Are Energy Therapies Supported by Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trials? : A Systematic Review
Bleske-Rechek, April L.
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Therapeutic Touch and Healing Touch are complementary, energy-based treatments. They are based on the premises that (1) illness is a result of “a disruption of the flow of energy surrounding a person’s being” and (2) re-patterning the energy field facilitates health. During an energy intervention, practitioners hover their hands just above the patient’s body, purportedly adjusting and balancing the energy field via the flow of healing energy through their hands. Healing Touch and Therapeutic Touch are promoted in the nursing curriculum at UWEC and at hundreds of universities nationwide. Proponents of these interventions claim myriad benefits, such as pain relief, accelerated wound healing, reduced anxiety, and improved immune system functioning. However, peer-reviewed, controlled studies have shown that human energy fields are not systematically measurable or detectable, even by trained energy therapy practitioners. Further, multiple previous reviews of the studies that have examined these practices have concluded that the research claiming to support the validity of these interventions is fraught with methodological errors, such as small sample size, lack of appropriate placebo control, and subjective rather than objective outcome measures. We conducted a review of recently published papers (2010-2016) to determine if the quality of the research has improved, and if high-quality studies support the efficacy of Therapeutic Touch and Healing Touch.