Throughout history, energy-based healing practices have been widespread across many cultures. These practices are based upon the idea that each person has an energy field that is necessary for survival; a healthy person will have a balanced energy field that allows for optimal energy flow, while an imbalance may result in negative physical or psychological symptoms.
Although the study of energy-based healing practices, also known as biofield therapies, is limited, the Massage Therapy Foundation conducted a study at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville of the biofield therapy “Healing Touch.” Healing Touch is a hand-meditated therapy involving the practitioner using their hands on or above the client’s body to restore, energize, and balance the energy field. Healing Touch focuses on overall health and wellness, and can be customized to alleviate specific conditions.
The benefits of Healing Touch can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain, while increasing relaxation and well-being.
The clinical trials aimed to test the reports of these benefits and examine the effectiveness of Healing Touch as supportive care for medical conditions. Electronic databases were searched for relevant peer-reviewed articles about Healing Touch. Five articles were selected for this study. Each article involved studies which used random assignment to the treatment condition.
The five studies involved the use of imagery, stress-relaxation therapy, prayer, therapeutic massage, Healing Touch, and mock Healing Touch. The participants were both men and women between the ages of 50-65 in sample sizes that ranged from 62 to 237 people. The studies included a variety of treatment conditions, such as cancer, coronary artery bypass surgery, or surgery to enlarge coronary arteries blocked by plaque.
Four of the five studies showed significant findings – two of the studies showed participants had a large increase in overall functioning (physical and emotional), satisfaction, mental health, and decreased anxiety levels after Healing Touch. A third study showed great improvements in heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, pain levels, and mood after receiving Healing Touch. The fourth study showed that recipients of Healing Touch had a significant decrease in anxiety and the length of their hospital stay. The fifth study had no significant results with Healing Touch alone.
Despite the findings, the effects of Healing Touch remain unclear. Biofield therapy research has only begun, and can be improved in many areas, such as protocol and detail. The results, though uncertain, are promising for the effectiveness and therapeutic capabilities of Healing Touch.