Therapeutic Touch

Therapeutic Touch

PEP Topic 
Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting—Adult
Therapeutic touch (TT) or healing touch is an energy therapy where the practitioner’s hands move through the patient’s energy field to assess and treat energy field imbalances (Shames & Keegan, 2000). The specially trained practitioner deliberately “centers” intention from an external focus to an internal focus of calm, then moves his or her hands over the patient’s body, but does not actually touch the body.  Therapeutic touch has been studied as an intervention of anxiety and pain in patients with cancer.
Shames, K.H., & Keegan, L. (2000). Touch: Connecting with the healing power. In B.M. Dossey, L. Keegan, & C.E. Guzzetta (Eds.), Holistic nursing: A handbook for practice (3rd ed., p. 614). Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.

Effectiveness Not Established

Research Evidence Summaries

Matourypour, P., Vanaki, Z., Zare, Z., Mehrzad, V., Dehghan, M., & Ranjbaran, M. (2016). Investigating the effect of therapeutic touch on the intensity of acute chemotherapy-induced vomiting in breast cancer women under chemotherapy. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 21, 255–260.

doi: 10.4103/1735-9066.180373

Study Purpose:

To determine the effect of therapeutic touch on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV)

Intervention Characteristics/Basic Study Process:

Patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups, control receiving no intervention, therapeutic touch, and a placebo intervention. The researcher received training in therapeutic touch and performed these interventions. In the placebo group, the researcher moved her hand around the body to pretend an act of therapeutic touch. CINV was assessed immediately before the intervention and again 24 hours after chemotherapy. Patients were receiving triplet antiemetic prophylaxis.

Sample Characteristics:

  • N = 108   
  • MEAN AGE = 49.7 years (SD = 9.2 years)
  • FEMALES: 100%
  • CURRENT TREATMENT: Chemotherapy
  • KEY DISEASE CHARACTERISTICS: Patients with breast cancer receiving cyclophosphamide and epirubicin
  • OTHER KEY SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS: Most had less than a high school education and had no income.


  • SITE: Single site   
  • SETTING TYPE: Not specified    
  • LOCATION: Iran

Phase of Care and Clinical Applications:

  • PHASE OF CARE: Active antitumor treatment

Study Design:

  • Single-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial

Measurement Instruments/Methods:

  • Vomiting intensity was measured on a 0–3 point scale (prior validity measurement was 0.86).


Vomiting intensity was lower in the intervention group compared to the controls (p < 0.0001), but no difference existed between the intervention and placebo groups.


The study results suggested that therapeutic touch may provide a placebo effect to reduce CINV. The efficacy of actual therapeutic touch was not demonstrated compared to placebo.


  • Unintended interventions or applicable interventions not described that would influence results
  • Measurement validity/reliability questionable
  • The CINV measurement method was not a commonly used approach, and no information was provided on various response rates.
  • No information about use of rescue antiemetics was provided, although the methods state that the patients were ordered metoclopramide. 
  • The analysis was unclear, as data was reported in terms of ranking rather than actual outcome measures as collected.

Nursing Implications:

The findings did not show the effectiveness of therapeutic touch compared to a placebo intervention to prevent CINV. They do suggest a potential placebo effect for therapeutic touch. This study had several limitations.