Long before modern medicine cleaved mind from body, the power of touch was a mainstay of ancient healing practices, and practitioners held a reverence for the virtue of restorative touch, explained Starke, who trains nurses in Healing Touch techniques to help patients find relief from pain and myriad conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and Saginaw (Mich.) VA Medical Center.

Healing Touch is an energy therapy in which practitioners consciously use their hands in a heart-centered and intentional way to support and facilitate physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, said Cynthia Hutchison, RN, DNSc, HTCP/I, director of the Healing Touch program in Boulder, Col.

Treatment typically is administered while the client lies on a massage table with their clothes on. Practitioners use their hands to assess a person’s biofield and proceed to clear and balance it as needed using either off-body touch (near body, but no direct contact) or a gentle (still) touch over various areas of the body.

Not everyone can feel the energy, said Ann O’Malley, RN, from Warrenville, Ill., a former ED and labor and delivery nurse. I happen to be kinesthetic, but I explain it like this: Have you ever smashed your thumb? How big does the pain feel? Much larger than your physical thumb? I am able to feel heat and a prickly sensation around areas of pain above the body. Even if I can’t feel the energy field disruption, I can gauge where to begin clearing the biofield based on my client’s feedback.

O’Malley said pain is congested or stuck energy flow. Hands in motion is performed by passing my hands through their biofield above their body, so that I am re-establishing a flow or movement of energy that results in pain relief, she said.

During the last 20-plus years, Healing Touch has been gaining new traction and respect in hospitals, doctor’s offices and among medical practitioners as evidence of its curative powers grows and because there are no safety issues with this non-invasive procedure, Hutchison said. The Healing Touch program is a leader in energy medicine education, offering a multilevel international certification program to individuals from all walks of life. Hospitals are being motivated by patients looking for complements to traditional treatment, Hutchison said. They’re seeing it works.

Since 1989 Healing Touch has been taught to more than 110,000 participants worldwide in 32 countries. About 1,000 nurses take classes each year, and it is practiced in hospitals including Stanford Hospital & Clinics, UC San Diego Medical Center and San Diego Hospice, along with numerous long-term care facilities.

Among Healing Touch’s greatest fans are nurses, who are always looking for ways to promote healing, decrease stress and anxiety and provide pain relief for patients, said Lisa Mentgen-Gordon, CEO of the San Antonio-based program.

Healing Touch gives nurses a way to get back to the roots of bedside nursing, giving them a way to touch their patients without taking much time out of their normal routine, said Mentgen-Gordon, daughter of Janet Mentgen, who founded Healing Touch. We often hear patients say they feel at peace and have a renewed sense of hope after receiving Healing Touch. Nurses want to provide that for their patients.

Increasingly, studies are proving that Healing Touch is a valuable complement to traditional medicine for treating patients. This mounting evidence shows Healing Touch’s effectiveness can be explained in reducing pain for hospitalized patients and patients being treated for cancer, and in reducing anxiety levels, according to a 2009 study published by The International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

What holistic pain treatments have worked best for you?

Photo: Shiatsu Loft Berlin via Flickr/Creative Commons

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