Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Foot massage and cancer (reflexology)

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 mainstream.

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 better.

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.

When 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 receiving reflexology.

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 breast cancer.

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 cancer.

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.


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