Pain Killers versus Reflexology – Research

reflexology 5A small scientific study on reflexology as a treatment for acute pain finds that it may be as effective as painkillers. Dr. Carol Samuel and Dr. Ivor Ebenezer, of the University of Portsmouth in the UK, suggest reflexology may usefully complement conventional treatments for conditions like osteoarthritis, back pain and cancer. The researchers say this is the first time reflexology has been scientifically tested.

With reflexology pressure may be applied to the ears, hands or feet. In this study, the treatment was applied to the feet. For the study, 15 participants underwent two sessions where they had to submerge their foot in ice water. In one session they received reflexology before they submerged their foot, and in the other they believed they were receiving treatment from a TENS machine (machine that stimulates the nerves intended to reduce pain), but it was switched off.

The experiments looked at two measures: pain threshold and pain tolerance. Pain threshold is the time it took for the participants to start feeling pain, and pain tolerance is the length of time from first inserting the foot in the water to when they could no longer stand the pain. The results showed that when they received reflexology, the participants had higher pain thresholds and tolerances than when they received the placebo TENS treatment. Receiving reflexology resulted in about 40% less pain, and ability to withstand it lasted about 45% longer.

Carol Samuel, a trained reflexologist who carried out the experiment as part of her PhD studies, says “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.” Dr. Ivor Ebenezer says they were very pleased with the results, and although it is a small study, they “hope it will be the basis for future research into the use of reflexology”.

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