NOTE: THESE SUMMARIES ARE OF HISTORICAL INTEREST ONLY AS THE REFERENCED COCHRANE REVIEWS ARE NOW OUTDATED
Complementary, supplemental and non-medical therapies for wound healing: Four trialsTHERAPEUTIC TOUCH FOR HEALING ACUTE WOUNDS
Therapeutic touch is a nursing therapy first developed in the 1970s by Dora Kunz, a lay healer, and Dolores Krieger, then a nursing professor at New York University. The therapy involves using the hands to find and correct imbalances in 'life energy' or chi. Practitioners enter a meditative state to centre before passing their hands above a patient's body'. The patients are encouraged to relax while sitting or lying and remain clothed. Physical contact is not necessary although it is sometimes incorporated. Therapeutic touch as a treatment modality has increased in popularity over the past two decades. It is considered to be most effective in reducing anxiety, relieving pain, and promoting healing.
What the synthesised research says
There is no clear benefit of therapeutic touch for healing acute wounds. The evidence was variable in that two trials reported benefit with therapeutic touch and two did not (the control group appeared to do better).
All trials used people undergoing a biopsy from healthy skin and the findings may not be generalisable to other wound types.
How it was tested
The researchers made a thorough search of the medical literature and found four trials in people with experimental wounds. All trials were led by the same triallist, between 1990 and 1996. They involved a total of 121 participants who all received experimental full thickness skin wounds on the shoulder at the top of the arm.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive therapeutic touch or sham therapy daily over 10 to 16 days. One trial also used other therapies including concurrent guided imagery, biofeedback, and visualization or Reiki, LeShan and intercessory prayer.
Side effects and general cautions
The therapy was only given for five minutes in these trials, which is shorter than the more usual 15 to 20 minutes. This meant that only the wound area was given attention whereas normally a person’s whole body (or energy field) would be assessed. One-way mirrors and video cameras were also used.
How participants were selected, varied a lot between trials.
O'Mathuna DP, Ashford RL. Therapeutic touch for healing acute wounds. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD002766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002766.