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Keywords:

  • therapeutic touch;
  • burns;
  • pain;
  • anxiety;
  • T-lymphocytes;
  • nursing;
  • alternative therapy

The purpose of this single-blinded randomized clinical trial was to determine whether therapeutic touch (TT) versus sham TT could produce greater pain relief as an adjunct to narcotic analgesia, a greater reduction in anxiety, and alterations in plasma T-lymphocyte concentrations among burn patients. Therapeutic touch is an intervention in which human energies are therapeutically manipulated, a practice conceptually supported by Rogers’ (1970) theory of unitary human beings. Data were collected at a university burn centre in the south-eastern United States. The subjects were 99 men and women between the ages of 15 and 68 hospitalized for severe burns, and they received either TT or sham TT once a day for 5 days. Baseline data were collected on day 1, data were collected before and after treatment on day 3, and post-intervention data were collected on day 6. Instruments included the McGill Pain Questionnaire, Visual Analogue Scales for Pain, Anxiety and Satisfaction with Therapy, and an Effectiveness of Therapy Form. Blood was drawn on days 1 and 6 for lymphocyte subset analysis. Medication usage for pain in mean morphine equivalents, and mean doses per day of sleep, anxiety and antidepressant medications were recorded. Subjects who received TT reported significantly greater reduction in pain on the McGill Pain Questionnaire Pain Rating Index and Number of Words Chosen and greater reduction in anxiety on the Visual Analogue Scale for Anxiety than did those who received sham TT. Lymphocyte subset analyses on blood from 11 subjects showed a decreasing total CD8+lymphocyte concentration for the TT group. There was no statistically significant difference between groups on medication usage.