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Biofield therapies are a range of alternative healing practices. Practitioners say they use energy fields to restore balance and health. The most common biofield therapies are Reiki and therapeutic touch.

There is little scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of biofield therapies, but they are popular types of complementary and alternative medicine. It seems that many people find these therapies helpful in managing pain, stress, and the symptoms of several health conditions.

Data from a 2012 National Health Survey revealed that more 3.7 million people in the United States had tried energy healing therapy. And more than 1.6 million adults have seen a practitioner at least once in the past year.

This article examines common types of biofield therapy, how they work, and when a person can try this approach.

According to practitioners, biofield therapies stimulate a healing response by affecting the subtle energy fields that surround the human body. No scientific research has confirmed the existence of these energy fields.

Examples of biofield therapies include:

  • Reiki: Practitioners use hand positions on the body that often align with the chakras. They believe it affects what they call “universal life energy” in a way that promotes healing. The International Association of Reiki Professionals provides training and education for practitioners.
  • Therapeutic Touch: This is a precursor to Healing Touch and Chronic Healing therapies. A nurse named Dolores Krieger developed it in the 1970s, and it was the first program to link biofield healing to health care.
  • Healing Touch: Developed in 1989 by a nurse named Janet Mentgen, this is similar to Reiki but has more structure. Practitioners believe that healing comes from energy shifts rather than the touch of hands. They say the benefits result from lymphatic release, chakra connection, and other healing practices.
  • Pranic Healing: Practitioners work with the biological field using colors and crystals.
  • Qigong: It incorporates movement, breathing, self-massage, sound and concentration. There are many styles of qigong, which translates to “vital energy”. People can use this technique alone or with a practitioner.

Biofield therapies aim to alter a person’s energy field to bring about healing. This can may involve the:

  • the chakras, which are energy centers that correspond to organs and nerves
  • the meridians, which are lines of energy throughout the body
  • aura, which is the energy field that surrounds the body

Therapies differ in their approaches, but a practitioner typically uses their hands to alter and redirect an individual’s energy flow, or “biological field.”

The idea is that the body is naturally capable of healing itself, although it may take time. Practitioners believe that biofield therapies enhance the natural healing process and enhance the body’s ability to heal itself.

Proponents believe that a person is healthy when his energy is flowing freely throughout his body. If the energy is blocked or out of balance, it contributes to disease and mental health issues. The goal of these therapies is to unblock energy fields and restore healthy flow.

During a biofield therapy session, the client lies on a fully clothed massage table and the practitioner uses their hands to assess the client’s energy field. They then send energy to the client through their hands. They can place their hands on the client’s body or transmit the energy without touching it.

Little scientific evidence suggests that biofield therapy is effective. But people can use it to help:

Proponents say biofield therapy can improve physical, mental and emotional health. A person can use it to support their well-being and prevent health problems or treat current problems. Some people have it alongside traditional treatments.

Experts remain uncertain about the effectiveness of these therapies, although there is some evidence to support their benefits.

Therapeutic touch

A 2016 review found that Therapeutic Touch can help people with cancer. Recipients have reported benefits such as improved mood, well-being, and vitality, as well as reduced pain, nausea, anxiety, and fatigue. The researchers acknowledged that many of these results were statistically insignificant.

Therapeutic touch can also reduce pain and improve function in people with osteoarthritis of the knee. To research in the elderly suggests it may reduce pain, worry and restlessness, and increase appetite and sleep quality.

Reiki

This usually involves a practitioner delivering healing energy through touch. The client usually lies on a fully clothed massage table. Some practitioners also offer remote Reiki, practiced virtually.

A small 2015 study included 18 participants undergoing cancer treatment. Researchers divided participants into a control or test group who received 30-minute remote Reiki sessions for 5 days alongside their standard medical care. The test group reported significantly less pain, anxiety and fatigue than the control group. One limitation, however, was the small size of this study.

A study 2018 included 60 people with herniated discs. The aim was to test whether Reiki or standard physiotherapy were more effective in relieving lower back pain. The treatments seemed equally effective, but Reiki was less expensive and sometimes had faster results.

Pranic Healing

Prana means “life force” in Sanskrit. Pranic healing aims to balance and harmonize the body in order to heal it.

In one study 2018, researchers studied the effects of Pranic Healing in 52 participants with mild to moderate depression. Participants received either Pranic or a healing simulation for 20 minutes once a week for 4 weeks, in addition to their antidepressant medications.

The team found a 100% improvement in depression in those who received the Pranic Healing, compared to 69.2% in the sham group.

A 2015 review examined the effects of a range of biofield therapies. It found that the strongest evidence of effectiveness was for cancer symptoms and pain. Although the evidence was sparse, it also showed promise for arthritis, dementia and heart disease. The team recommended that researchers conduct further clinical trials of these therapies to better understand the potential benefits.

Because biofield therapies are non-invasive, there are few potential risks.

As there is continually more research into biofield therapies, hospitals and other facilities are increasingly adopting them and other complementary therapies to support conventional treatments.

Anyone interested in biofield therapies who is currently receiving medical treatment should speak to a healthcare professional about the potential risks.

Proponents of biofield therapies believe that each person is surrounded by an energy field and that blockages in the flow of energy can lead to disease. Practitioners of biofield therapies manipulate this energy to restore or promote health.

No scientific evidence suggests that energy fields exist, and so far there is little evidence that these therapies are effective.

Some studies indicate that biofield therapies can reduce pain and anxiety and improve sleep quality, appetite and well-being. Further larger scale studies are needed to substantiate these findings.

A person may be interested in biofield therapies because they have minimal risks and some find them valuable additions to a treatment plan.