Touch Therapy

Alternative remedies

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What is it? An "energy therapy" that is said to rebalance the body's qi, or energy flow, to relieve stress and discomfort. The practitioner moves her hands around or on the patient's body to evaluate his energy field and then smooths out imbalances with further hand motions ("healing touch") or actual touching ("therapeutic touch").

Supporters say: Touch therapy has an undisputed healing role. In a 2003 study, for example, healing touch lowered pain, blood pressure, fatigue, and emotional problems in cancer patients getting chemotherapy.

Critics say: Benefits may be attributable to the effects of relaxation, and the basic premise is dubious. In an experiment described in 1998 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 21 practitioners failed a test to see if they could consistently detect the energy field of an investigator's hand positioned over one of their own.

Risks: Minimal—a few reports of headaches, crying, anxiety, dizziness, and nausea.