- NEW YORK, Oct 26 (Reuters Health) -- The results of a small scientific
trial suggest that an alternative therapy known as therapeutic touch can
lessen the pain of arthritis of the knee in some patients.
- ``Our results showed that therapeutic
touch decreased arthritis pain and improved (patient) function and general
health status,'' conclude researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical
Center, Pennsylvania. Their report is published in the October issue of
The Journal of Family Practice.
- During therapeutic touch, practitioners
pass their hands over the patient's body in an attempt to realign what
they believe are 'imbalanced' energy fields contributing to illness.
- The treatment has come under fire as
unproven and ineffective in recent months, most notably in a study published
in The Journal of the American Medical Association last April.
- In the new study, the Pittsburgh team
tracked the self-reported joint pain of 27 patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis
of the knee. For 6 weeks, eight of the patients received therapeutic touch
from trained practitioners, while another eight received no therapy. To
control for the influence of ``the placebo effect'' -- where patients respond
to treatment, even sham treatment, because they believe in it -- the remaining
11 patients received 'mock' therapeutic touch, in which nurses mimicked
the motions involved in the therapy even though they had no training in
other aspects of the procedure.
- The result? ``The treatment group had
significantly decreased pain and improved function as compared with both
the placebo and control groups,'' the researchers report. Although the
benefits experienced by the treatment group did begin to fade once therapy
stopped, most of those who had undergone therapeutic touch said they still
felt somewhat better many weeks after treatment.
- One patient told researchers ``everything
(has changed). I can walk. I have no pain. I have no swelling.'' Another
said the treatment meant she might not ``have to get a knee replacement
as quickly.'' The study authors say that all of the subjects receiving
therapeutic touch described their therapy sessions ``a pleasant experience.''
- The authors admit that their study size
was relatively small, and they believe ``a larger study is needed to confirm
- They also conclude that ``it may well
be that therapeutic touch works in a different way than by manipulating
energy fields,'' and they urge further studies aimed at investigating underlying
mechanisms. In the meantime, however, the Pittsburgh authors contend that
``it would be imprudent to reject a safe and effective therapy because
we do not understand or do not accept its mode of action.''
- SOURCE: The Journal of Family Practice