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Reflexology May Ease Cancer Symptoms

Reflexology May Ease Cancer Symptoms
11/14/2012 1:56 AM ET

Reflexology, an age-old alternative healing practice of applying appropriate pressure to specific points and areas on the feet, hands, or ears can trace its roots back to ancient Egypt, India and China. Foot reflexology is the most common type of reflexology and is widely practiced in many parts of the world. Foot reflexology is different from foot massage as it neither involves much gliding, sliding, or rubbing nor the use of oil, lotion or cream.

There has already been sufficient evidence showing that reflexology complements cancer care. However, the strongest evidence yet that reflexology may ease cancer symptoms has now been provided by a study led by a Michigan State University researcher.

The study, which is the first large-scale study of reflexology, involved 385 women undergoing chemotherapy or hormonal therapy for advanced-stage breast cancer. The patients were randomized into three groups - one group received treatment by a certified reflexologist; second group received a foot massage meant to act like a placebo, and the third group received no foot manipulation.

According to Gwen Wyatt, lead author of the study, a review of the patients after five weeks and 11 weeks showed that those in the reflexology group experienced significantly less shortness of breath, a common symptom in breast cancer patients. The patients in this group were also better able to perform daily tasks such as climbing a flight of stairs, getting dressed or going grocery shopping as a result of their improved breathing.

Reflexology's effects were found to be more pronounced on physical symptoms, not on emotional symptoms like anxiety and depression.

However, no reduction in pain or nausea was reported by patients in the reflexology group, and according to Wyatt, the reason for that "could be because the drugs for combating those symptoms are generally quite effective, so the women may not have reported them to begin with."

The patients in the second group, who received the "placebo" foot massage, experienced reduced fatigue. However, such a similarly significant improvement in fatigue was not reported by the reflexology group.

Commenting on the reflexology study, Wyatt said. "This is the first step toward moving a complementary therapy from fringe care to mainstream care."

by RTT Staff Writer

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