Biofield therapies are a range of alternative healing practices. Practitioners say that they use energy fields to restore balance and health. The most common biofield therapies are Reiki and therapeutic touch.

There is little scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of biofield therapies, but they are popular types of complementary and alternative medicine. It seems that many people find these therapies helpful for managing pain, stress, and symptoms of several health conditions.

Data from a 2012 National Health Interview survey found that more 3.7 million people in the United States had tried energy healing therapy. And more than 1.6 million adults had seen a practitioner at least once in the past year.

This article looks at common types of biofield therapy, how they work, and when a person might try this approach.

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According to practitioners, biofield therapies stimulate a healing response by affecting subtle energy fields that surround the human body. No scientific research has confirmed the existence of these energy fields.

Examples of biofield therapies include:

  • Reiki: Practitioners use hand positions on the body that often align with the chakras. They believe that this affects what they call “universal life force energy” in a way that supports healing. The International Association of Reiki Professionals provides training and education to practitioners.
  • Therapeutic Touch: This is a precursor to Healing Touch and Chronic Healing therapies. A nurse named Dolores Krieger developed it in the 1970s, and it was the first program to connect biofield healing with healthcare.
  • Healing Touch: Developed in 1989 by a nurse named Janet Mentgen, this is similar to Reiki but has more structure. Practitioners believe that healing stems from shifts in energy rather than the touch of the hands. They say that the benefits result from lymphatic release, chakra connection, and other healing practices.
  • Pranic healing: Practitioners work with the biofield using colors and crystals.
  • Qigong: This integrates movements, breathing, self-massage, sound, and focus. There are many styles of qigong, which translates as “vital energy.” People can use this technique on their own or with a practitioner.

Biofield therapies aim to change a person’s energy field to bring about healing. This may may involve the:

  • chakras, which are energy centers that correspond with organs and nerves
  • meridians, which are energy lines throughout the body
  • aura, which is the energy field that encloses the body

The therapies differ in their approaches, but a practitioner usually uses their hands to alter and redirect an individual’s energy flow, or “biofield.”

The idea is that the body is naturally capable of healing itself, though this may take time. Practitioners believe that biofield therapies enhance the natural healing process and improve the body’s ability to heal itself.

Proponents believe that a person has good health when their energy flows freely throughout their body. If energy becomes blocked or unbalanced, this contributes to illnesses and mental health conditions. The aim of these therapies is to unblock energy fields and restore a healthy flow.

During a biofield therapy session, the client lies on a massage table fully clothed, and the practitioner uses their hands to assess the client’s energy field. They then send energy to the client through their hands. They may place their hands on the client’s body or transmit the energy without touching them.

Little scientific evidence suggests that biofield therapy is effective. But people may use it to help with:

Advocates say that biofield therapy can improve physical, mental, and emotional health. A person may use it to support their wellness and prevent health problems or treat current concerns. Some people have it alongside traditional treatments.

Experts remain unsure how effective these therapies are, although there is some evidence to support their benefits.

Therapeutic Touch

A 2016 review found that Therapeutic Touch may help people with cancer. Recipients reported benefits such as improved mood, well-being, and vitality, as well as reduced pain, nausea, anxiety, and fatigue. The researchers acknowledged that many of these findings were statistically insignificant.

Therapeutic Touch may also reduce pain and improve function in people with knee osteoarthritis. Research in older adults suggests that it may reduce pain, worry, and restlessness, and increase appetite and sleep quality.

Reiki

This usually involves a practitioner delivering healing energy through touch. The client typically lies on a massage table fully clothed. Some practitioners also offer distance Reiki, performed virtually.

A small 2015 study included 18 participants undergoing cancer treatment. The researchers assigned the participants into either a control group or a test group who received 30-minute sessions of distance Reiki for 5 days, alongside their standard medical care. The test group reported significantly less pain, anxiety, and fatigue than the control group. One limitation, however, was the small size of this study.

A 2018 study included 60 individuals with herniated disks. The aim was to test whether Reiki or standard physiotherapy was more effective at easing lower back pain. The treatments appeared equally effective, but Reiki was less costly and sometimes had faster results.

Pranic healing

Prana means “life force” in Sanskrit. Pranic healing aims to balance and harmonize the body in order to heal it.

In a 2018 study, researchers studied the effects of Pranic healing in 52 participants with mild-to-moderate depression. The participants received either Pranic or mock healing for 20 minutes once a week for 4 weeks, alongside their antidepressant medications.

The team found a 100% improvement in depression among those who received Pranic healing, compared with 69.2% in the mock group.

A 2015 review looked at the effects of a range of biofield therapies. It found that the strongest evidence of effectiveness concerned cancer symptoms and pain. Although evidence was scarce, it was also promising for arthritis, dementia, and heart disease. The team recommended that researchers conduct further clinical trials of these therapies to better understand the potential benefits.

Because biofield therapies are not invasive, there are few potential risks.

As there is continually more research into biofield therapies, hospitals and other facilities increasingly adopt them and other complementary therapies to support conventional treatments.

Anyone interested in biofield therapies who is currently receiving medical treatment should ask a healthcare professional about any potential risks.

Anyone looking for this type of therapy might search for practitioners using online databases of local or regional associations.

For example, someone interested in Reiki might search the database of the International Association of Reiki Practitioners.

The Healing Touch Professional Association may also be useful.

Advocates of biofield therapies believe that each person is surrounded by an energy field, and blockages in the flow of energy can result in illness. Practitioners biofield therapies manipulate this energy to restore or promote health.

No scientific evidence suggests that energy fields exist, and so far, there is little evidence that these therapies are effective.

Some studies indicate that biofield therapies may reduce pain and anxiety and improve sleep quality, appetite, and well-being. Further studies on a larger scale are necessary to support these findings.

A person may be interested in biofield therapies because they pose minimal risks and some find them to be valuable additions to a treatment plan.