The power of touch: external applications from whole medical systems in the care of cancer patients (literature review)Mühlenpfordt, I., Stritter, W., Bertram, M. et al. Support Care Cancer (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-019-05172-7
In the context of whole medical systems (WMSs), external applications are manual treatments that stem from complementary medicine and are performed by practitioners, nurses and caregivers through the application of interpersonal touch. These applications work via physiological, psychological and social processes and are intended for holistic healing. In integrative oncology, these applications are used to improve patients’ wellbeing. The purpose of the review is to collect and compare research results concerning external applications from WMSs applied to patients with cancer.
We conducted a literature review to explore the effects of external applications on patients undergoing cancer treatment. Inclusion criteria were external applications from Anthroposophic Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic Medicine, examined detached from the effect interdependencies of their respective WMSs.
Searches identified 111 publications. Final inclusions were four Shiatsu studies (from TCM), supplemented by two case reports exploring anthroposophic external applications. The literature review suggests that external applications may improve patients’ wellbeing during cancer treatment and are associated with physical and psychological effects that potentially enhance supportive cancer care. The number and quality of published studies in the field is limited.
Future empirical investigations should assess the effectiveness and underlying effects in patients with cancer, adhere to a patient-tailored approach, and investigate the systemic complexity of touch-based applications from WMSs.