Anxiety (Panic)/DepressionCochrane LibraryReiki/Touch

The physiological response to touch therapy. Does it matter?

The results from this study at the Department of Nursing of the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg suggest, “healing touch treatment is associated with both physiological and psychological relaxation.”

First, the details.

  • 30 health adults participated in the study.
  • Physiological data were collected for 10 minutes before treatment, during 30 minutes of healing touch, and for 10 minutes following treatment.

And, the results.

  • During healing touch, changes were observed for heart rate, blood pressure, skin conductance, and skin temperature.
  • Anxiety reportedly lessened as well.
  • One exception was muscle tension, which remained constant.

The bottom line?
This is not the first report of changes in physiological parameters with touch therapy. An earlier study from the School of Nursing at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston reported that Reiki was associated with a significant reduction in anxiety and systolic blood pressure, and an increase in IgA levels (an immunoglobulin that protects the body’s mucosal surfaces from infection).

This is all very interesting, but aside from anecdotal reports, does any of this have a measurable, reproducible, positive effect on disease or healing?

The answer is no.

Wound healing
A Cochrane Library review from 2003 concluded that, at least when it comes to healing of minor wounds, “there is no evidence that therapeutic touch promotes healing of acute wounds.” Actually, 2 studies showed an increased rate of healing, one reported a negative effect on healing, and a 4th found no effect of touch therapy on minor woundm healing.

Another Cochrane review found “no randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of therapeutic touch for anxiety disorders.”

A study in cancer pain that found no difference from placebo is summarized here. Another negative study in neuropathic pain is here.
A balanced review of touch therapy can be found here.

4/18/08 13:28 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.