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Patient's neck movement was measured in 4 directions before and after intervention of spiritual healing. Fifty-nine out of sixty patients attending the author showed increased neck movement of up to 400% (11 to 55 degrees) providing statistically significant results (p<0.01) in one visit, with improved function and reported reduction of pain.

This preliminary study shows significantly improved neck movement after spiritual healing. There is scope for further research, which is planned. The results will be of interest to health service providers considering complementary medicine and spiritual healing as an additional service in integrated healthcare.

Key Words: restricted neck movement, spiritual healing, complementary medicine, integrated healthcare.

Spiritual healing, a non-invasive complementary therapy available to the NHS since 1977 (1) has been applied to restricted neck movement (RNM). Research gives some insight into the specific physical effects of spiritual healing in plants, bacteria and humans. (2) Reviews have been published on the subject of spirituality and healing in clinical medicine (3,4) and research published on the effectiveness of healing in general practice and primary care. (5,6) “Medline” search has produced no record of other studies done to test the effectiveness of spiritual healing on RNM.
This study was undertaken as a result of improvements reported by patients to the author (noticed and measured in previous years). Patients were invited to take part in a pilot-study. (7,8)


The study was conducted in the city of Aberdeen (population: 213,000) on the North-East coast of Scotland, mainly in the author's private practice; although 10% of first visits were undertaken in public at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (with audiences of up to 200 at a number of public demonstrations there. (7,8)

Following establishment of reasons for attending and brief medical history – a 360 degree clear plastic angular measure (10 Cm. Diameter) was centred above the patient's axis. Patients were invited to move their heads slowly, gently and no further than they comfortably could – first left (L), then right (R), after the angular measure had been zeroed over the point of the patient's nose, in the “look-ahead” position (the author standing behind the seated patient). Readings left and right (via a friction-clamped manually moveable scale) were taken when the patient had confirmed maximum comfortable movement in each relevant direction.

This procedure was repeated from the side for movement front (F), then back (B), with a hair on the patient's head being zeroed-on.

Measurements were confirmed with the patient and recorded down to the nearest whole degree; hence the reading margin of error was assessed as being +2 degrees (based on the author's 30 years experience as a civil engineer).

Results were tabulated for each of up to 4 visits recording before, after and difference (being: After-Before).

The intervention between “before and after” readings was spiritual healing, as defined, by “laying-on-of-hands” with the healer's hands being in close proximity (about 3 Cms.) to (but not massaging or manipulating) the patient's head or neck. (9) This intervention was preceded by a short spoken “creative visualisation”, with identical wording in all cases and peaceful background music playing. Average time per visit was 30 minutes including a minimum of 10 minutes for the “laying-on-of-hands” (with a tendency for first visits to be extended by “listening time”).

After healing, all patients were asked how they felt and if they had experienced “any sensation or variation in temperature”? The number of the 60 patients returning for further weekly visits was: 30 (2nd, 50%), 16 (3rd, 27%) and 7 (4th, 12%).

Statistical methods were applied to results of first visit. Difference between “before and after” measurements showed normal distribution (as indicated in Figures 1 & 2). Mean, variance and Standard Deviation were calculated. The “t” test was applied using values from “Table B” (10) for 60 “differences from mean” (for n = 58 or 57) and n-1 as appropriate for groups where n<12.

The study group comprised of 60 individuals presenting RNM amongst a variety of ailments, complaints or diagnosis relayed by patients. Age of the 20 male and 40 female patients ranged from 16 to 78 years (mean: 51 years), with period of suffering prior to presentation ranging from 2 days to 50 years (mean: 13 years). Examination of presenting conditions allowed grouping: osteoporosis, arthritis, spondilitis, accident (including 4 with whiplash) and “other severe pain”. All of the patients had more than one complaint. “Stress” was presented in 7 of the 60 cases (12%).

Those patients out-with the 38 grouped had offered a variety of other “relevant information” including: virus and joint problems, back and allergies, thyroid - over to under active, undiagnosed [3], "wear & tear" [2], tension/stress [3], "GP: anti-inflamatories", "Disc operation and stress", labyrinthritis and stress, insomnia and saliva glands, scoliosis, headaches and stress, "GP referral to physiotherapy (also been for osteopathy)", "traction over two years" - giving a total of 57 for whom combined left, right, front and back "before & after" differences were available. Demographic characteristics of the 60 patients are shown in Table 1.

One patient was in such obvious pain on arrival that he was not asked to move his head. He subsequently advised that he could not have previously achieved the 55 degrees left, 44 right, 26 front and 35 back recorded after intervention, with pain reportedly gone. Time was insufficient to complete measurements on a further 2 patients, hence, n=57 and 58 in results of p<0.05 to <0.001 in Table 2. Analysis of measurements obtained showed increases in 98% (59/60) of cases ranging from 1 to 44 degrees in one or more directions. Of those increases: 95% were in the +2 to +44 range (+2 degrees being assessed margin of reading error) with 82% from +10 to +44 degrees.

