If you are a fan of Grey's Anatomy, you may have caught a recent episode in which a woman literally healed Dr. Miranda Bailey's ailing infant with the touch of her hands. Although anything can happen on television, such practices are taking place in real life, too. Called "Touch Therapy," this method of alternative medicine incorporates hand motions to heal anything from pain to fatigue. Here is the scoop on this unique treatment.
Touch therapy is broken down into two categories: Healing Touch and Therapeutic Touch. In both cases, practitioners use gentle, massage-like hand motions to first evaluate energy fields, then to smooth out internal imbalances, thereby relieving stress and discomfort. In Healing Touch, the practitioner moves his or her hands around and on top of the body. Practitioners of Therapeutic Touch use actual touching.
Developed by nurse Janet Mentgen in the late 1970's, the practice draws on the ancient healing tradition that each living thing has a "life energy field" which extends beyond the surface of the body and is in constant interaction with its surrounding environment. Today, practitioners -- who remain, for the most part, nurses and others in the medical field -- are trained to feel and manipulate the body's energy field through sensation or touch, helping to accelerate healing of the body and mind.
A 2003 study cites that healing touch lowered pain, blood pressure, fatigue, and emotional problems in cancer patients getting chemotherapy. Plus, the practice is as calming as it is healing: Patients say touch therapy sessions are deeply relaxing, reduce their stress and leave them reenergized.
You can try out touch therapy with any of the 86,000-plus practitioners offering their services in private practices or hospitals. If you are a patient in a hospital that has therapists on staff (there are about 100 around the country, including all 18 on U.S. News's
most recent "America's Best Hospitals" list), the treatment will most likely be complimentary, as most insurance plans will not cover it if its charged. If you go with a private practice, expect to pay a fee similar to a massage for your session, about $50 to $100 per hour.