Reflexology By Paula

Reflexology and Strokes

Reflexology is a holistic approach that treats the whole person by applying pressure to specific points on the feet. Practitioners believe that each organ in the body is linked to a particular point on the foot. By massaging the feet, they can tell which organs are out of balance and work to restore harmony. Many hospitals and clinics use reflexology therapy as a complementary treatment for a wide range of disorders, including cancer and brain injury.

There is a growing body of scientific research to support reflexology treatment. In 1996, Dr Wang Liang presented his analysis of 8,096 clinical cases. He assessed 63 disorders, including vertigo and type 2 diabetes, and found ‘foot reflexology to be 93.63% effective in treating 63 disorders’. When he assessed the effectiveness of reflexology through this large number of cases, he found it was ‘Significantly effective (cure) in 48.68% of all cases’. Effective or improvement in 44.95%. No effect in 6.37%. Although Dr Liang’s findings are impressive, this is one researcher’s interpretation of the evidence. There is a good deal of debate about the effectiveness of reflexology. The majority of support comes from practitioners and patients who believe that it confers real benefits.

Link to Reflexology and Strokes please follow this link to read a report from Dr Wang Liang on Reflexology and Strokes

The first reflexology treatment typically begins when the practitioner talks to you about your medical history and lifestyle. Then he or she begins a form of foot massage, concentrating on the areas that relate to your medical problems. A reflexology session usually takes around 45 minutes.

Several clinical studies provide evidence that reflexology can help to improve both movement and mental functioning after a stroke. In 2006, a study in China followed 33 patients, aged between 44 to 78 years, who had suffered a stroke within the previous five years.

Their results showed a remarkable improvement in the participants’ ability to walk and use their hands and arms, as well as improvements in speech: Rflexology mapped feet

  • There were limb dysfunction in 26 patients
  • There were motor aphasia in 7 patients

Foot reflexo-therapy was applied for 30 minutes daily, with 10 days as one course of treatment. The period of treatment ranged from 2 to 7 months. It is reported that after treatment, 11 patients (33.33%) were cured: symptom free, with normal limb function and independent daily life; 20 patients (60.61%) improved: symptom free with improved limb function; and 2 patients (6.06%) were unchanged: no improvement in symptoms and limb function.

It was concluded that foot reflexo-therapy can restore the damaged brain function, and revive the limb and speech performance of patients with cerebral thrombotic sequelae [stroke]. It was also proposed that foot reflexo-therapy is useful in the prevention of cerebral thrombosis, as well as in the treatment.

These results are supported by previous studies on movement and speech in China, which also concluded that reflexology, can significantly help people to recover after a stroke.

A previous study, published in 2005, asked whether reflexology could make a difference to activities of daily living (ADL) and fatigue after a stroke.

Thirty-one stroke survivors were treated with 40 minutes of reflexology twice a week for six weeks. Tests showed: ‘After foot reflexology, the subjects in the experimental group showed significant improvement in ADL. They also had less physical, psychological, and neurosensory fatigue, which are three areas of fatigue.

Many stroke patients have turned to alternative therapies,such as reflexology, to help them in their recovery. Reflexology involves physically applying pressure to areas of the body, including the feet, hands or ears, with hand techniques. It does not include the use of oils or lotion. This form of therapy is based on reflexologists' belief that pressure on these reflex areas induces a positive outcome and physical change to the body. Consult your doctor before pursuing alternative remedies.

Mechanism of Reflexology

Reflexology is defined as natural healing based on the belief that reflexes exist in the feet, hands and ears. These areas correspond with referral areas within certain zones, which also correspond to every internal and external part of the body. With pressure application on these areas, reflexology can relieve unwanted tension, improve circulation and aid natural bodily function, according to the Reflexology Association of Canada. Reflexologists believe that stroke patients can benefit from this type of treatment because the pressure application might send out signals of balance to the nervous system or release chemicals that reduce stress and pain.

Theory and Methods

The theory behind reflexology rests on the belief that invisible forces or energy fields in the body can be blocked by environmental and personal factors, resulting in illness. Reflexology is performed by applying pressure to the feet, hands and ears, which is designed to increase the flow of vital energy to various parts of the body. This stimulation might aid in the release of endorphins, which are the body's natural pain killers. In addition, reflexology may stimulate nerve circuits, which can relieve symptoms of stroke patients. Sessions often last between 30 to 60 minutes and in program packages of four to eight weeks.


The hypotheses behind reflexology as a treatment for stroke victims is generally rejected by the medical community. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, the practice lacks scientific evidence and research to support it. Also, because of a lack regulation, accreditation, licensing, and medical training for reflexologists, it is often criticized.

Evidence-Based Research

In a 2002 study published in the Biomedical Central Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal, the use of alternative therapies in the Saskatchewan stroke rehabilitation population was analyzed. Out of 117 rehabilitation patients who completed the study, 16.1 percent found that alternative therapies including reflexology improved their feeling of wellness overall, while 83.9 percent of stroke victims experienced no change or only slight improvement with the treatments. Meanwhile, none of the patients reported any ill effects from the treatments.

Reflexology and pain management

A report by Carol Samuel, PhD, FFHT, discusses reflexology in the management of pain (PDF 1972kb) opens in a new tab.

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