By Icemanwcs (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Recent research into use of a drug to treat those with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) offers a clue to how and why reflexology work offers help to soldiers returning from war.
It is estimated one-third of veterans who returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. Common symptoms include depression, outbursts, muscle tension, concentration levels and sleep disruption.
In a study by the U. S. Army shots called stellate ganglion blocks, an anesthetic, are injected into the necks of study participants. “The shots (used for decades for arm pain and shingles) interrupt messages along nerve fibers that control the fight or flight response.” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-a-single-injection-conquer-ptsd-the-army-wants-to-find-out-1497279572?mg=id-wsj
Could interaction with the fight or flight mechanism provide explanation for the successful results using reflexology with Israeli soldiers suffering from PTSD following the Yom Kippur War of 1973?
Improvements of 75% to 80% in the common symptoms were found the day after a reflexology session. General feelings improved by 90% and medication was reduced by 50%. Improvements were reduced two days after a session and measured at 50%. Day 3 found symptoms back as before. Researchers suggested 2 or 3 sessions a week to achieve a more effective result. http://www.reflexology-research.com/?page_id=117
The link between reflexology and the fight or flight mechanism is the role of the foot. in the body as noted by Kunz and Kunz. “In case of danger, the feet participate in the overall body reaction to ensure the survival of the being. This reaction is commonly known as "fight or flight" because the body gears its internal structures to provide the fuel necessary for either eventuality. Muscles ready for action are also a part of this overall body response. The sudden adrenal surge which enables a person to lift a car is an example of this reaction. In case of danger, the hands reach for a weapon and the feet prepare to fight or flee. Pressure sensors in the feet are a part of the body's reflexive network that makes possible the "fight or flight" response.” (Kunz, Barbara and Kunz, Kevin, The Complete Guide to Foot Reflexology (Revised), RRP Press, 2005, p. 8
How does this work? “Reflexology is the organized, systematic application of pressure technique to the feet. Technique is applied on the basis of evaluation of the individual's feet, which reflect a body image formed by adaptation to stress. …
“Think of a slide or a movie projector. The projector projects a picture onto a screen. And you can make adjustments if the picture is blurry. The brain serves as a projector. It projects instructions down the spinal cord and throughout the nervous system about how the body is to operate. It is, in essence, projecting an image of how the body should work. Each body part receives instructions appropriate to its task. The kidneys, for example, are sent directions about their job of elimination of waste products and mineral balance. The feet receive information about locomotion as well as information about the whole body, so that their activities can match the abilities of other body parts to fight or flee. It is these shared images or projections of instructions from the brain that make integrated activities possible.” (Kunz, Barbara and Kunz, Kevin, The Complete Guide to Foot Reflexology (Revised), RRP Press, 2005, p. 15) http://amzn.to/2sPDuhc