Testo ricavato da Cancer Research UK
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|What reflexology is Reflexology has been used for centuries. It is thought to have been developed originally by the ancient Egyptians. It is one of the most popular types of complementary therapies in the UK among people with cancer.
Reflexology means applying pressure and massage to areas on your feet and hands. The feet are the most common area to treat.
According to reflexologists, you have ‘reflex areas’ in your feet that match every part of your body. Therapists claim that there is a map of the left side of your body on your left foot, and the right side of your body on your right foot. For example, your left big toe represents the left side of your head, and a point around the ball of your right foot represents your right lung. These maps can vary a little between different branches of reflexology.
How reflexology works
There is no scientific evidence to prove that reflexology really works. Reflexologists believe that having your feet pressed and massaged in a systematic way stimulates the corresponding organs in your body. This releases your body’s natural healing powers and restores health. A reflexologist will gently press your feet to assess your state of health. Pressing these areas is thought to start the healing process, working on 'energy pathways' similar to those used in acupuncture. A sharp or tender feeling (or sometimes what reflexologists describe as a ‘crunchy sensation’) can indicate that an area of your body is out of balance. Therapists think that you become ill when energy pathways are blocked, and unblocking them can restore energy and balance.
Why people with cancer use reflexology
People with people with cancer may try reflexology as a way to
Relax and cope with stress and anxiety
Help relieve pain
Help lift their mood and give a feeling of well being.
Some people think that reflexology can help boost the immune system, fight off colds, bacterial infections, help with sinus problems, back problems, hormonal imbalances, infertility and digestive problems. At the moment there is little or no scientific evidence to prove that reflexology helps any of these conditions.
Evidence on reflexology for people with cancer
There is no scientific evidence to prove that reflexology can cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer. But there are a few studies to suggest that it may help people with cancer and some other illnesses.
Several studies have looked at using reflexology to help with cancer symptoms such as pain, sickness and anxiety. Results from these studies are mixed and most involved small numbers of patients so it is difficult to see if the reflexology had any effect. Some studies had no control group, or the control group did not have a similar intervention to the reflexology. Again, this makes it difficult to see if it is the reflexology that is causing any difference between the groups. It could be the attention of the therapist that helps people to feel relaxed, for instance, rather than the reflexology itself.
A study in 2007 found that reflexology given by their partners reduced pain and anxiety in people with metastatic cancer. There is more information about this study in the what's new in complementary therapy section. But we still need more research before we will know if reflexology really does help people with cancer.
What reflexology involves
On your first visit, your reflexologist will ask you some general questions about your health, lifestyle and medical history. If they have any concerns that reflexology could interfere with your health, or with any drugs you are currently taking, they might ask to speak to your GP. There may be situations where your doctor does not recommend reflexology.
A reflexology session usually lasts between 45 to 60 minutes. You’ll usually lie down for the treatment or sit in a reclining chair. Your reflexologist will use their fingers and thumbs to apply pressure to your feet or hands. Pressure on some areas may be uncomfortable. Your therapist may tell you that this discomfort relates to problems in a particular part of your body. But reflexology shouldn’t be painful. It’s important to tell the therapist if you are in any pain or want them to stop. But most people say that having reflexology feels relaxing and soothing.
Your reflexologist may suggest a course of treatments rather than just one. If you are paying for your treatments, this can be expensive, so always check with your therapist how much they charge and how many sessions they recommend before booking your treatment.
Side effects of reflexology
Generally, reflexology appears to be safe and doesn’t cause many side effects. Because most people feel relaxed after a treatment you might feel a bit light headed. Others report
Wanting to go to the toilet (to pass urine) more often
Tell your reflexologist about any side effects that you have.
Who shouldn’t use reflexology
If you have cancer, you should see a reflexologist who has training in treating people with cancer. This is because there are specific points on the feet that they need to avoid, or where they should only apply very gentle pressure.
People with diabetes should always ask their doctor before having reflexology. This is because it may interfere with drugs for diabetes. It is also not advisable to have reflexology in the first 3 months of pregnancy.
Other conditions where reflexology might not be suitable include
Circulatory problems of the feet
Low platelet count – which means you may bruise or bleed more easily
If you have any of these conditions check with your doctor before having reflexology.