other group simply had a nurse pay attention to them. Slater found that there was more pain relief with the Healing Touch techniques than from the nurse's attention alone.
Wardell published a pilot study in 2005 of twelve patients with chronic pain from a spinal cord injury. In weekly home visits, one group received Healing Touch and the other group got instructions in progressive relaxation. The study measured the pain level, mood, and satisfaction of both groups and found some reduction of the pain in the Healing Touch group and less fatigue. However, there was a wide difference among individuals.
- Reduction in fatigue, depression and anxiety: A 2001 study by Guerrerio, Slater, and Cook examined the effectiveness of Healing Touch in reducing fatigue from radiation therapy in sixty-two women with gynecological and breast cancers. The Healing Touch group had a greater reduction in fatigue than the control group, as well as more improvement of their depression, anxiety, and anger.
- Managing symptoms of cancer treatments: A 2003 study by Post-White, Kinney and others measured the effects of Healing Touch and therapeutic massage on cancer patients. They enrolled 230 patients with cancer who were receiving the identical repeating cycle of chemotherapy in a study. They found that Healing Touch and therapeutic massage are effective in reducing pain, anxiety, and fatigue and increasing relaxation. There was no significant effect on nausea.
- Stress reduction: In 2006, DuBrey studied the effects of Healing Touch on patients recovering from alcoholism. She randomly placed 148 patients admitted to a hospital for alcoholism into two groups, one of which received Healing Touch. The heart rate of patients receiving Healing Touch went down more and they were happier, more satisfied, and had a greater reduction in pain. There was also evidence that the Healing Touch group was less tense and upset.
- Wound and post-operative recovery: Zimmer, Meier, and Rolf (2009) reported on the effect of Healing Touch on children's pain and comfort in the postoperative period. This study reviewed the clinical records of 1,613 patients who received Healing Touch therapy. The study provided preliminary support for the use of healing touch therapy to decrease pain and increase comfort for children during the postoperative period.