Monday, August 15, 2011

High Tech / High Touch: Medical Hybrid- Why medicine needs reflexology

Medicine is turning to reflexology to do what it can’t. It’s medicine as a hybrid—all the advantages of advanced science and targeted touch. It’s the best of both worlds to make medicine work, save money, and, oh yeah, get people well again. It doesn’t have to be "either-or medicine". The medical hybrid of medicine and reflexology just makes sense. 

Research shows that, when the high tech of medicine isn’t enough, the high touch of reflexology helps. The value of reflexology in a medical setting, serving as an adjunct for patients post-surgically, is demonstrated by fifteen studies conducted in eight countries. And, it’s this research that shows both (1) why medicine needs reflexology and (2) what doors are opening for reflexology use in medical settings. 

The studies show the value of reflexology as it helps with recovery from surgery, doing what medicine can’t: pain reduction when pain killing medicine isn’t enough; speedier wound healing; quicker restoration of bowel and bladder functions; and help to reduce anxiety, a common recovery-interfering post-surgical emotion. In addition to improving quality of life for patients and providing a possible intervention for nurses looking for solutions, such improvements thanks to reflexology have financial consequences: earlier discharge from the hospital as bowel and bladder functions return earlier as well as savings in the lessened use of pain medication.

The studies about the post-operative effects of reflexology work noted here were conducted in: China (6), Austria (3), Iran (1), UK (1), Korea (1), Taiwan (1), Thailand (2), and India (1). 

In six studies—three from China (pacemaker installation, abdominal and gynecological surgery) and two from Austria (unknown and abdominal surgery)—positive results are noted for post-operative foot reflexology application to enhance return of bowel and bladder functions earlier than those of the control groups. These functions are disrupted after surgery and necessary for discharge from the hospital.

Aside from patient quality of life, earlier discharge is a money-saving issue. Recovery results specific to the type of operation were reported for pacemaker installation (postoperative wound pain, “postural hypotension,” wound healing) and gastro-intestinal surgery (abdominal distension rate).

In one study reported in the Journal of Nursing, Chinese researchers compared patients recovering from pacemaker installation, providing usual care to a control group and usual care plus foot reflexology to the another group. In reporting results, they found reflexology to be “conductive to improving the lives of patients’ quality, accelerated postoperative rehabilitation” specifically “postoperative wound pain, sleep time, constipation, postural hypotension, wound healing time was significantly different.” (1)

Mood / Anxiety / Quality of Life
Lessened depression and anxiety as well as improved quality of life (physical, social/family, emotional, and functional well-being) resulted from the application of reflexology post-surgically in two studies of abdominal surgery patients and one of breast cancer patients. Aside from emotional well-being, such psychological enhancement through reflexology work improves recovery from surgery.

As noted in one study: because “Anxiety is a common phenomenon after all surgical operation,” the effects of reflexology and relaxation techniques on reducing anxiety for women who had undergone abdominal surgery was studied by nurses on the Faculty of Nursing at the Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

Three groups were included in the study: reflexology, relaxation and a control group. “Spielberger scale used to measure the anxiety and data analyzed by descriptive and analytic statistics.” A significant difference was found between the reflexology and control groups as well as the relaxation and control groups. The researchers “so recommended to use as complementary methods for decreasing anxiety.”

Pain reduction is a significant result of reflexology work in general as noted in some 35 studies. Ten of the studies have been conducted post-operatively. Lessened pain and/or a decrease in the amount of medication is reported post-surgically for mastectomy; abdominal surgery; gastric and liver cancer; prostatectomy; open heart and general surgery patients. 

As noted in one study: even after receiving analgesia, patients with gastric and liver cancer still report moderate levels of postoperative pain. As reported in Cancer Nursing, Taiwanese nurses conducted a study of the use of reflexology to relieve pain and anxiety in postoperative patients with gastric cancer and hepatocellular cancer.

Less pain and anxiety were reported by reflexology group members when compared to those in the control group. In addition, “patients in the intervention group received significantly less opioid analgesics than the control group (P <.05). Findings from this study provide nurses with an additional treatment to offer postoperative digestive cancer patients.”

The Future
Doesn't  it make sense to build a hybrid of Hi Tech (conventional medicine) and Hi Touch (reflexology, massage and so forth). What do you think?

Barbara and Kevin Kunz

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