Effects of Therapeutic Touch

Statement of Purpose

With the number of cancer patients being multiplied all over the world, there is an increasing need for research on the complementary methods of therapy that can effectively be used to reduce the resulting pain from cancer. It is on this basis that this paper proposes to carry out a research on what the existing literature has regarding the effects of therapeutic touch on distress in cancer patients being treated for pain. Using 5 research studies the proposal will identify the loopholes presented in the existing literature on how effective this method of treatment is in reducing distress among those being treated for pain. The established loopholes will then inform the primary survey that will be conducted on both the cancer patients undergoing treatment and the nurses attending to them.   

The Need for Research/Research Justification

First, cancer is increasingly becoming rampant throughout the world. According to the research by Jackson, Patrick & Schlegel (2008) conducted in the year 2007; at least ten million people among the U.S. populace were suffering from cancer. 1.4 million people had just been diagnosed with the disease the very year. This calls for a more effective and holistic treatment methods. Their report shows that of all the types of cancer, the most common one was prostate which was at 29% and the breast cancer which was also at 26%. The report also identified anxiety, fear and pain as being the most common feelings among those who had contacted the disease.

Equally, nations are spending more money that would have been used to improve their economy in the treatment of this disease. The United States alone spends billions of dollars annually in various researches with the aim of improving the effectiveness of the kind of treatment being offered to those with this disease. Moreover, the experts have come up with varying treatment measures to address the different kinds of cancer. They vary from radiation, chemotherapy to the various medications that have been traditionally used in controlling pain. However, the traditional methods of managing cancer related symptoms have been accused of failure to put into consideration both the process by which the patients heal and all the aspects of the disease.   

There is, therefore, a need for new approaches of treatment that can ensure that patients have an access to the kind of care that can help, besides fighting the disease, dispel the feelings of fear, pain and anxiety which normally accompany the disease. Though a number of researchers have come up with various types of therapies in trying to identify the most effective method in the alleviation of these symptoms, a study has not been conducted on the expected side effect of all these methods of treatment. Equally, with many of the results pointing to therapeutic touch as an effective way of helping these patients out of the disease effects, there is thus the need for a defined and extensive study to know its effects on distress in cancer patients being treated for pain.

Research Question

The following questions will guide the research process in seeking to meet its objectives:

  1. Is the therapeutic touch effective in reducing distress and pain among the cancer patients?
  2. What is the perception of the nurses on the use of therapeutic touch as a non-pharmacologic method of therapy?
  3. What have been the obstacles towards the effective implementation of the use of this method in the cancer treatment as an alternative method to the standard cancer therapy?


The research will be testing to help come up with valid conclusions which can be shared with all stakeholders:

  1. Therapeutic touch is effective in reducing distress and pain among the cancer patients;
  2. The nurses have had negative perception on the use of therapeutic touch as a non-pharmacologic method of therapy;
  3. There have been numerous obstacles towards the effective implementation of the use of therapeutic touch in the cancer treatment as an alternative method to the standard cancer therapy.

Aim and Objectives

  1. To find out the perception of the nurses on the use of therapeutic touch as a non-pharmacologic method of therapy.
  2. To find out the effectiveness of therapeutic touch in reducing distress and pain among cancer patients
  3. To find out the kind of obstacle that may have been causing a hindrance to the effective implementation of the use of therapeutic touch method in the cancer treatment as an alternative method to the standard cancer therapy.

Literature Review

According to Jackson, Patrick & Schlegel (2008), therapeutic touch is a traditional therapeutic method of medication which entails the use hands in facilitating the patient’s process of healing. It involves the direction of the human energy by the use of hands with the aim of facilitating the patient’s healing. It has its historical origin in the Ancient East where it was used as a form of healing. Aghabati, Mohammadi & Esmaiel, (2008) also note that the method in its present form is accredited to Krieger and Kuntz who are said to have introduced it as a form of nursing intervention in the 1970s. It was originally meant to be non-invasive. They note that a number of studies have since then identified nursing care as an incentive in the process of cancer therapy and thus stressing on the need for further research on the therapeutic touch option. However, Monroe (2009) notes that the method has been widely accepted as a viable option to the standard form of therapy used in the treatment of cancer.

