Healing Touch Annotated Bib Bardia A et al  Essay

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Healing Touch Annotated Bib

Bardia, A., et.al. (2006). Efficacy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies in Relieving Cancer Pain: A Systematic Review. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 24 (34): 457-64.

Anecdotal evidence abounds regarding the use of complementary and alternative medicine therapies when dealing with issues of pain. One of the clear issues is that there is a lack of rigorous and well-developed scholarly literature on the subject. In this study, 18 trials were reviewed totaling 1,499 patients. Seven trials reported significant benefits using CAM, seven reported intermediate or short-term benefits, and four studies reported no benefits. The researchers conclude that there are a number of variables and a number of types of CAM, all which require more methodologically sound studies in order to determine actual efficacy of individual interventions.

Jones, T., Glover, L. (2012). Exploring the Psychological Processes Underlying Touch:

Lessons From the Alexander Technique. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. EPub: doi 10.1002/cpp.1824.

Any behavioral psychologist knows that touch is extremely significant for human beings. It does, however, cause controversy at times, even with the physical contact of such things as a hug during psychotherapy sessions. In this case, six individuals were interviewed who had received the Alexander Technique, and 111 completed surveys. The data suggests that there is incompatibility between touch and the spoken word, touch is far more believable and real to the receipient. While more research is necessary, it appears that there is a dichotomy between what we hear and what we experience through touch; and appropriate touch strengthens the relationship in almost any occasion.

Kelly, A., et.al. (2004). Therapeutic Touch, Quiet Time, and Dialogue: Perceptions of Women With Breast Cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum. 31 (3): 625-31.

In this study, three aspects of alternative therapy were used on women with breast cancer: therapeutic touch, controlled quiet time, and dialogue intervention. Eighteen women, all in the early stages of breast cancer, were interviewed at the completion of an experimental or control intervention that was administered at the women's home before and after breast cancer surgery. Content analysis showed that there were few differences between the control and experimental groups, although only participants who received the experimental interventions reported body sensations. A clear point was dependent upon the research nurse; most found their concern and empathy a measurable comfort.

Post-White, J., et.al. (2003). Therapeutic Massage and Healing Touch Improve Symptoms

In Cancer. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2 (4): 332-44.

This particular study used only Therapeutic Massage and Healing Touch in a randomized cross-over study on 230 subjects. MT and HT lowered blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate; Massage lowered anxiety and Healing touch lowered fatigue. Pain ratings were lower after MT and HT, even with less NASIDs. There were no effects on nausea. The study concluded that MT and HT are more effective in reducing pain, mood, and fatigue when used in conjunction with traditional therapies.

Rosa, L, et.al. (1998). A Close Look at Therapeutic Touch. Journal of the American Medical

Association. 279 (13): 1005-10

From the time of the shamans, healers have used therapeutic touch to treat a number of human ailments. The basic ideas is that using hands, a healer can manipulate a human energy field about the patient that aids in pain relief and healing. This study focused on 21 TT practitioners who had been using the technique for 1-27 years. The study used a double blind methodology to discover whether they TT healers could correctly identify which of their hands was closest to the investigator's hands. Placement was determined by a random coin flip, and 14 practitioners were tested 10 times, and 7 tested 20 times. Results showed that the correct identification almost mimicked random chance (44%), with no significant correlation between the experience of the p practitioner and the results. Until further evidence is uncovered, the researchers suggest that a failure to substantiate TTs basic claim is evidence that the practice is groundless.

Turner, J., et.al.(2008). The Effect of Therapeutic Touch on Pain and Anxiety in Burn

Victims. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 28 (1): 10-20

The authors of this study wondered whether TT was a sham or could actually produce a lessening of pain in a targeted population. The specific test for burn patients was an alteration of anxiety and plasma T-lymphocyte concentrations. The subjects were 99 men and women between the ages of 15 and 68, all hospitalized for severe burns. They either received legitimate TT or sham TT once a date for 5 days. Baseline data was collected on day 1, new data before and after Day 3 treatment, and post-intervention on day 6. Researchers used questionnaires and quantitatie analysis of blood drawn on days 1 and 6. Any medications used for pain were recorded. Patients receiving legitimate TT reported significantly greater reduction in pain and anxiety as well as a decrease in lymphocyte concentration. This tends to validate the idea of using TT in a medical setting.

Umbreit, A. (2000). Healing Touch: Applications in the Acute Care Setting. Advanced Critical Care. 11 (1): 105-19

Nursing theory is both carative and pushing towards increased advocacy for the patient. Healing Touch is controversial, but the idea of touch within a nursing environment is quite common. Nursing, however, are beginning to use HT to assist in pain management, to promote relaxation, to accelerate wound healing, and to diminish depression. This article posits that HT works, perhaps due to patient belief, perhaps to do simple empathy; and reviews specific techniques designed to help the modern nurse in the day-to-day practice.

Wardell, D., and Weymouth, K. (2004). Review of Studies of Healing Touch. Journal of Nursing Scholarship. 36 (2): 147-54.

This is a comprehensive literature review of conference proceedings, theses and dissertations and academic publications on the practice of healing touch for the contemporary nurse. Over 30 studies have been conducted no generalizable results were found, requiring that there be far more future research of a rigorous nature to accept or deny the use of this form of complimentary medicine in the modern medical paradigm.

Wardell, D., et.al. (2006). A Pilot Study of Healing Touch and Progressive Relaxation for Chronic Neuropathic Pain in Persons with Spinal Cord Injuries.

In this case, using HT as an energy based therapy, 12 veterans had either HT or guided relaxation for six weekly home visits. After 6 weeks the data showed that HT was more effective for pain and mood, as well as increased well-being. Patients did report positive experiences with HT, indicating that it may benefit complex pain.

Wilkinson, D., et.al. (2002). The Clinical Effectiveness of Healing Touch. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 8 (1): 33-47.

The objectives of this study were to determine the clinical effectiveness of HT of related variables that increased health as well as whether the practitioner's level of experience and training had any effect. Twenty-Two clients were engaged with a mixed method study (secretory immunoglobulin concentration, stress levels, and perceptions of health). Clients of practitioners with more training experienced significantly positive SigA change over time with clients reporting a statistically significant reduction of stress. Pain relief was reported by 55% of the patients, suggesting the data does support the clinical effectiveness of HT for lowering stress and relieving pain. Of course, the evidence also indicates that a client's belief system and expectations also plays into the equation.



Date (year)

Research Type



Outcome measures

Pertinent data from results

Suggested Conclusions

Bardia, A., et.al.

Journal of Clinical Oncology


Review of randomized trials


Does MT or TT alleviate pain in cancer patients?

Short-term results are promising

Lack of enough data makes it difficult to recommend widely

Jones, T., et.al.

Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy


Qualitative Interview

Relationships between touch and verbal cues

Touch and verbal signals are powerful ways to increase the therapeutic relationship

Use of techniques like the Alexander…

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