Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Can Reflexology Help Addiction?

A reflexology technique and addiction have something in common— both “light up” the same part of the brain, the insula. 

When pressure is applied to a particular part of the foot or when people crave drugs, brain scans show the insula “lights up” indicating increased blood flow and, thus, increased brain activity.

There are forty deaths a day in America due to opioid addition. There are further deaths due to other forms of addiction. Then there are those seeking help with addition. It’s a problem crying for a solution—and reflexology may provide some help.

The Insula

The insula is a date-sized region of the brain located deep in the cerebral cortex. According to Wikipedia, “The insulae (there are 2 insula each located on one side of the brain) are believed to be involved in consciousness and play a role in diverse functions usually linked to emotion or the regulation of the body's homeostasis. These functions include perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience. In relation to these, it is involved in psychopathology.”

The relationship of the insula to opioid addiction probably lies in its integration of mind and body. “The insula itself is a sort of receiving zone that reads the physiological state of the entire body and then generates subjective feelings that can bring about actions, like eating, that keep the body in a state of internal balance.

Further, “… the insula “lights up” in brain scans when people crave drugs, feel pain, anticipate pain, empathize with others, listen to jokes, see disgust on someone’s face, are shunned in a social settings, listen to music, decide not to buy an item, see someone cheat and decide to punish them, and determine degrees of preference while eating chocolate. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/06/health/psychology/06brain.html?_r=0

Reflexology and the Insula

Two separate fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) studies show that the insula “lights up” when reflexology work is applied to specific areas of the foot. fMRI imaging measures blood flow in and functioning of the brain. 

Responses “were mostly localized at insula region” of the brain when reflexology technique was applied to the adrenal gland reflex area of the foot as shown by one study from Hong Kong using fMRI.

Reflexology techniques applied to the eye reflex area of the left foot at base of second and third toe created response in the insula. Areas activated included: left frontal lobe (strongest activation), cerebellum, left insula, and temporal lobe.

Reflexology and Opioid Addiction

It is difficult to know if reflexology can be effective with addiction. There are anecdotal stories of success. But with the growing crisis with opioid addiction along with over forms of addiction it is worth researching. 

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