Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2014 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health care professional before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Uses based on scientific evidence
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional.
There is some evidence to suggest that therapeutic touch (TT) may reduce anxiety and stress in adults with heart disease and mental illness. Some studies showed improvement in anxiety in healthy people. Other trials found that TT may lack benefit on pre-surgery anxiety in people with heart disease, and on pre- and post-surgery anxiety in people with breast cancer. However, the quality of these studies is questionable. Other research found that TT lacked benefit in reducing anxiety and pain in women undergoing procedures such as breast biopsy (removal of breast tissue). Further research on the usefulness of TT in anxiety disorders is needed.
Much research has been done on the use of energy therapies, including TT, for pain management. TT has demonstrated some benefits in reducing pain associated with surgery, burns, cancer, and arthritis. Although early evidence is promising, many studies on TT are of low quality. More high-quality research is needed to confirm findings.
Research has shown that TT may reduce stress response in children and adults. However, research in this area is inconsistent. Some studies found a lack of evidence of benefit that TT reduces anxiety in students. More high-quality studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of TT for stress.
Many complementary and alternative medicines have been studied for the management of arthritis. Early research suggests that TT may benefit people with arthritis by reducing pain and improving hand function. However, overall evidence is weak, particularly for osteoarthritis. More research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Early research found that TT was similar to placebo in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome in terms of muscle response, pain, and relaxation. More high-quality studies are needed before a conclusion can be made in this area.
Dementia / Alzheimer's disease
Studies suggest that TT may benefit people with dementia. TT may reduce screaming or shouting behaviors, anxiety, and aggression, as well as promote relaxation. Research has found that massage and touch may treat conditions such as agitation, anxiety, and depression in dementia. Although promising, further high-quality research is needed in this area before any firm conclusions can be made.
Early research evaluating the effects of TT in type 1 diabetes has found a lack of evidence of benefit. Further study is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Fibromyalgia (chronic body-wide pain)
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that affects joints, muscles, and tendons, and has no definite treatment. Complementary therapies, including TT, have been used to help relieve pain. Early evidence shows that TT may reduce pain and improve quality of life in people with fibromyalgia. Further study is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Early study suggests that TT may produce a medium effect on physical and mental outcomes in people with headache. Early research suggests that TT may reduce tension headache pain. More research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of TT for headaches.
High blood pressure
There is a lack of evidence to support the use of TT as a treatment for high blood pressure. Early research reviewed the effect of "laying on of hands" and found a decrease in blood pressure, which was attributed to the placebo effect of the study. Further study is needed before conclusions can be made for or against the use of TT in high blood pressure.
There is a lack of evidence to support the use of TT as a treatment for HIV/AIDS. More research is needed on the use of TT before conclusions can be made.
Increasing breast milk
TT has been suggested to promote the flow of breast milk. However, early evidence has lacked significant results. More research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Infant development / neonatal care
TT has shown benefit in premature babies. In hospitalized newborns, TT reduced post-birth complications and decreased the average length of stay in the hospital. TT-trained nurses have also reported lower heart rate, improvements in breathing, sucking, and swallowing, and increased ability to rest and engage with the environment. More high-quality research in this area is needed to confirm these early findings.
Mental disorders (children)
Early evidence suggests that TT may benefit children with mental disorders. Hospitalized adolescents were able to communicate better and feel relaxed after therapy. However, more high-quality research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
There is a lack of strong evidence to support the use of TT as an additional therapy with rehabilitation. Although early results are promising, more studies are necessary before any specific conclusions can be made.
Researchers suggest that energy-based techniques may help promote relaxation. Early study suggests that TT may promote relaxation in people in pain. High-quality studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Early research has found inconsistent results on the use of TT for people who have had surgery. Benefits have included reduced pain and cortisol (a marker of stress), although a lack of benefit has also been observed for complications and mortality. Further high-quality research is needed in this area before any firm conclusions can be made.
Well-being in cancer patients
Early research suggests that TT may benefit people with cancer in terms of reducing pain and anxiety, improving well-being, and reducing side effects of chemotherapy. However, available research is low in quality. Further study is needed before a firm conclusion can be made in this area.
Studies have found mixed results with respect to TT for wound healing. Some research suggests that TT may promote wound healing, while others found that TT lacked effect on healing. Further research is needed in this area.
*Key to grades:
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
For full grading rationale, click here.
Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional
Bone healing, burn healing, cancer, childbirth, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, epilepsy, grief, heart disease, menopause, movement disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, multiple sclerosis, muscle relaxation, palliative care (focuses on quality of life), Parkinson's disease, postpartum care (care after childbirth), sarcoidosis (chronic widespread inflammation), sinus infection, sleep quality, trauma, well-being, well-being during pregnancy.
Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Discover the different ways you can help
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)
Give hope to others in your situation