Increases of up to 44 degrees (from 11 to 55) in one direction provided statistically significant results (p<0.01) with improved function reported and observed, and reported reduction of pain. A mean increase of 7 degrees, representing an average of 15% in each of 4 directions (left and right rotation, flexion and extension) in first visit was recorded. Of the average readings in all 4 directions 82% (49/60) were positive, ranging from +10 to +270 degrees (+100 average, overall, i.e. 43% increase over first visit) - with 78% (47/60) being >+20 in multi-directional movement. All patients reported feeling relaxed and demonstrated increased neck mobility with some reporting that they no longer heard or felt their neck “grinding”. Considerable reductions in pain were voluntarily reported immediately after the healing. Statistically significant results (p<0.01) from free-head-movement left, right, front, back (and combined: averaged over 4 directions), are summarised in Table 2.

TABLE 1                                              
Age range      Male           Female         Total          
               No.     %       No.     %       No.     %       
16-24          -       -       2       5%      2       3%      
25-34          4       20%     4       10%     8       13%     
35-44          2       10%     3       8%      5       8%      
45-54          2       10%     19      48%     21      35%     
55-64          8       40%     8       20%     16      27%     
65-74          3       15%     4       10%     7       12%     
75-84          1       5%      -       -       1       2%      
               20      100%    40      100%    60      100%    

Demographic Characteristics by Age & Gender
TABLE 2                                              
        FIRST VISIT            MEAN INCREASE                                                                                  
                        n      From    To      Deg's   %          p    
LEFT:                  58      53      57      +4      +8%     <0.05   
RIGHT:                 58      51      61      +11     +20%    <0.01   
FRONT:                 57      43      48      +5      +12%    <0.01   
BACK:                  57      40      47      +7      +18%    <0.02   
COMBINED:              57      47      53      +7      +15%    <0.01   
GROUPS (combined).                                                   
OSTEOPOROSIS:           3      58      60      +2      +3%       n/s*  
ARTHRITIS:              6      37      43      +6      +16%    <0.02   
SPONDILITIS:            8      38      48      +10     +26%    <0.01   
ACCIDENT:               9      45      56      +11     +24%    <0.001  
Other severe pain:     12      48      55      +7      +15%    <0.001  
n & p values with mean increase in degrees                                                  
                                              n/s*: not significant                 
TABLE 3                                       
                                      L       R       F       B       Mean    
Maximum range increased from:         80      77      78      70      76      
                               to:     83      85      85      74      82      
        Representing increases of:     4%      10%     9%      6%      7%      
Minimum range increased from:         11      10      5       8       9       
                               to:     21      31      12      14      20      
        Representing increases of:     91%     210%    140%    75%     129%    
  Relevant increases in maximum and minimum ranges

This was a “before and after” study with the patient “acting as their own control”. The study suggests that spiritual healing has provided positive therapeutic benefits to self-referred volunteers with visible, measurable improvements in neck movement. The measurements agreed with the patients were in keeping with the individual patient's experience at the time. There is scope for further research. Randomised controlled trial is recognised as the best way of doing this. Independent measurement using specialist equipment to validate the healer's reading, with blinded assessment, is planned. Use of a delayed intervention study should resolve the issue of spontaneous improvement in health status. Patients could be given suitable questionnaire(s) (e.g. SF36) four weeks before entering the study. (5)

This study has shown significant benefit in RNM following spiritual healing. The sample size gave groups and subjects were self-referred. This benefit needs to be further developed by randomised controlled trial, including blind trials with patient, and incorporating a wider range of outcome measures.

1.      General Medical Council. Letter MRD/PW, 01.11.1977 and 06.03.1978, in: Code of Conduct, National Federation of Spiritual Healers, Sunbury-on-Thames, 1995 p14.
2.      Benor D. Survey of Spiritual Healing. Compl Med Res 1990: 4: 9-33
3.      Aldridge D. Spirituality, healing and medicine. J Roy Coll Gen Pract 1991: 41: 425-427
4.      Aldridge D. Is their evidence for spiritual healing? Mind-Body Hlth. 1993: 9(4): 4-21   
5.      Brown CK.  Spiritual healing in a general practice: using a quality-of-life questionnaire to measure outcome. Compl Therapies in Med 1995: 3: 230-233
6.      Dixon M.  Does “healing” benefit patients with chronic symptoms? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 1999: 91: 183-188
7.      Press & Journal 20 March 1997: 21
8.      Evening Express 20 March 1997: 40
9.      Code of Conduct, National Federation of Spiritual Healers, Sunbury-on-Thames, 1995
10.     Swinscow TDV, Campbell MJ, Statistics at Square One, 9th Edition, London, 1997: 126.

(This paper was originally published in the Journal of the Hypnotherapy Research Society 1999 2: 24-30).

Stan Gerard is a registered Spiritual Healer and Hypnotherapist (General-Hypnotherapy-Register) in private practice at 'Serendipity', Provost Young's House, 28 Marischal Street, Aberdeen AB11 5AJ. Tel: 01224–213808, Email: or He has satisfactorily completed four modules of the Post Graduate Certificate course on Health Services and Public Health Research at the Medical School, University of Aberdeen.

His pilot-study on RNM has been followed-up by a randomised controlled trial funded by Grampian Primary Care NHS Trust with academic and statistical support by the Department of General Practice and Primary Care, University of Aberdeen. Results, yet to be published, will be of great interest to the medical profession, complementary therapists within and out-with the NHS and the general public.

Copyright: S.F. Gerard 30/12/2000

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