Healing touch uses gentle, intentional touch that contributes to balanced physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.

How can healing touch help me? What the research says

We summarize the clinical evidence for each medical benefit here. We begin with our assessment of the strength of evidence within each category, followed by a brief summary of individual studies or reviews of several studies. In assessing the strength of evidence, we consider the study design, number of participants, and the size of the treatment effect (how much outcomes changed with treatment).

Learn more about how we research and rate therapies.

Optimizing your body terrain

Does healing touch promote an environment within your body that is less supportive of cancer development, growth, or spread? We present the evidence.

Immune function

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of less decline in immune system function during chemotherapy among people with cervical cancer receiving healing touch

Managing side effects and promoting wellness

Is healing touch linked to fewer or less severe side effects or symptoms? Is it linked to less toxicity from cancer treatment? Does it support your quality of life or promote general well-being? We present the evidence.

Symptoms and side effects as a whole

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of better symptom control among with people with cancer in hospice receiving healing touch

Anxiety

Weak evidence of less anxiety among people with cancer or undergoing breast biopsy receiving healing touch

Depression or mood disturbance

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of less depression or mood disturbance among people with cancer receiving healing touch

Fatigue

Preliminary evidence of less fatigue among children with cancer and their parents and caregivers receiving healing touch

Pain

Preliminary evidence of less pain among children with cancer and their parents and caregivers receiving healing touch

Preliminary evidence of less pain during radiotherapy or chemotherapy among people with cancer receiving healing touch

Quality of life

No evidence of an effectoverall, one or more studies did not demonstrate that a treatment or intervention led to an expected outcome; this does not always mean that there is no effect in clinical practice, but that the studies may have been underpowered (too few participants) or poorly designed. Larger, well-designed studies provide more confidence in making assessments. on quality of life during chemotherapy or radiotherapy among people receiving healing touch in a small study

No evidence of an effect on quality of life among people with cancer in hospice receiving healing touch in a preliminary study

Stress

Preliminary evidence of less stress among people with cancer, including children, and also parents and caregivers of children with cancer receiving healing touch

Other symptoms and side effects

Preliminary evidence of better psychosocial measures and a shorter hospital length of stay among people undergoing stem cell transplant treated with healing touch

Healing touch in combination with other complementary therapies

Healing touch with massage, either with or without hypnosis

Preliminary evidence of lower blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate, and less mood disturbance, fatigue, and pain among people with cancer receiving therapeutic massage and healing touch

No evidence of a difference in re-hospitalization rates, treatment delays, and infection rates during chemotherapy among women with ovarian cancer treated with an intervention combining healing touch, hypnosis, and massage in a preliminary study

No evidence of a difference in use of antiemetic medications during chemotherapy among women with ovarian cancer treated with healing touch, hypnosis, and massage in a preliminary study

Symptoms and side effects not specific to cancer

Preliminary evidence of less anxiety among people undergoing surgery treated with healing touch

No evidence of an effect on use of antiemetica therapy effective against vomiting and nausea medication among people recovering from coronary artery bypass surgery treated with healing touch in a preliminary study

Modest evidencesignificant effects in at least three small but well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs), or one or more well-designed, mid-sized clinical studies of reasonably good quality (RCTs or observational studies), or several small studies aggregated into a meta-analysis (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of small improvements in well-being among people treated with healing touch

Preliminary evidence of less pain but not less use of pain medications among people recovering from surgery treated with healing touch

Preliminary evidence of shorter hospital stays among people recovering from coronary artery bypass surgery treated with HT

Resources

Clinical Trials

Enter a specific cancer or other condition in the Condition or Disease box, then enter Healing Touch in the Other Terms box.

Find a study

Keep reading about healing touch

Authors

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Last update: June 10, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

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