Therapeutic touch massage (TTM) is a form of energy healing. There is limited research supporting the efficacy of this alternative practice.

Several ancient healing philosophies regard the universe as a complex network of energy systems. This is the foundation of many complementary and alternative health and well-being practices.

TTM is a modern-day complementary therapy that is based on these ancient principles. During sessions, a practitioner will place their hands on or near a person’s body.

Read more to learn about the purported benefits of TTM, how it works, what the research says, and the risks.

Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., and Dora Kunz established TTM. Together, they founded the Nurse Healers-Professionals Associates in 1979.

The practice sees therapeutic touch as the way to restore the unity of body, mind, and spirit.

According to the principles of therapeutic touch, people with a good health status have a balanced energy field. Conversely, people with health issues may have an imbalanced energy field.

Researchers are exploring whether therapeutic touch has any proven benefits. Notably, they are studying how it affects quality of life, immune health, and cancer treatment side effects.

Anecdotal reports suggest that therapeutic touch may reduce anxiety. They also indicate that it could support:

  • relaxation
  • well-being
  • comfort
  • healing

However, there is a lack of evidence from large, high quality studies to confirm these benefits.

TTM may or may not involve physical touch.

Either way, the recipient does not need to get undressed. A practitioner will ask them to sit in a chair or lie down.

A session of TTM may involve several phases, including:

  1. Centering: The practitioner will use their breath and a combination of imagery, meditation, and visualizations to find balance and stillness.
  2. Assessing: Holding their hands several inches above the person’s body, the practitioner will rhythmically and symmetrically sweep them from head to toe.
  3. Intervention: This phase, which people may sometimes refer to as “clearing” or “unruffling,” uses symmetrical hand motions that supposedly encourage the symmetrical flow of energy.
  4. Balancing or rebalancing: The practitioner will move their hands to the areas of the recipient’s body that they believe need rebalancing.
  5. Evaluation or closure: By continually assessing the energy throughout the session, they will intuitively establish when the recipient’s energy flow is balanced and, therefore, when it is time to end the treatment.

Healing touch therapy is similar to therapeutic touch.

The practice presumes that all people are naturally healthy and claims that problems in a person’s life can lower their health status.

During a healing touch session, a practitioner moves their hands above the recipient’s body. They may also lightly place their hands on specific areas.

In general, there is not enough conclusive, high quality evidence to confirm the efficacy of healing touch or TTM.

A 2016 study in Cancer Nursing compared the effects of healing touch and relaxation therapy on people undergoing stem cell transplants. The authors conclude that the participants tolerated healing touch better than relaxation therapy.

Additionally, they note that both types of complementary therapy led to better mental well-being and shorter hospital stays. However, the study did not determine how or why people who underwent these therapies had better outcomes. It is possible that the placebo effect plays a role.

Furthermore, a 2022 study in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care found that therapeutic touch had a positive effect on the spiritual well-being and sleep quality of 73 people receiving palliative care in a hospital setting.

However, a 2021 review found that there was no high quality evidence to support these purported benefits.

The review authors looked at 15 randomized controlled trials alongside several other studies and medical records. Although 18 of the 21 studies reported positive outcomes, most had a high risk of bias, methodology flaws, and only small numbers of participants. Due to this, their results are not reliable.

TTM is a form of alternative therapy that is safe for most people to try.

However, it is important to note that it should serve only as a complementary therapy, as it is not a replacement for evidence-backed treatments. There is no evidence supporting TTM’s efficacy, and despite proponents’ claims, it cannot heal medical conditions.

Therapeutic touch massage is a type of complementary and alternative energy therapy. Proponents claim that it supports a healthy flow of energy in the body.

There is a lack of high quality, conclusive scientific research to support its use in practice. However, even if it does not prove beneficial, it is unlikely to pose any significant risks.