Background: Despite the popularity of touch therapies, theoretical understanding of the mechanisms of effect is not well developed and there is limited research measuring biological outcomes.
Aims: The aim of this study was to test a framework of relaxation or stress reduction as a mechanism of touch therapy.
Methods: The study was conducted in 1996 and involved the examination of select physiological and biochemical effects and the experience of 30 minutes of Reiki, a form of touch therapy. A single group repeated measure design was used to study Reiki Touch'ssm effects with a convenience sample of 23 essentially healthy subjects. Biological markers related to stress-reduction response included state anxiety, salivary IgA and cortisol, blood pressure, galvanic skin response (GSR), muscle tension and skin temperature. Data were collected before, during and immediately after the session.
Results: Comparing before and after measures, anxiety was significantly reduced, t(22)=2.45, P=0.02. Salivary IgA levels rose significantly, t(19)=2.33, P=0.03, however, salivary cortisol was not statistically significant. There was a significant drop in systolic blood pressure (SBP), F(2, 44)=6.60, P < 0.01. Skin temperature increased and electromyograph (EMG) decreased during the treatment, but before and after differences were not significant.
Conclusions: These findings suggest both biochemical and physiological changes in the direction of relaxation. The salivary IgA findings warrant further study to explore the effects of human TT and humeral immune function.