If a person looks on the Internet for information relevant to reflexology there will be found 6.5 million web sites. It is a worldwide phenomenon. What disorders are claimed to be improved by use of reflexology? Some reflexologists speak only about relief from stress while others make no limits as to types of problems that can be treated and will be benefitted. Have there been any studies of scientific quality? There can be found on some web sites studies that claim to show benefit to many various medical disorders. Quality studies are another thing. It is very difficult to design a study for testing reflexology that uses randomly selected, double blind, placebo, and a control group.
William T. Jarvis, Ph.D. a prior professor at Loma Linda University taught research methods to aspiring scientists. He often challenges a new group of students to devise a study design to test reflexology. I will share with you some of the studies done using designs created from his classes.
Using questionnaires, 70 subjects were asked to record any health problems they had encountered on any of 43 anatomical locations in the past two years. A reflexologists then examined each of the individuals in a blinded manner. The feet were exposed but a sheet covered the individual and no voice contact was allowed. From this test the results of determining a diagnosis by reflexology were no better than guessing.
In another study, three practicing reflexologists examined 18 individuals that had at least one to six different conditions identified by physicians. The end results were that there was no correlation between the reflexologists’ findings and those identified by a physician.
A third study dealt with 35 women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) which were randomly selected and assigned to either ear, hand, or foot reflexology, or a placebo group which had sham reflex points massaged. The women selected their personal symptoms from a list of 38 symptoms which are commonly associated with this syndrome. They then received reflex therapy. The results were that the treatment group had a modest reduction in symptoms compared to the placebo group. The placebo group complained that their treatment was rough and with discomfort. The group with improvement had thirty minutes of pleasurable relaxing treatment. This study suggested there may be some reduction of symptoms from PMS. There was no proof of a connection between reflex points and body organs.
A fourth study was done on patients with asthma, a disorder that is frequently claimed by many web sites to be benefitted by reflexology. Ten weeks of therapy was given to a treatment group and to a control placebo group. Lung function studies were conducted on both groups which did not change on either group. The conclusion was that no evidence of improvement beyond placebo was shown.
Dr. Jarvis, in an article found on the Internet, shares with us his experience over several years as he did studies on reflexology. In the classes he conducted for post graduate studies in methods of research at Loma Linda University, he would bring a registered reflexologist to the class and have this individual present the theory and demonstrate the practice of reflexology. As previously mentioned he would challenge the students to design a method of testing the theory presented by the reflexologist. Eventually the reflexologist confided in Dr. Jarvis that even as he believed in reflexology he would like to see a study testing it.
Since reflexology claims to be able to prevent and to predict future disease, how do you test for that status? You cannot. Dr. Jarvis decided to test whether reflexologist could detect a present disorder of an individual and if the reflexologist failed that test then there would be no reason to try to design a test that determines whether or not future disease can be detected. The study that was done in response to the reflexologist’s request is the one reported above on the 70 people. At the conclusion of the study the reflexologists agreed that it was not possible to diagnose present problems by reflexology, thereby accepting the conclusion that reflexology would not be able to predict future disease or even to be therapeutic.
From that time on his practice would involve simple foot massages for people who wanted them with no diagnostic or therapeutic claims.
A good foot rub is relaxing and without ill effects and no one should avoid such if they enjoy it. Just do not expect it to be diagnostic or correct health problems. Do not get caught up in such thinking, for if we do, we are then venturing into a system that is founded upon the doctrine of universal energy which leads us away from God’s system of health. The danger of accepting this type of therapy is that if people feel they have gained help in their personal discomforts from such a therapy, they begin to believe the philosophy by which the benefits are explained. This allows acceptance of the vital energy concepts and leads in to accepting Satan’s counterfeit health system, the “right arm” of his false message of salvation.
In a subset of reflexology, the ear is believed to represent the entire body by reflex. When the ear is used in therapy it is termed “auricular therapy.” In the East–West Journal of Natural Health and Living, Aug. 1988, p. 43, the claim is made that there are at least 18 known locations on the body, labeled holograms, wherein a specific point is claimed to influence a specific organ. The hand, the thumb, a tooth, the tongue, and many other areas are said to be micro-microcosms of man and of the cosmos.
An abstract from the Med J Aust. Sept 7, 2009: Is reflexology an effective intervention? A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.
To evaluate the evidence for and against the effectiveness of reflexology for treating any medical condition.
Six electronic data bases were searched from their inception to February 2009 to identify all relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs). No language restrictions were applied.
STUDY SELECTION AND DATA:
Extraction: RCTs of reflexology delivered by trained reflexologists to patients with specific medical condition. Condition studied, study design and controls, primary outcome measures, follow-up, and main results were extracted.
18 RCTs met all the inclusion criteria. The studies examined a range of conditions: anovulation, asthma, back pain, dementia, diabetes, cancer, foot oedema in pregnancy, headache, irritable bowel syndrome, menopause, multiple sclerosis, the postoperative state of premenstrual syndrome. There were 1 study for asthma, the postoperative state, cancer palliation and multiple sclerosis. Five RCTs yielded positive results. Methodological quality was evaluated using the Jadad scale. The methodological quality was often poor, and sample sizes were generally low. Most higher-quality trials did not generate positive finding.
The best evidence available to date does not demonstrate convincingly that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition.
Reflexology is practiced around the world. It is a sympathetic remedy based on the concept that man is the microcosm of the macrocosm (the cosmos). Again, reflexology can be considered a variant of acupressure or Shiatzu.