The method is based on the theory that there is a complex energy field usually formed when the emotions, body and the mind come together. Aghabati, Mohammadi & Esmaiel, (2008) explain that the theory holds that for one to be in good health he/she has to have a balanced energy field. This means that any individual without a balanced energy field will normally suffer from ill health. These energy fields begin right from the surface of human skin and its flow depends on the individual’s health. In addition, they note that symptoms like pain and anxiety destabilize these energy fields which can only be restored using the therapeutic touch.

 On the other hand, Jackson, Patrick & Schlegel (2008) report a study that had been undertaken to evaluate the ability of the patients to manage anxiety and pain during the period for which they were attending the chemotherapists. With the use of a symptom experience scale, both the symptoms and their effects on both the social and physical functioning of the patient were measured. The results revealed that even though most of the patients were given drugs as the intervention, it is the nurses that helped to reduce the magnitude of the occurrence of pain and anxiety through providing support to the patients.

The study also revealed that the greatest dilemma has been the fact that high percentage of patients have continued to exhibit high level of anxiety as a side effect whenever undergoing chemotherapy. Jackson, Patrick & Schlegel (2008) argue that this clearly indicates that it has been for the medical practitioners to detect emotional distress before the beginning of the treatment. They thus call for the need of a method that can make it possible for such emotional issues as distress to be identified and dealt with in order to give the patients a holistic treatment. This study, therefore, recommended the need for additional research which can accurately help in the identification of the exact feeling of the patients and address them in a holistic manner.

Jackson, Patrick & Schlegel (2008) report another independent study that aimed at establishing the level of the knowledge of the healthcare providers and how comfortable they were in using other complimentary approaches of managing pain. The researchers had used a four and five point Likert scale to measure how the healthcare team perceives pain and the effectiveness of other strategies normally known as non-pharmacologic methods of cancer therapy. The study revealed that the nurses supported the therapeutic touch as the most effective alternative method of reducing distress among the cancer patients. Most of them were reportedly interested in learning and incorporating this method of treatment.

Health line network (2012) points out that because the nursing care has its basis providing a holistic treatment, it is only by incorporating such effective methods as the therapeutic touch that can help them realize the goal of treating both the disease and the whole person. Stephen et al. (2008) agree with the network adds that this will help the patients by enabling them to heal from both the psychological and physical distresses that have to date been considered traditional. It is, however, unfortunate that even with such findings, very little research has been conducted on such non-pharmacologic methods of relieving cancer patients from pain and anxiety which are common symptoms among people with cancer. These findings also point to the need for further research on this method of treating cancer patients.

Methodology/Research Design

Noting the limitations, of the previous research as presented in the literature review, this study considers the variables of therapeutic touch and the symptoms of cancer such as pain and distress/anxiety. This will enable the study to establish hidden facts about therapeutic touch and pain as well as distress. In a bid to obtain the necessary data for the analysis, the study will consider using stratified sampling in coming up with 100 participants. These will include 60 cancer patients who had been diagnosed with cancer and were having problems related to pain and distress and 40 nurses especially those who had been working with these patients for10 days.

The cancer patients who will be participating will be 60 in number and will be divided into three sub-groups. One group of the patients will be used in the real experiment, while another one will be taken as the control experiment. Still the third group of patients will be ministered to the placebo. The experimental group will receive real cancer therapeutic treatment and the placebo group will only receive such a treatment as resembling therapeutic treatment while the control group will only be subjected to the routine care. The intervention will then be ministered for a total of consecutive 10 days with the nurses being instructed to record the level of pain and distress prior to and after the daily interventions.

The information will be obtained through the administration of the questionnaire tool. There shall be a different set of questions for the nurses from those of the patients. The questions to be addressed to the nurses will seek to know whether or not the nurses support the use of therapeutic test method as the alternative to the standard therapy and their perception on the effectiveness of the method. On the other hand, those to be directed to the patients will tend to establish the level of pain and distress before and after the experiment.

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