Research: Reflexology Makes a Difference in Response to Pain
by Barbara & Kevin Kunz
New research shows that reflexology makes a difference in how individuals handle pain. British researcher Carol Simon of the Department of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, University of Portsmouth, UK notes; “It has been claimed that reflexology is useful in the treatment of various conditions including such things as migraine, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether foot reflexology attenuates acute pain in human volunteers.”
The study was conducted using an ice bath, a classic research method for studying response to pain. The study participant’s hand is immersed in ice water. Time is then measured to see how long it takes for the individual “to find the experience painful.” Next, time is measured to see how long it takes until the individual “can no longer keep his or her hand in the ice water.” Pain threshold and pain tolerance are thus measured. Reflexology was tested using this method to see if it impacts pain threshold and pain tolerance. Results show that reflexology work does make a difference in the threshold and tolerance of pain.
Dr. Simon conducted a controlled study of 16 healthy individuals. Half of the test subjects received a single reflexology session followed by pain “induced … by immersion of the non-dominant hand in crushed ice.” Half the subjects served as a control group, receiving “sham TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation” prior to immersion.
Following a cross-over design, the reflexology group then received sham TENS before ice water immersion of hands. The original sham TENS group received reflexology work.
“(1). Two measurements were taken (i) pain threshold (i.e. the time it takes for the subject to find the experience painful) and (ii) pain tolerance (i.e. the time it takes until the subject can no longer keep his/ her hand in the ice water).” “Measurements were taken 15 minutes prior to treatment and at 30 minute intervals for 120 minutes following reflexology or sham TENS.”
“The results of this study show that reflexology increases both pain threshold and tolerance in human volunteers exposed to acute pain. These findings indicate the possibility of using reflexology in the management of pain.”
Carol Samuel (UK) “The effects on reflexology on pain threshold and tolerance in an ice-pain experiment on healthy human subject,” May 13, 2007, International Congress on Complementary Medical research (Conference), www.CMR-muc2007.de
The use of reflexology to reduce pain is documented by both testimonials and research. A review of 177 reflexology studies shows that 35 or 21% included testing the efficacy of reflexology for pain reduction. How this takes place is a matter of conjecture. Popular theories include pain reduction due to: endorphin release prompted by reflexology work and the pain gate theory (the signal created by reflexology work replaces the pain signal at the “gate,” the spinal cord).