What does Reflexology research show?

Research has shown the specific techniques of reflexology to be effective and beneficial in many ways, impacting a variety of physical and psychological concerns. This discussion notes results gathered from year-long research project of 170 reflexology studies from 21 countries with findings published in Evidence-Based Reflexology Research for Health Professionals and Researchers(Kunz and Kunz, 2008, RRP Press, eBook, 224 pages). The studies were selected among those available because the abstract or full study information included an indication of dosing—how much reflexology work lead to reported results. This included information about the frequency (how often) and/or duration (how long) of technique application. They, thus, met the major goals of this research—assessing reflexology research to determine parameters for success or failure with reflexology technique application in reference to dosing information. Assessment of the 170 studies showed nine areas of effectiveness for reflexology application: relaxation, pain reduction, ameliorating of health concerns, improvement in blood flow, aid to post operative recovery, impacts physiological measures such as blood pressure, enhances medical care, eases pregnancy, delivery and post-partum effects, benefits mental health, eases pregnancy, delivery and post-partum effects and complements cancer care.

Reflexology reduces pain

Pain reduction is a significant result of reflexology work. Twenty-seven studies show positive outcomes for reflexology work ranging from “significant difference in” pain to “reduction in” pain. Of note is the broad range of individuals whose pain is impacted by reflexology work. Included are individuals of all ages and health states: birthing mothers, menstruating women, phantom limb pain sufferers, lower back pain sufferers, kidney stone patients, senior citizens and individuals with pain resulting from surgery. Such a range speaks of impact on an underlying mechanism at work.

Reflexology improves blood flow

Improvement in blood flow is one of multiple mechanisms of action at work in reflexology technique application. Research shows that reflexology work applied to a reflex area reflecting a body part prompts an improved blood flow to that body part: kidneys, intestines, and the brain (MRI). Research also shows improved blood flow to the feet.

Reflexology benefits mental health

Reflexology programs and research show that reflexology aids the mentally ill, providing needed benefits unique to reflexology work. Mental health workers report that reflexology work furnishes many advantages including facilitating communication and allowing for the client to be “touched during treatment in a safe non-intrusive / abusive manner.” Studies demonstrate from reflexology work proves to be useful or provides positive results for: aggressive and anti-social children, autistic children; those needing emotional support; individuals with post traumatic stress syndrome; individuals with severe and enduring metal illnesses. Research demonstrates that reflexology can reduce depression (11 studies) and anxiety (9 studies).

Reflexology impacts physiological measures

Research shows that reflexology work influences physiological measures of the body. Measures include and demonstrate positive impact on: alpha amylase, blood pressure, systolic blood pressure, pulse rate, blood uric acid level, carbon dioxide (exhaled), cholesterol, cortisol, Doppler sonogram, ECG, EEG, fMRI, free radicals, hemoglobin, oxygen density, oxygen saturation, serotonin, triclycerides, uric acid and white blood cell count as well as immune system, intestinal, kidney and pancreas function. Such measures document that reflexology has an effect, providing an objective yardstick to measure reflexology’s effects and offering evidence of reflexology’s potential benefits.

Reflexology eases pregnancy, delivery and post-partum effects

Women who received reflexology experienced shorter labor times and used less analgesia. In addition, reflexology showed a positive impact on postpartum depression, anxiety, urination and bowel movements. Reflexology work during pregnancy or delivery creates easier birthing / delivery: lessened use of analgesia; reduced duration of labor and labor pains, improvement in primary inertia and retention of placenta. Chinese researchers have found reflexology to be beneficial for women throughout the child-bearing experience from conception to

post-partum issues: improvement in fertility; lessened anxiety and depression for postpartum women; quicker recovery of gastrointestinal function following Cesarean section; quicker recovery of urinary system and gastrointestinal function for postpartum women; easier lactation. Research shows that reflexology benefits newborn infants as well. For premature infants, those who received reflexology showed “Significant differences in sleep duration and total sleep time as well as better 7-day and 30-day weight gain” in contrast to infants in the Control Group (breast feeding and premature infant care practices). Fuller information In Medical Applications of Reflexology, Part II: Findings in Research about Post-operative Care, Maternity Care and Cancer Care, Kunz, Barbara and Kevin, RRP Press, 2011

Reflexology enhances medical care

For cancer patients, phantom limb pain sufferers, hemodialysis patients, diabetic individuals, neuropathy patients, and many more categories of patients are among those whose need for help exceeds that available through medical practices. Research has demonstrated that reflexology use enhances medical care to help where medicine can’t, for example, lessening or cessation of pain for those with phantom limb pain.

Reflexology complements cancer care

Results from 24 studies conducted by nurses in ten countries are reported in Medical Applications of Reflexology: Findings in Research about Cancer Care (Kunz, Barbara and Kevin, RRP Press,2011). The results show that reflexology helps cancer patients improve the physical and emotional symptoms of the cancer experience. From chemotherapy to symptom management and from postoperative care to palliative care, research demonstrates reflexology’s effectiveness at alleviating pain, relieving anxiety, easing nausea and more for cancer patients. For the 28 million people fighting cancer worldwide and the 1.3 million diagnosed each year in the US alone, findings from the reflexology research offer potential, potential for improved quality of life and easing of their symptoms. Speaking to such potential are the results realized by the total of 1,173 cancer patients participating in the 24 studies: • In eleven studies totaling 697 cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, reflexology was found to be effective at in easing symptoms such as nausea vomiting, fatigue and anxiety. • For those under cancer care with concerns about management of symptoms, six studies of reflexology which included a total of 255 patients demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing pain and anxiety • Two studies of post operative cancer patients including a total of 89 cancer patients noted results of lessened pain and anxiety reported by patients to whom reflexology was applied as well as significantly less use of analgesics. • Five studies of reflexology applied to a total of 69 cancer patients in palliative care found that reflexology helped with alleviation

 Reflexology aids post-operative recovery

The value of reflexology for patients post-surgically is demonstrated by fifteen studies conducted in eight countries. As reported in Medical Applications of Reflexology: Findings in Research about Post-operative Care, Maternity Care and Cancer Care (Kunz and Kunz, 2011), patient pain, anxiety and recovery are all aided by the application of reflexology post-operatively.

Researchers note the value of reflexology post surgically: speeding recovery time; adding to nursing interventions to ease pain when medication alone is not enough as well as easing anxiety, common in post-surgical patients. In addition to quality of life for patients, such improvements have financial consequences: earlier discharge from the hospital as gastro-intestinal and urinary functions return earlier as well as savings in the lessened use of pain medication. The studies about the post-operative effects of reflexology work noted here were conducted in: China (6), Austria (3), Iran (1), UK (1), Korea (1), Taiwan (1), Thailand (2), and India (1).

Source: Reflexology Research Project, Registrar: FASTDOMAIN, INC. 

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