Michigan State University researchers have recently uncovered strong evidence that reflexology (a special type of foot massage) can help cancer patients better manage their symptoms and go about their daily lives.
This was the first large-scale,
randomized study of reflexology's use along with standard cancer treatment. And
it's the first time the benefits of reflexology--beyond simple relaxation-- have
been documented. The results are strong enough that the lead author is hoping
they represent a step toward moving reflexology out of the fringe and into the
Reflexology has been practiced since the
days of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. The idea is that certain points on the
feet are linked to specific organs and other parts of the body. Stimulating
those points on the feet is thought to help those organs and body parts function
In the study, 385 women with advanced-stage breast cancer and
being treated with chemo or hormonal therapy were assigned randomly to three
groups. One group received treatment from a certified reflexologist. The second
received a "regular" foot massage. The third had no foot treatment.
the researchers checked in with the patients at the five-week and 11-week marks,
they found that the women who received reflexology had significantly less
shortness of breath. This is a common symptom in breast cancer patients. Daily
tasks like grocery shopping and getting dressed were also easier for the women
The lead researcher was surprised that the
effects seemed mostly to be physical rather than psychological. She had been
expecting more changes in the anxiety and depression that can go along with
She was also surprised that the "placebo" massages
reduced patients' fatigue, while reflexology did not.
In a follow-up
study, the researchers plan to explore how the benefits of reflexology-type
massage done by a patients' friend and family stack up against those done by
certified reflexologists. If they show the same kinds of benefits then at-home
reflexology treatments could turn out to be a simple and free way to help women
deal with some of the most troubling symptoms of their battles with breast
If you're undergoing treatment for breast cancer, or know
someone who is, and are interested in learning more about the benefits of
reflexology, you can find a reflexologist through the Reflexology Association of America.