Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why Reflexology Improves Cancer Care

Research demonstrates the benefits of reflexology use with cancer care: lessening pain, decreasing anxiety, reduced nausea and vomiting as well as providing comforting touch. Explanation for such benefits is found in the impact on the nervous system by reflexology pressure technique application to the hands and feet.
Possible mechanisms of action at work 
Lessening of pain
The lessening of pain in response to reflexology work is documented in eleven cancer care studies. Similar results have been demonstrated in twenty-five studies with reflexology applied in areas such as birthing, phantom limb and the elderly. Such results find explanation is what researcher Dr. Nancy Stephenson of Eastern North Carolina University considers as affect on the neuromatrix of the brain, an expansion of the Gate Control Theory of Pain. According to Wikipedia: “Gate control theory asserts that activation of nerves which do not transmit pain signals, called non-nociceptive fibers, can interfere with signals from pain fibers, thereby inhibiting pain.” Stimulating nerves that sense touch, heat, cold and pressure overcomes the action of the pain nerves. 
Decrease in anxiety
Decrease in anxiety for cancer patients in response to reflexology work is demonstrated in nine studies. Explanation is found in some twenty broader studies with individuals ranging from healthy individuals to senior citizens to menopausal women using a variety of measurements show that reflexology relaxes the body. The stimulation of reflexology’s pressure techniques creates change in the body’s basic level of tension as demonstrated by research using measurement of: brain waves (EEG), blood pressure, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, pulse rate, and anxiety. 
Reduced nausea and vomiting
Results of research with cancer patients show reduced nausea (6 studies) and vomiting (4 studies). Such symptoms are not the subject of other reflexology research. The thesis of nursing student Alberto Zangini, University of Verona raises some possible avenues of thought for the responses of cancer patients. He notes that vomiting results from stimulation of the vagus nerve involving many neurotransmitters, not only the receptors but their combined association—”Most important are the 5-HT3 receptor (or receptors serotonin), dopamine receptors and neurokinin receptors (NK-1).” (30) Drug treatment for nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy include classes of drugs that counteract such neurotransmitters and/or combinations of neurotransmitters. 
Does impact on the vagus nerve and such neurotransmitters produce the response to reflexology work on nausea and vomiting by cancer patients? One previous study measured serotonin (“the happiness hormone”) levels with the reflexology group showing higher levels than control group when 12 sessions of 30 minutes each were applied to elderly women. (31) Further research is needed to identify the potential mechanism of action. 
Comforting touch
Finally, the comforting touch of a concerned care giver or professional cannot be over-looked in the responses of cancer patients to reflexology work. Study after study notes the response of the reflexology’s human to human non-invasive touch. 
Achieving Results for Cancer Care with Reflexology
How much and how often reflexology is applied to achieve such results is detailed in Medical Applications of Reflexology 2, Findings in Research about Post-operative Care, Maternity Care, and Cancer Care.

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