Monday, October 18, 2010

Science doesn’t always tell the whole story when it comes to reflexology

Science doesn’t always tell the whole story. Or so it seems when considering reflexology. A recent German study notes that reflexology is among CAM practices that “may not have been covered adequately” by databases “which disseminate relevant resources” to “clinicians, researchers and healthcare professionals as well as the lay public”

Translation: information about existing reflexology research is probably not available—to doctors giving information to patients; to researchers considering reflexology; to other healthcare professionals or to the general public. (See abstracts below.)

On the other hand, reflexology is making strides in the real world when consideration is given to practicality and what works. Consider guidelines for the treatment of endometriosis by the UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists with 12,000 members:

“The aim of this guideline is to provide clinicians with up-to-date information about the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis, based upon the best available evidence.The treatment options are examined in the light of presenting symptoms and associated infertility. … “Many women with endometriosis report that nutritional and complementary therapies such as homeopathy, reflexology, traditional Chinese medicine or herbal treatments, do improve pain symptoms. While there is no evidence from randomised controlled trials in endometriosis to support these treatments, they should not be ruled out if the woman feels that they could be beneficial to her overall pain management and/or quality of life, or work in conjunction with more traditional therapies.” “Green-top Guideline No. 24 October 2006” from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Or a similar finding from another source:
“ This is the third Endometriosis Annual Evidence Update. The purpose of the second Evidence Update in March 2008 was to summarise and update the information contained in the guidelines produced by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists in 2006 and the European Society for Human Reproduction & Embryology (ESHRE) in 2005. … “Women may rely on complementary medicine approaches (e.g. homeopathy, reflexology, Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal treatments). There is no evidence from RCTs to support the use of these therapies in endometriosis but it is generally recommended that they should not be ruled out if the woman feels that they could be beneficial to her overall pain management and/or quality of life, or work in conjunction with more traditional therapies.”:
Stephen Kennedy, Clinical Reader/Head of Department, Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University of Oxford, who is trustee of the World Endometriosis Research Foundation.

But here seems to be a bias in the system:
“A Study of Databases CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine)”
“…This overview aims at systematically retrieving and describing all databases covering the field of CAM. One of the requirements for inclusion was that the database would also have to be published in a medical journal.… “The databases AMED, CAMbase, EMBASE, and MEDLINE/PubMed were searched between December 2008 and December 2009 for publications relevant to CAM databases. The authors' specialist library was also searched for grey literature to be included.… “Conclusions: Although this overview is quite comprehensive with respect to the field of CAM, certain CAM practices such as chiropractic, massage, reflexology, meditation or yoga may not have been covered adequately. A more detailed assessment of the quality of the included databases might give additional insights into the listed resources. The creation of a personalised meta-search engine is suggested, towards which this overview could be seen as a first step.”
Boehm K, Raak C, Vollmar HC, Ostermann T., “An overview of 45 published database resources for complementary and alternative medicine.” Health Info Libr J. 2010 Jun;27(2):93-105. Center of Integrative Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Gerhard-Kienle-Weg 4, 58313 Herdecke, Germany, PMID: 20565550 (

So are we dealing with a scientific bias about reflexology that is systemic? It seems so particularly with endometriosis. Does that mean people have to suffer until the scientists can get over this bias? Seems like it. 

Kevin Kunz

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