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Reflexology for Stroke Patients

Many stroke patients have turned to alternative therapies,such as reflexology, to help them in their recovery. Reflexology involves physically applying pressure to areas of the body, including the feet, hands or ears, with hand techniques. It does not include the use of oils or lotion. This form of therapy is based on reflexologists' belief that pressure on these reflex areas induces a positive outcome and physical change to the body. Consult your doctor before pursuing alternative remedies.

Mechanism of Reflexology
Reflexology is defined as natural healing based on the belief that reflexes exist in the feet, hands and ears. These areas correspond with referral areas within certain zones, which also correspond to every internal and external part of the body. With pressure application on these areas, reflexology can relieve unwanted tension, improve circulation and aid natural bodily function, according to the Reflexology Association of Canada. Reflexologists believe that stroke patients can benefit from this type of treatment because the pressure application might send out signals of balance to the nervous system or release chemicals that reduce stress and pain.

Theory and Methods
The theory behind reflexology rests on the belief that invisible forces or energy fields in the body can be blocked by environmental and personal factors, resulting in illness. Reflexology is performed by applying pressure to the feet, hands and ears, which is designed to increase the flow of vital energy to various parts of the body. This stimulation might aid in the release of endorphins, which are the body's natural pain killers. In addition, reflexology may stimulate nerve circuits, which can relieve symptoms of stroke patients. Sessions often last between 30 to 60 minutes and in program packages of four to eight weeks.

The hypotheses behind reflexology as a treatment for stroke victims is generally rejected by the medical community. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, the practice lacks scientific evidence and research to support it. Also, because of a lack regulation, accreditation, licensing, and medical training for reflexologists, it is often criticized.

Evidence-Based Research
In a 2002 study published in the Biomedical Central Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal, the use of alternative therapies in the Saskatchewan stroke rehabilitation population was analyzed. Out of 117 rehabilitation patients who completed the study, 16.1 percent found that alternative therapies including reflexology improved their feeling of wellness overall, while 83.9 percent of stroke victims experienced no change or only slight improvement with the treatments. Meanwhile, none of the patients reported any ill effects from the treatments.
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