Energy-based therapies

The facts

Therapeutic touch (TT) is a healing practice with the aim of balancing the body's energy fields in order to promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, or ease pain.

Like qi in traditional Chinese medicine, or prana in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, a person's energy fields can be hot or cold, active or passive, blocked or freely flowing. Balanced energy fields are thought to signify balanced health.

A registered nurse developed TT in the 1970s, adapting the age-old spiritual practice of "laying on of hands" to promote healing in her patients. Oddly enough, a TT practitioner's hands never actually touch or lay upon a person's body. Instead, in the 5- to 20-minute sessions, a practitioner hover their hands over specific energy centres of the body in order to sense and set right a person's energy.

Though scientific evidence on the benefits of TT remains limited, the therapy has shown potential to promote relaxation and to ease pain.

A word of caution

Since TT does not entail any touching or manipulation of the body, it is considered to be generally safe for most people.

TT should not be relied upon as sole treatment for a medical condition, but rather as a complement. Be sure to inform your entire health care team - doctors and complementary therapy practitioners - of any treatments or procedures you undergo.

No formal certification or credentialing exists for TT, but most practitioners are certified in other related areas, such as nursing, massage therapy, physical therapy, and chiropractic care.