Reflexology research for hospitalized patients supported by mechanical ventilation:
Potential General Impact of a Single Reflexology Session on Physiologic Parameters
Research shows that reflexology effects a variety of physical and psychological concerns. Research also demonstrates what a single reflexology session reflexology can do for the reflexology client:
• creates relaxation
• reduces anxiety
• diminishes pain
• improves blood flow to the kidneys, intestines, and feet
• improves blood flow to parts of the brain related to the reflex area
• decreases heart rate and blood pressure
• increases oxygen saturation and lowers respiratory rate (functions of the lungs)
Can a single reflexology session make a difference for hospitalized patients, especially for those in the most serious of circumstances, supported by mechanical ventilation? Findings in research show possibilities.
Further, what can such findings mean for the providing of reflexology services for the benefit of reflexology clients?
While multiple variables can influence the results of a reflexology session, three studies of patients supported by mechanical ventilation demonstrate key issues. In the studies, the length of time reflexology is applied and reflex areas to which technique is applied potentially made a difference in positive results.
At issue for the reflexologist and client: can applying technique to a limited number of reflex areas for the duration of a session provide specific benefits?
The three studies investigated physiologic parameters of patients following open heart surgery as well as length time for weaning from mechanical ventilator support. Stabilization of physiologic parameters and length of time on mechanical ventilation are both important to a successful outcome for patients.
The best results among the three studies were achieved in a study where 30 to 40 minutes of reflexology work was applied to solar plexus, heart and lung reflex areas of study participants. Following reflexology work, statistically significant differences were found in physiologic parameters (heart rate, respiratory rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure and oxygen saturation) for intervention participants compared to those in the control group. (17a/29)
No significant differences were found for physiologic parameters in a study where 20 minutes of foot reflexology was applied to the heart and lung reflex areas of study participants.
No significant differences were found for physiologic parameters in a study where 20-30 minutes of foot reflexology was applied to the solar plexus, respiratory, circulatory, urinary, lymphatic reflex areas of study participants.
All three studies demonstrated shorter weaning times from mechanical ventilators: 165 minutes for the first noted above; 39 minutes less for the second and 100 minutes less for the third.
As noted by the first study:
“Statistically significant differences from patients in the control groups were found in heart rate, respiratory rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure and oxygen saturation. As noted by researchers: “The findings of this study support the hypothesis that foot reflexology positively affects the stabilization of physiological indicators of critically ill patients and decreases ventilation dependence as compared with patients who did not receive foot massage.”
Length of time and reflex areas were deliberately chosen. Length of time for technique application was chosen from three previous studies. “Based on the claim of reflexologists (three studies as well as Kunz and Kunz, Complete Reflexology for Life), the points on the plantar surface of the foot which may be responsible for stabilization of physiological indicators and reduction of ventilation dependence were chosen. … “The steps of foot reflexology technique were adopted from Kunz and Kunz (Complete Reflexology for Life)”
Additional research demonstrated positive results in two studies of physiologic parameters following coronary artery bypass surgery.
30 minutes of foot reflexology applied to solar plexus, hypothalamus, pituitary, lung, adrenal gland, heart (left foot only) reflex areas of study participants resulted in greater improvement than the control group to physiologic parameters (respiratory rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, oxygen saturation, heart rate)
Also improved to a level greater than other the control group was patients’ anxiety. Patients’ agitation showed significantly higher reduction. Extubation time was significantly shorter.
30 minutes of foot reflexology applied to solar plexus, hypothalamus, pituitary, lung, adrenal gland, heart (left foot only) reflex areas of study participants was shown to result in a significant difference in physiologic parameters (respiratory rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, oxygen saturation). No significant difference was shown for heart rate. A significant difference was seen in patients’ anxiety levels.