Therapeutic Touch : Its Effectiveness On Surgical Incision Site Pain


Therapeutic touch has been shown to decrease patients anxiety levels and
increase their pain tolerance levels when other more mainstream therapies have
not been completely effective. "Therapeutic touch is a process by which energy
is transmitted from one person to another for the purpose of potentiating the
healing process of one who is ill or injured." (Heidt, 1981; Krieger, 1979;
Lionberger, 1985; Randolph, 1984; Kramer, 1990). In my capacity as a nursing
student on a medical- surgical unit, I have noticed an increase in pain
medication requests among patients with incision site pain and a minimal use of
alternative therapies for this pain management. With the use of therapeutic
touch nurses can regain a closeness with patients and also have a direct effect
on their pain level. Therefore the purpose of this study will be to determine
if therapeutic touch is an effective intervention for patients experiencing
surgical incision site pain within the first forty-eight hours after surgery.


The question posed for study is: "Is therapeutic touch an effective
intervention for decreasing a patients surgical site pain within the first
forty-eight hours after surgery?". The independent variable is therapeutic
touch. The dependant variable is decreasing surgical site pain. The population
to be studied will be patients on a thirty bed medical-surgical floor of a Lake
Charles hospital. Fifty surgical patients will be studied over a four week
period. The patients will be randomly selected to avoid any bias by the


"... therapeutic touch is a nursing intervention that has the potential
for eliciting a state of physiological relaxation in patients and for decreasing
patients anxiety" (Heidt, 1991). The use of therapeutic touch is very important
to the nursing community. The need for immediate intervention in acute or
chronic pain could be handled at the bedside with no need to await a doctor\'s
order for pharmacological intervention. Anxiety could be lessened to let
patients rest more comfortably in the stressful hospital environment. Also
teaching could be enhanced in the less anxious and more pain free client. A
client that is admitted to the hospital for surgery may not get all the rest
needed for proper recovery and healing due to inadequate pain relief from
pharmacologic interventions. The need for more in depth research and
application in the field of therapeutic touch as a nursing intervention is


In preparing to undertake this research, various forms of literature
must be examined. In a study done by Nancy Ann Kramer, MSN, RN on
therapeutic touch and casual touch stress reduction of hospitalized children
(1990), her study supported the use of therapeutic touch. She states "... the
intervention of therapeutic touch will more quickly reduce the child\'s stress
and provide comfort for a longer time, which eventually may decrease the
hospital stay and decrease nursing work.". The author states that more research
may need to be done with a larger sample and a wider range of patient stressors
to further support the use of therapeutic touch in a clinical setting. She used
a sample of thirty children ages two weeks to two years old.
In the next study, done by Patricia R. Heidt, RN, PhD, "Helping patients
to rest: Clinical studies in therapeutic touch"(1991), she studied patients who
wanted help with pain relief. Her main reason for this was to increase the
"descriptive data on patient care" so further research could be done and
therapeutic touch could be applied in nursing interventions. The strength of
this study came from its in depth look at two case studies and how the
therapeutic touch was used on two specific patients. The case studies gave an
in depth look at the patients history and treatment and out comes after
therapeutic touch was used. It also explained the settings and exactly what was
done step-by-step through the therapeutic touch treatment by Heidt herself. The
weakness of this study was also its strength. It had a very narrow focus and
was not applied to a large group.
In a study, done by Janet F. Quinn, RN, PhD, FAAN and Anthony J.
Strelkauskas, PhD, named "Psychoimmunologic effects of therapeutic touch on
practitioners and recently bereaved recipients: A pilot study"(1993), they
wanted to identify the variations and "address conceptual
previous Therapeutic Touch research...". The study was done with two
therapeutic touch practitioners and four recently bereaved patients. They
wanted to determine if there was a correlation between who received the
therapeutic touch and who applied the therapeutic touch. Their study supported
the use of therapeutic touch on practitioners and others who are bereaved and
how therapeutic