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Using Healing Touch for Chronic Conditions

Healing Touch can be an effective complementary therapy that can help in the management of acute conditions (for example, pain after surgery or injury) as well as chronic conditions and diseases that can not be cured. In the management of these conditions traditional health care is supplemented or enhanced with the use of Healing Touch which works to help facilitate the bodies own natural pattern of defense and healing. A number of the other topics are included in this area as well and include calming anxiety and depression, decreasing pain, strengthening the immune system, enhancing recovery from surgery, supportive care for neck and back problems, cancer care, and creating a sense of well-being. In addition this section will also add wound healing, care for the elderly and those with dementia, and the use of Healing Touch during death and dying.

Wound healing can be affected by a variety of factors and at times may be delayed which creates significant problems. In a case study report by a nurse and wound care team they discuss the incorporation of Healing Touch therapy into their wound care program and present a case of a patient with an abdominal wound that did not heal with traditional medical care who progressed to complete healing once Healing Touch was added. An interesting view of wound healing is presented by Stouffer, an engineer, who describes scars as being similar to a battery that can send a tiny voltage throughout the body that produces pain (2). He uses Healing Touch to help neutralize the electrical properties of scar tissue in order to facilitate clients' healing.

A number of studies have looked at the use of Healing Touch with the elderly. One study was aimed at teaching elders how to use Healing Touch with other elders (3). The findings supported the feasibility of using instruction in touch therapy as a means of enhancing quality of life and interpersonal connectedness among the elderly. Healing Touch may be an effective assistive strategy for this elderly population to help sustain activity and benefits in the future. The elders reported that the project provided an opportunity to help others, get self-healing, overcome aversion to touching, understand where healing comes from, as a way to glorify God, be with like minded people, and learn something new (4). The personal experiences most meaningful for the elders were the group experiences, along with the effect on recipient and self.

Healing Touch was able to significantly lower agitation levels in those with dementia in a VA setting (5). Psychotropic medication use was also noted to have decreased during the study and participants verbalized the calming effects that the HT interventions provided them. Behavioral scores were also improved in another small study in those with late stages of Alzheimer Disease (6). In other studies in institutionalized individuals it was noted that after receiving Healing Touch there was an improvement in pain and improvement in functional ability (7, 8). Elderly home care clients also benefited from Healing Touch sessions (9).

The dying process can be one that exerts significant emotional pain on the person and or family members. Although studies are limited in this area, those providing Healing Touch in a hospice environment report that it is successful for a variety of problems and concerns (10). In another report (11), patients receiving treatment expressed satisfaction with the Healing Touch sessions with relief of constipation, reduction in leg swelling, and pain. The providers reported that the participants appeared relaxed during and after treatment, often falling asleep.

Families and staff on the unit often reported positive views regarding Healing Touch. In one research study using Healing Touch with those in the dying process, those receiving Healing Touch showed improvement in interpersonal, well-being, and function scores as compared to worsening conditions among those receiving standard hospice care. One participant reported: "I was really surprised at how I looked at it. I was very unsure when I started it. I was very surprised at how I seemed to embrace it when I didn't think I probably would. I don't know why the things are the way they are or why I feel the way I do about it because I was really very skeptical about it. If anybody else can be as relaxed for a couple of hours then it is worth it, even for a couple of hours it's wonderful to be relaxed. It lasts longer than that-probably for 2-4 hours. Actually, it goes on-it just doesn't stop. The next day even or the next day." p. 149.

Below are citations of studies mentioned above.

  1. Lafferty, J. & Neizgoda, J. 2007 Clinical Symposium: Journey to self-healing through Healing Touch. The Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Milwaukee, WI. Retrieved from http//
  2. Stouffer, D. (1998). A Healing Touch approach to scar integration. Healing Touch Newsletter, 8(3), p. 6.
  3. Collinge, W. (July, 2006). Promoting Healthy Aging through "Elder-Healer training: The Elder-Healer Project". Phase 1 Report. National Institute on Aging. SBIR Grant #1R43AG24016-01.
  4. Weaver, S. (May, 2006). The Elder-Healer Project. Qualitative Analysis: Pre and Post Focus Group Findings. Unpublished report.
  5. Wang, K., & Hermann, C. (2006). Pilot study to test the effectiveness of Healing Touch on agitation levels in people with dementia. Geriatric Nursing, 27(1), 34-40.
  6. Ostuni, MA & Santo Pietro, MJ. (2006). Effects of Healing Touch on nursing home residents in later stages of Alzheimer Disease. [Abstact]. In D. Wardell (Ed.) In Wardell, D. (Ed.), Healing Touch International Research Survey, pp.31-32. Lakewood CO: Healing Touch International, Inc.
  7. Peck, S. (2007). Aftermath of the unexpected, unexplained and abrupt termination of Healing Touch and extrapolation of related costs. Complementary Health Review, 12(144)144-160.
  8. Forbes, M.A., Gelhaart, C., & Schmid, M.M. (2006). The Effect of Healing Touch on Pain and Mood in Institutionalized Elders. Unpublished manuscript.
  9. Forsman, S. (2006) The Healing Touch Experience in Elderly Home Care Clients [Abstract]. In D. Wardell (Ed.) In Wardell, D. (Ed.), Healing Touch International Research Survey, p.31. Lakewood CO: Healing Touch International, Inc.
  10. Freese, J. (2003). Healing Touch in the hospice environment. Healing Touch Newsletter. 3(4), p. 6-7.
  11. Kelley, M., Sparks, T. & Jones, J. (2006). The introduction of Healing Touch into a Hospice Unit [Abstract]. In Wardell, D. (Ed.), Healing Touch International Research Survey, p. 28. Lakewood CO: Healing Touch International, Inc. Ziembroski J, Gilbert, N., Bossarte, R., Guldberg, G. (2003). Healing Touch and Hospice Care: Examining outcomes at the end of life. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. 9(3), p.146-151.

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