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Reflexology: a viable treatment option ... or sham?

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  • Reflexology: a viable treatment option ... or sham?

    Alternative therapies to treat MS (or the symptoms of MS) are as prevelant as zits on a teenager. Rarely are these therapies tested in clinical trials. But some blokes in Northern Ireland at the University of Ulster took on the challenge and decided to test Reflexology in multiple sclerosis in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.

    What is Reflexology? According to Wikipedia, the Reflexology Association of Canada defines reflexology as: A natural healing art based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet, hands and ears and their referral areas within zone related areas, which correspond to every part, gland and organ of the body. Through application of pressure on these reflexes without the use of tools, crèmes or lotions, the feet being the primary area of application, reflexology relieves tension, improves circulation and helps promote the natural function of the related areas of the body.

    Sounds hunky dory. Might really help my MS. How did it do in the clinical trial? Here are the results.

    PMID: 19815268 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]
    5: Mult Scler. 2009 Oct 13. [Epub ahead of print] Related Articles, Links

    Reflexology for the treatment of pain in people with multiple sclerosis: a double-blind randomised sham-controlled clinical trial.

    Hughes CM, Smyth S, Lowe-Strong AS.

    University of Ulster.

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) results in pain and other symptoms which may be modified by conventional treatment, however, MS is still not curable. Several studies have reported positive effects of reflexology in the treatment of pain, however, no randomised controlled clinical trials for the treatment of pain have been conducted within this population. The objective of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of reflexology on pain in and MS population. We randomly allocated 73 participants to receive either precision or sham reflexology weekly for 10 weeks. Outcome measures were taken pre- and post-treatment with follow-up at 6 and 12 weeks by a researcher blinded to group allocation. The primary outcome measure recorded pain using a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). A significant (p < 0.0001) and clinically important decrease in pain intensity was observed in both groups compared with baseline. Median VAS scores were reduced by 50% following treatment, and maintained for up to 12 weeks. Significant decreases were also observed for fatigue, depression, disability, spasm and quality of life. In conclusion, precision reflexology was not superior to sham, however, both treatments offer clinically significant improvements for MS symptoms via a possible placebo effect or stimulation of reflex points in the feet using non-specific massage.

    So does reflexology work? Maybe. But apparently so a does a plain-Jane foot massage from your signficant other.
    Dave Bexfield