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Healing Touch Therapy : Alternative therapies relax heart patients

BOSTON, MA – Some medical centers are integrating alternative treatments known as “touch therapies” into their cardiac care practices, reports the October Harvard Heart Letter. And several studies of these treatments have shown positive results in people hospitalized for heart trouble.

Some touch therapies involve massage, while others aim to change the body’s “energy fields.” Among the more promising approaches are these:

Healing touch. Practitioners use their hands above or on the body, using a gentle touch, with the intent of affecting the body’s energy fields. One study found that patients had shorter hospital stays if they received healing touch before and after open-heart surgery. Reiki. This centuries-old practice involves light touch over different parts of the body in an ordered sequence. In one study, people who underwent Reiki sessions before cardiac catheterization reported feeling more confident, and their cardiologists said these patients were more relaxed and cooperative. Massage therapy. Massage uses various techniques to manipulate the body’s soft tissues through pressure and movement. A study found that systolic blood pressure dropped significantly in individuals who received massage therapy compared with those who had not.

The Heart Letter points out that there’s one form of touch therapy that almost everyone is familiar with—hugging. Recent research found that women who often hug their partners have lower blood pressure than those who do so infrequently.

Also in this issue:

Artery-opening angioplasty isn't always necessary, or helpful Can drinking more water prevent heart disease? Tree of heaven can bedevil the heart Splitting pills to save money Treating depression after heart attack Walking on cobblestones could be good for blood pressure, balance

More Harvard Health News »

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Harvard Health Publications publishes five monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, Harvard Mental Health Letter, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.