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Reflexology: As Effective as Painkillers in Arthritis?

If your joint wellness is affected by osteoarthritis, reflexology may be as effective as painkillers. This is according to a new study published in the Journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, which found that reflexology reduced arthritic pain by 40% and people who had the therapy were able to stand pain for 45% longer.

The University of Portsmouth researchers noted that this study is the first to look at how reflexology can benefit your wellbeing in this area, as no other study has scientifically tested reflexology as a treatment for acute pain. The experimental procedures were carried out by Dr Carol Samuel, a trained reflexologist, as part of her PhD studies. She said that, as a result of her findings, it appears that reflexology could be a beneficial complementary therapy to drug treatments for conditions such as osteoarthritis and back pain.

For the study, participants were given reflexology before they were asked to submerge their hand in ice water. Then, in another session, in which the participants also submerged their hand in the water, they believed they were receiving pain relief from a Tens machine, which was not actually switched on. The results revealed that the reflexology allowed participants to keep their hand in the ice water for longer before they felt pain, and tolerate the pain for a longer period of time.

According to Dr Samuel, ‘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, who co-authored of the study, added, ‘We are pleased with these results. Although this is a small study, we hope it will be the basis for future research into the use of reflexology.’

Dr Ivor Ebenezer explained, ‘Complementary and alternative therapies come in for a lot of criticism, and many have never been properly tested scientifically. One of the common criticisms by the scientific community is that these therapies are often not tested under properly controlled conditions. When a new drug is tested, its effects are compared with a sugar pill. If the drug produces a similar response to the sugar pill, then it is likely that the drug’s effect on the medical condition is due to a placebo effect.’

He continued, ‘In order to avoid such criticism in this study, we compared the effects of reflexology to a sham Tens control that the participants believed produced pain relief. This is the equivalent of a sugar pill in drug trials.’ He added, ‘This is an early study, and more work will need to be done to find out about the way reflexology works. However, it looks like it may be used to complement conventional drug therapy in the treatment of conditions that are associated with pain, such as osteoarthritis, backache and cancers.’

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This entry was posted on July 13, 2013 by and tagged , , .
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