Reflexology could be as effective as painkillers, new study suggests
Using reflexology to complement conventional medication could help reduce pain in diseases such as osteoarthritis.
A new study into the effects of reflexology on pain symptoms has revealed that those treated with reflexology felt about 40% less pain and were able to stand pain for roughly 45% longer. Reflexology is a practice that sees pressure applied to the hands or feet to promote healing in other parts of the body (the study in question performed reflexology on the feet).
Dr. Carol Samuel from the University of Portsmouth is a trained reflexologist who carried out the study as part of her PhD studies. This is the first time reflexology has been scientifically tested as a method of pain relief.
Participants of the study attended two sessions where they were asked to submerge their hands in ice water. Before one session they were given reflexology and before the other they were given ‘treatment’ from a Tens machine which was not actually switched on.
Researchers found that in the session where they had received reflexology before submerging their hands, participants were able to keep their hands under the water for longer before feeling pain and could also tolerate the pain for longer.
Dr. Samuel has said: “As we predicted, reflexology decreased pain sensations. It is likely that reflexology works in a similar manner to acupuncture by causing the brain to release chemicals that lessen pain signals.”
Common criticisms from the science world regarding complementary therapies include the fact that they are rarely tested in properly controlled conditions. When new drugs are tested, they are compared to a sugar pill to ensure the drugs results are not due to the placebo effect. Dr. Samuel’s study has also removed the placebo element with the use of a switched off Tens machine which is equivalent to a sugar pill in a drugs trial.
The study itself was only small (conducted on 15 people) and therefore it is hoped that further research can be carried out to substantiate claims about reflexology’s power over pain.
If you suffer from a pain inducing condition, complementary therapies such as reflexology could be a helpful tool to use alongside your current medical treatment. To find out more, please see our Reflexology page.
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