Early in my practice as an oncology clinical nurse specialist, I became interested in complementary approaches to cancer. I participated in Therapeutic Touch® (TT) training and certification at our hospital. Then I studied further with Dr. Dolores Krieger, the nursing co-founder of Therapeutic Touch®. Staff nurses began referring patients and family members to me. Recipients reported feeling calmer and more peaceful. Most reported sleeping better after a treatment. Many reported significant pain relief.
The Therapeutic Touch® International Association (TTIA) defines this energy therapy: “Therapeutic Touch® is a holistic, evidence-based therapy that incorporates the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and well-being."1
The association also describes Therapeutic Touch® as "a contemporary interpretation of several ancient healing practices…an intentionally directed process of energy exchange during which the practitioner uses the hands as a focus to facilitate the rebalancing of another’s energy field in support of healing."2
Clinical Practice Guidelines
2009 evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for integrative oncology conclude that therapies based on a philosophy of bioenergy fields are safe and may provide some benefit for reducing stress and enhancing quality of life. Only limited evidence is available regarding their efficacy for symptom management, including reducing pain and fatigue. The Society for Integrative Oncology gives a strong recommendation for these therapies:4
- For reducing anxiety: grade 1B (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence)
- For pain, fatigue, and other symptom management: grade 1C (strong recommendation, low or very low quality evidence)
Treating the Cancer
Working against cancer growth or spread, improving survival, or working with other treatments or therapies to improve their anticancer action
Lab and Animal Studies
In a lab study, results of a highly controlled single-blind in vitro randomized controlled trial of TT on human osteoblasts (HOB) and on an osteosarcoma-derived cell line (SaOs2) led researchers to observe that TT "appears to increase human osteoblast DNA synthesis, differentiation and mineralization, and decrease differentiation and mineralization in a human osteosarcoma-derived cell line" compared to controls. In other words, TT promoted bone formation in normal cells and decreased formation in bone-cancer cells.5
Early clinical research in TT shows moderate effect on anxiety, stress-related conditions, pain and wound healing.
Managing Side Effects and Promoting Wellness
Managing or relieving side effects or symptoms, reducing treatment toxicity, supporting quality of life or promoting general well-being
“Although some trials suggest that Therapeutic Touch® (TT) may reduce pain, fatigue and improve general well-being, the evidence is not consistent and all individual studies have methodological limitations.”6 In this context, early clinical research in TT shows moderate effect on anxiety, stress-related conditions, pain and wound healing.7
Based on the limited number of trials, it is not possible to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of Therapeutic Touch® for people with cancer.
Therapeutic Touch® poses no known safety concerns.
Written by Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, and reviewed by Nancy Hepp, MS; most recent update on January 15, 2019. Note: BCCT has not conducted an independent review of research of Therapeutic Touch®. This summary draws primarily from the CAM-Cancer summary and other sources as noted.
- CAM-Cancer: Therapeutic Touch
- Susan G. Komen: Therapeutic Touch
- Potter PJ. Energy therapies in advanced practice oncology: an evidence-informed practice approach. Journal of the Advanced Practitioner in Oncology, 2013 May-Jun; 4(3), 139–151.
- Find a practitioner: Therapeutic Touch® International Association: Qualified Practitioners
- Clinical Trials: Find a Study: enter a specific cancer or other condition in the Condition or Disease box, then enter Therapeutic Touch in the Other Terms box
- Michael Lerner: Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
- Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition