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Why Does Healing Touch Work?

By Donald Stouffer, PhD, CHTP, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, University of Cincinnati

The two basic concepts that are necessary to convey to clients, medical professionals and the community are: What is Healing Touch and how does it work?

A reasonable explanation might be: Healing Touch is a conscious, intentional process of directing energy through the hands of the practitioner to the client to facilitate the healing process. However, this type of explanation is not totally satisfying or convincing even though it is reasonably accurate. A better physical explanation might eliminate some of the misunderstanding and criticism of voodoo medicine.

A model for a scientific basis of the physiological changes developed by a Healing Touch treatment can be extracted from acupuncture research. In acupuncture, healing is stimulated by the insertion of fine needles at special points on meridians that are usually activated with a tiny current. This current stimulates the flow of Qi (chi) or pulses of electrical energy that travel along the meridians and neurological pathways to the cells. Pomeranz (1) showed that this current stimulates the release of endorphins and the secretion of hormones, serotonin and other chemicals at the cellular level. This chemical change produces effects like relaxation and reduction of pain.

The effects of acupuncture are well established. A NIH panel recently reviewed over 200 research papers and concluded that acupuncture helps relieve post-operative nausea and vomiting, post-operative dental pain and nausea and vomiting following chemo-therapy (2). In addition, the panel concluded that acupuncture was a suitable part of the treatment plan for drug and alcohol addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, general muscle pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma.

It is reasonable to expect these results would also apply to Healing Touch. When a practitioner “centers” to do a Healing Touch treatment, there is a mind-body connection where the mental processes stimulate the body’s bioelectrical field. The bioelectrical flow corresponds to pulses of electrical charges that produce chemical changes in the practitioner’s body, but these pulses also create a magnetic field. Maxwell’s Law (3), a well documented effect in physics, states that the flow of electrical charges creates both an electrical field and a magnetic field, and Maxwell’s equations show how these effects are related. Thus the human energy system is a bioelectromagnetic field (4). The flow felt between a person’s two hands is a biomagnetic field flow. The aura is a subtle biomagnetic field.

During a treatment the practitioner’s biomagnetic field interacts with the client’s biomagnetic field and changes occur in the client’s electrical field. This produces a change in the client’s chemical balance at the cellular level, chemicals are released and physiological changes result. The cell’s structure and function are changed. 

Drugs and food produce changes at the cellular level by directly changing the chemical balance. An emotional trauma impacts the body through bioelectrical changes that are stimulated by the thought process. 

Healing Touch is not magic. The effect of the modality is similar to acupuncture. It can be thought of as a bioelectromagnetic massage to stimulate bioelectromagnetic and physiological changes in the client at the cellular level to promote healing. The Healing Touch program teaches how to prepare and manage the practitioner’s bioelectromagnetic field to create change in the bioelectromagnetic field of the client.

(1) Pomeranz, B., Scientific Basis of Acupuncture. Stux and Pomeranz eds., Acupuncture: Textbook and Atlas, Springer Verlag, Berlin, 1986

(2) Acupuncture: Chinese Folk Medicine of Legitimate Medical treatment, Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, New York, V 16.4, June 1998

(3) Paul, R.C., K.W. Whites and S. A Nasar, Introduction to Electromagnet Fields, WCB/McGraw-Hill, 3rd ed., Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1998

(4) Tiller, W. A., Science and Human Transformation, Subtle Energies, Intentionality and Consciousness, Pavior Publishing, Walnut Creek California, 1997.

Note from Paws-A-Tive Choice: This informative article was previously printed in the Colorado Center for Healing Touch, Healing Touch Newsletter in March of 1999.