Healing touch: Hands-on help for the heart?

Touch therapies are reaching growing numbers of patients.

There's power in touch, the most pervasive of the five senses. Babies need touch to thrive; a gentle touch soothes people of all ages. Therapies that rely on touch (see "What are touch therapies?") have generally been under the radar for most of us. But some medical centers are now integrating these alternative therapies into cardiac care. And a recent study linking frequent partner hugs to lower blood pressure suggests an at-home version.

There's scant data showing a clear, beneficial effect for touch. Still, there's growing enthusiasm among those who have experienced or witnessed the sometimes-intangible effects of these treatments.

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