Summaries of Research Results for Therapeutic Touch,
Laying-On-Of-Hands Healing, & Reiki

There is a great deal of research being carried on to test Energy Work (transfer of healing energies through practitioner to client, with or without touch) and laying-on-of-hands healing. Below are summaries of several studies. Copies of the full studies can be obtained by ordering copies of the journals in which they were published, or by requesting a copy of an article from your library.

New research is being published frequently. Good sources are professional medical journals, “Frontier Perspectives” from Temple University’s Frontier Sciences Program, and “Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine,” a magazine for laypeople and professionals. Each journal article will lead you to more sources.


Effect of Therapeutic Touch on Anxiety Level of Hospitalized Patients,” Patricia Heidt, Ph.D., R.N., Nursing Research, Jan/Feb 1981, Vol. 30, No. 1.

The effect of Therapeutic Touch on the anxiety level of 90 subjects between the ages of 21 and 65 in a cardiovascular unit of a general hospital was examined. “State anxiety” was measured before and after a brief Therapeutic Touch treatment (5 minutes). Control groups received casual touch or no touch. Subjects who received Therapeutic Touch experienced a highly significant (p<.001) reduction in state anxiety as compared to their pre-treatment scores, and as compared to the control groups.

Implications: Illness and hospitalization are often accompanied by increased anxiety which interferes with the benefits of rest, a prescription given frequently to patients during all stages of illness. Deep rest and relaxation allow the body's constricted organs to assume their natural and balanced functioning, which is necessary for the organism's survival. Therapeutic Touch can restore the body's ability to rest, and therefore to heal itself.

Effects of Therapeutic Touch on Tension Headache Pain,” Elizabeth Keller, M.S.N., R.N., and Virginia M. Bzdek, Ph.D., R.N., Nursing Research, Mar/Apr 1986, Vol. 35, No. 2.

The effects of Therapeutic Touch on tension headache pain in 60 subjects was measured. A control group received placebo touch. Pain was measured immediately before treatment, immediately after treatment, and 4 hours after treatment. 90% of subjects treated with Therapeutic Touch experienced a significant reduction in pain. 70% sustained this pain reduction over 4 hours later, which was twice the average pain reduction following placebo touch. Statistical significance was p<.01.

Implications: Therapeutic Touch is an effective modality for the relief of tension headache pain.

The Effect of Non-Contact Therapeutic Touch on the Healing Rate of Full Thickness Dermal Wounds,” D. P. Wirth, Subtle Energies, 1990; 1(1), and
Full Thickness Dermal Wounds Treated With Non-Contact Therapeutic Touch: A Replication and Extension,” Wirth, et al., Comple. Ther. Med., 1993; 1.

In the initial study, a physician used a skin punch biopsy instrument to make identical skin wounds in the arm of healthy subjects. Subjects received brief Therapeutic Touch treatment; a control group received no treatment. Subjects in both groups placed their wounded arms through an opening in a modified door. Subjects were unable to see if anyone was present on the other side, and therefore did not know (visually) if they received treatment or not (the Therapeutic Touch practitioner provided treatment from behind the door). Subjects treated with Therapeutic Touch had a much faster rate of wound healing than the control group (.001 level of statistical significance). Sixteen days after the Therapeutic Touch treatment, complete healing had occurred in 13 of 23 treated subjects, compared with 0 of 21 control subjects.

The study was repeated 3 years later. This time subjects were treated from behind a one-way mirror. Again there was significant acceleration in the rate of wound healing in subjects receiving Therapeutic Touch.

Implications: Therapeutic Touch accelerates healing in skin wounds.

Comparison of Therapeutic Touch and Casual Touch in Stress Reduction of Hospitalized Children,” Nancy Ann Kramer, M.S.N., R.N., Pediatric Nursing, Sept/Oct. 1990, Vol. 16, No. 5.

30 children between the ages of 2 weeks and 2 years old, admitted to a hospital for acute illness, injury, or surgery, were subjects. Stressful experiences included painful and non-painful hospital procedures, being forcibly held, departure of parents, and being awakened from sleep. Stress reduction was assessed by measuring pulse, galvanic skin response, and peripheral skin temperature at the time the child was noted to be in stress, again 3 minutes after Therapeutic Touch was done, and again 6 minutes after Therapeutic Touch. A control group received casual touch. Results demonstrated that Therapeutic Touch decreased the time needed to calm the child after a stressful experience, as compared with casual touch. Results were statistically significant.

Implications: Therapeutic Touch quickly reduces a child’s stress, and it provides comfort for a longer time than casual touch. Stress reduction eventually may decrease the time of the hospital stay (see Implications in the research on anxiety, above).


The Relationship of Touch With Intent To Help or Heal, to Subjects In-Vivo Hemoglobin Values: A Study in Personalized Interaction,” Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., R.N., Proceedings of the 9th American Nurses' Association Nursing Research Conference, 1973.

The hemoglobin values of 73 subjects were measured before and after receiving a series of laying-on-of-hands treatments. Each subject received once daily to twice daily treatments over a period of 6 days. The control group received no treatment. There was statistically significant differences (p<.01) between the pre-test and post-test scores of the experimental group, while this did not occur in the control group. There was no difference between the pre-test scores of the two groups. The amount of change in hemoglobin values that occurred in the study does not occur from any other kind of treatment in such a short time, except, theoretically, as a result of massive transfusions of whole blood.

Implications: Hemoglobin formation involves hormones and enzymes, so the laying-on-of-hands had a biochemical effect. Hemoglobin is the most efficient carrier for moving oxygen (and carbon dioxide) between lungs and tissues. There is a direct relationship between oxygen uptake by the body and body metabolism. Therefore an increase in oxygen uptake will benefit an ill person by helping the body towards optimal metabolism. Laying-on-of-hands healing can also stimulate hormonal and enzymatic action in the body. This will be beneficial in cases of illness caused by hormonal or enzyme failure.

This research was repeated by Dr. Krieger later, using Therapeutic Touch rather than laying-on-of-hands healing. The results were the same: Therapeutic Touch increased hemoglobin values to a statistically significant degree.


Reiki Healing: A Physiologic Perspective,” Wendy S. Wetzel, M.S.N., R.N., Journal of Holistic Nursing, 1989, Vol. 7, No. 1.

Using Krieger’s protocol for hemoglobin studies (see above), 48 adults taking First Degree (beginning level) Reiki training were tested. Findings revealed a statistically significant change in hemoglobin and hematocrit levels (P=.01). A control group not experiencing Reiki training demonstrated no change within an identical time frame.

Implications: Reiki training involves receiving and giving Reiki treatments. It also includes four “Reiki attunements,” processes whereby the student is connected more strongly to ki (universal life energy, also known as chi). Several locations in the student’s body central to a healthy energy flow are adjusted (opened, balanced, cleared) during this process.

Hemoglobin and hematocrit levels indicate the oxygen-carrying capability of the body. The changes in the bodies of Reiki students due to attunements and/or giving and/or receiving Reiki treatment, brought them greater oxygen-carrying capability. (For the benefits of this, see Krieger’s research, above.)

For more information about research related to energy work, see the books, articles and journals listed in the Bibliography For Starting Your Library.