The Scientific Evidence for Using Reflexology to Manage Disease-Associated Problems

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that cancer and heart disease are among the most common chronic health conditions in the United States today. Each of these conditions has debilitating effects on its own, but they are also associated with medical complications and/or side effects from common treatment methods.

Over the last few years, researchers have been exploring natural treatments that can improve the quality of life for patients with chronic diseases. One such treatment is reflexology, a type of massage therapy that utilizes pressure points on the feet, hands, and head to support energy flow throughout the body. Read on to find out more about two recent scientific studies demonstrating the benefits of reflexology for patients dealing with problems associated with cancer and heart disease.

Using Reflexology to Counter the Side Effects of Chemotherapy

For many patients with cancer, the side effects of chemotherapy can be as uncomfortable and debilitating as the disease itself. Some of the most common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. In some cases, these side effects can becomes so severe that the patient is forced to take even more pharmaceutical drugs to lessen the intensity of the symptoms. However, a newly published study in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing indicates that reflexology can be just as effective.

This experiment was conducted on sixty patient volunteers who were receiving chemotherapy for the treatment of breast cancer. Thirty of the patients were assigned to the experimental group, while thirty were assigned to the control group. The experimental intervention consisted of three reflexology sessions — one for each of three chemotherapy cycles. The reflexology sessions lasted for 30 to 40 minutes, and the reflexologists focused primarily on pressure points in the feet that are associated with the organs of the gastrointestinal and urinary systems.

To quantify the intensity of the side effects that the subjects experienced after chemotherapy, the researchers used the Rhodes Index of Nausea, Vomiting, and Retching Index (INVR) and the Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI). They found that there was a statistically significant improvement in the scores on both scales for breast cancer patients in the experimental group. Based on this data, they concluded that reflexology can lessen the chemotherapy-induced side effects of nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

How Reflexology Can Reduce Anxiety for Patients Undergoing Coronary Angiography

Coronary angiography is an x-ray test that is commonly used to find out if a patient’s coronary arteries are blocked or narrowed. It also enables physicians to identify the location and extent of coronary artery blockages. Based on the results, a doctor can determine whether a patient needs additional treatment for heart disease. Some of the subsequent treatment options include angioplasty, a stent, and coronary artery bypass surgery.

Studies show that coronary angiography causes significant anxiety and emotional stress in patients — over 80 percent of patients report anxiety prior to the treatment. About half of patients say that the anxiety is even more distressing than their actual chest pain. Although complications of coronary angiography are rare, a high level of anxiety increases the patient’s risk for complications like heart attack, stroke, and irregular heart rhythms. Therefore, healthcare professionals are looking for effective ways to reduce patient anxiety before coronary angiography and other heart disease-related treatments.

Between September 2012 and February 2013, researchers at Shahid Beheshti Hospital in Iran conducted a study on a group of 100 male patients undergoing elective coronary angiography. Half of them received a 30-minute reflexology treatment the day before their appointment, while the other half received a placebo treatment. During the treatments, the reflexologists focused on pressure points that are associated with anxiety.

The researchers used the Spielbergers State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) to score the anxiety levels of the patients before and after the intervention. They found that the anxiety reduction was significantly higher in the reflexology treatment group than the placebo control group, so they concluded that reflexology can effectively reduce patient anxiety levels prior to coronary angiography.

Integrating Reflexology Into Your Treatment Plan

If you have cancer, heart disease, or another chronic condition that is associated with complications and/or debilitating drug-induced side effects, reflexology can be a great way to improve your quality of life. The treatment can improve organ function and mental wellness. For cancer patients, that can allow your body to focus on combatting the real threat — cancer — rather than losing strength from chemotherapy side effects. If you are preparing to undergo a heart disease-related procedure, reflexology treatment can put you in a more relaxed state so that procedure runs smoothly and you recover quickly. Even if you are not suffering from a chronic condition, reflexology can improve the balance within your body and help you stay strong and healthy throughout your life. 
Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness offers reflexology alongside a variety of other massage modalities. Contact us today to find out more about what we offer and to schedule an appointment!

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