A therapy that focuses on the feet just might help cancer patients manage their symptoms, and improve their lives. Reflexology has been used for millennia, and the results of a new study provide the strongest indication yet that it can improve health.
It’s important to note that the study was funded by the National Cancer Institute. It represents the first wide-ranging look at reflexology used as a complementary therapy, along with standard cancer treatment.
There are points all over the feet and ankles that correspond to organs and specific parts of the body. Reflexology is a type of foot massage that targets these points in an effort to bring about specific health benefits. It has recently been shown that reflexology can help with people who feel colder than they should.
The study, performed at Michigan State University, included 385 women with advanced breast cancer (spread beyond the breast) who were undergoing chemotherapy or hormonal therapy. The women were split into three groups, with actual reflexology or foot massage that acted as placebo, or standard medical treatment with no foot therapy.
At five and 11 weeks into the study, the women receiving reflexology experienced significantly less shortness of breath—which is a common symptom in breast cancer patients. They also reported an improved ability to perform daily tasks such as climbing a flight of stairs, getting dressed, or shopping for groceries. This may have been a result of better breathing.
The results were surprising, as the researchers were expecting more changes in emotional symptoms like anxiety and depression. Instead, the biggest changes were physical. Oddly, the placebo foot massage led to reduced fatigue among the women. Perhaps this could mean that simple foot massages could help cancer patients.
With this added credibility, reflexology is now likely to get more attention. And, it may prompt more clinical studies to help understand this ancient technique. Not only is it a mainstay of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but it has even been depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
Ancient Chinese Technique Eases Breast Cancer Symptoms
You, M., et al., “Health-Related Quality-of-Life Outcomes: A Reflexology Trial With Patients With Advanced-Stage Breast Cancer,” Oncology Nursing Forum 2012; 39(6): 568.