Proving the Point?

The current Coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated a huge deficit in what we consider to be an appropriate medical approach around the developed world.  There is currently no branch of medicine within a western approach that deals with the provision of touch or the ability of touch to provide, if not intervention, then certainly huge support to over stretched and under funded health services.  There can be little doubt that the application of touch, even in acute settings is going to have a beneficial effect.  It needs to be studied, quantified and understood and managed carefully so that patients are able to receive the right touch at the right time for the greatest effect.  Quackery, magic, assumption and story telling have no place here, but we know touch to be a powerful medicine at all stages of life and in all stages of disease.

Touch has more recently become a word shrouded in suspicion and fear.  Sexualised by years of abuse of power, the very word has become synonymous with inappropriate behaviour.  We fear touch and yet without it a baby would fail to thrive and would potential die.  A condition known as privation dwarfism.  Touch however has everything going for it.  It is, by comparison to medication, very cheap.  It has no side effects, is readily available and if directed properly could conceivably play an important role in infection control, immune system function, tissue repair and many others.  Yet no touch service at the point of delivery exists within our current health care models.

The current crisis has revealed the weakness of health systems to cope and their vulnerability when faced with increased demands from a compromised population.  Touch as a preventative approach, if embraced by governments and health care providers, could see the burden on conventional medicine reduced significantly.  Of course there is the potential for a reduction in profits from this approach and where health care provision is based on user pay systems, the resistance from those charged with delivering a profit could be understandable.  However in systems such as the UK, where free at the point of delivery is king, making use of touch in a controlled environment is a no brainer.

In spite of there being a wealth of vidence available, it still requires people to go and look for it and to know where to look.  In an attempt to ease the burden of literature review, I am establishing this page which will provide a simple click to at least an abstract, from which further reading can be carried out.

The requirement for entry on to this resource is that any paper will have been published in a  peer reviewed journal and will follow the PROMPT criteria developed for evaluating information developed by the Open University.  PROMPT stands for Presentation, Relevance, Objectivity, Method, Provenance and Timeliness.  Some of the papers may well be older, but in the absence of more recent material, the paper may still provide good information. Further information on PROMPT criteria can be found here.

There is a worrying disconnect in the world today with polar ends of the scale being equally to blame.  At one end are the anti medicine, anti ‘big pharma’ anti vexers and those that hold nothing but contempt for ‘modern medicine.’  At the other end are the scientists and skeptics, convinced that evidence holds the key and that anything that hasn’t been proven in a double blind RCT.  Tim Minchin says, “There is a word for alternative medicine that works. It’s called medicine.”  This is a naive and recidivist understanding of medicine if ever there was one.  Science is a blunt tool with which to dissect reality and lack of proof is not the same as proof of lack.  As with most extreme ideas there is a truth hidden somewhere in the middle. See my blog post here for further discussion on this topic. Therapists have not helped themselves and have spent years telling unlikely and biologically implausible stories to increase their standing.  It is the therapists who, even if they don’t like the current model, are preventing the person in the street from accessing the treatment that they need, by failing to engage with a scientific approach.

We need evidence! The better the better, but also the more the better.  By building a reference resource in one place, perhaps we can shine a light on some of the wealth of evidence that exists and create a basis for a better discussion in the future.

As this resource grows, the therapies will migrate to their own section. Please send any submissions to me [email protected]


The British Acupuncture Council hosts an extensive section of reviews relating to specific conditions treated by acupuncture


The role of gentle touch in perinatal osteopathic manual therapy

Touch Therapy

The effect of healing touch on the pain and mobility of persons with osteoarthritis: A feasibility study 

Human Touch Effectively and Safely Reduces Pain in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit

Non Specific Complementary Medicine

Using Complementary and Alternative Medicine to Treat Pain and Agitation in Dementia: A Review of Randomized Controlled Trials from Long-Term Care with Potential Use in Critical Care

Integrative Medicine for the Treatment of Persistent Pain


NICE Guidelines

BMJ article relating to above