Friday, August 17, 2012

Can touch heal?

St. Luke’s Health Watch


By Mary Kay Hausladen Foley

Most people can appreciate the comfort of a hug in a moment of crisis or joy. Children in pain seek respite in their parents' arms. Human touch allows us to share comfort, joy and connection with one another. What role can touch play in healing?

Healing Touch is an energy-based approach to health and well-being. Practitioners use their hands above or on the body, using a gentle touch, with the intent of affecting the body's energy fields. Healing Touch complements conventional health care.

A number of research studies have found Healing Touch to be effective in reducing pain and anxiety levels and decreasing length of hospital stays, while increasing a sense of well-being, time between doses of pain medication, vitality and physical functioning.

The mechanism by which human touch promotes healing in the body continues to be debated. Donald Stouffer, Ph.D., professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, describes the effects of Healing Touch, based on the interaction of the practitioner's biomagnetic field with the biomagnetic field of the client.

St. Luke's Wood River implemented Healing Touch as part of its Integrative Therapies Program in 2009. Patient assessments measured the effect of Healing Touch on pain and tension, showing a decrease in pain by 50 percent and a decrease in tension by 70 percent. These results motivated initiation of a more formalized research project.

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A randomized clinical trial to study the effects of Healing Touch on adult post-operative outpatients was performed. Results from this study suggest that Healing Touch treatment was at least as effective as traditional nursing care for reducing pain and more effective in reducing anxiety. An incidental finding, though not statistically significant, was that the traditional nursing care group used more narcotics than the Healing Touch group. Given a larger sample size, statistical significance may have been achieved.

Subjectively, patients noted many benefits; "I felt like you took the weight off my shoulders." "It made a noticeable difference in my pain." "Treatment time was a nice respite from the hospital atmosphere and procedures." "Relaxing and nurturing, it felt healing."

While further research is needed to both confirm the effects of touch modalities, as well as to better understand their mechanism of action, hospital patients and staff continue to note clear benefits of the use of Healing Touch daily.

As one nurse notes, "In our world of hi-tech medicine, Healing Touch offers a return to true caring and compassion for our patients."

Mary Kay Hausladen Foley, a physical therapist and certified healing touch practitioner, is the coordinator of St. Luke's Wood River's Integrative Therapies Program.




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