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Healing Touch - Topic Overview

What is healing touch?

Healing touch influences a person's physical or emotional health without anyone physically touching the person. Healing touch is a common practice. Healing touch is related to spiritual or energy healing, therapeutic touch, and distant healing.

In the 1970s, nurses developed a specific form of healing touch called therapeutic touch to provide a more holistic (viewing the body and mind as a whole, not as individual components), compassionate approach to healing. Many nursing schools in the United States teach therapeutic touch, and it is often used in conventional medical settings (such as before and after surgery) to help comfort patients.

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Central to healing touch is the belief that a vital energy or life force flows freely through space and sustains all living organisms. In a healthy person, this energy is thought to flow in and out of the body in a balanced way. It is believed that illness results when the energy flow is out of balance.

Practitioners of healing touch use their hands in an attempt to change a person's energy flow and restore health. Healing touch does not require contact between the practitioner and the person during treatment. The practitioner moves his or her hands several inches above the person's body.

Like other complementary medicines, healing touch starts with the idea that people are naturally healthy. The way people live and think may disturb their natural energy, and they may become ill. The aim of healing touch is to focus (or channel) healing energy to restore natural health.

What is healing touch used for?

People use healing touch to help treat many diseases. Supporters of healing touch believe it is especially helpful for healing wounds, curing infections, and relieving pain and anxiety. Some research studies have shown that, like yoga and meditation, healing touch reduces anxiety and stress.

Little research has been done on the effects of healing touch, and it is a difficult form of therapy to study using traditional scientific techniques. But some studies on distant healing show benefits.

Is healing touch safe?

You can safely use healing touch along with conventional medical treatments. But it is not considered appropriate or safe for serious, life-threatening situations or to replace other proven treatments that are known to help with a disease. There is no known risk in adding healing touch or distant healing to your medical treatment.

Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 11, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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