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Reflexology and Strokes

Reflexology is a holistic approach that treats the whole person by applying pressure to specific points on the feet. Practitioners believe that each organ in the body is linked to a particular point on the foot. By massaging the feet, they can tell which organs are out of balance and work to restore harmony. Many hospitals and clinics use reflexology therapy as a complementary treatment for a wide range of disorders, including cancer and brain injury.
There is a growing body of scientific research to support reflexology treatment. In 1996, Dr Wang Liang presented his analysis of 8,096 clinical cases. He assessed 63 disorders, including vertigo and type 2 diabetes, and found ‘foot reflexology to be 93.63% effective in treating 63 disorders’. When he assessed the effectiveness of reflexology through this large number of cases, he found it was
‘Significantly effective (cure) in 48.68% of all cases. Effective or improvement in 44.95%. No effect in 6.37%. Although Dr Liang’s findings are impressive, this is one researcher’s interpretation of the evidence. There is a good deal of debate about the effectiveness of reflexology. The majority of support comes from practitioners and patients who believe that it confers real benefits.
The first reflexology treatment typically begins when the practitioner talks to you about your medical history and lifestyle. Then he or she begins a form of foot massage, concentrating on the areas that relate to your medical problems. A reflexology session usually takes around 45 minutes.
Several clinical studies provide evidence that reflexology can help to improve both movement and mental functioning after a stroke. In 2006, a study in China followed 33 patients, aged between 44 to 78 years, who had suffered a stroke within the previous five years. Their results showed a remarkable improvement in the participants’ ability to walk and use their hands and arms, as well as improvements in speech:
‘There were limb dysfunction in 26 patients and motor aphasia in 7 patients. Foot reflexo-therapy was applied for 30 minutes daily, with 10 days as one course of treatment. The period of treatment ranged from 2 to 7 months. It is reported that after treatment, 11 patients (33.33%) were cured: symptom free, with normal limb function and independent daily life; 20 patients (60.61%) improved: symptom free with improved limb function; and 2 patients (6.06%) were unchanged: no improvement in symptoms and limb function. It was concluded that foot reflexo-therapy can restore the damaged brain function, and revive the limb and speech performance of patients with cerebral thrombotic sequelae [stroke]. It was also proposed that foot reflexo-therapy is useful in the prevention of cerebral thrombosis, as well as in the treatment.'
These results are supported by previous studies on movement and speech in China, which also concluded that reflexology, can significantly help people to recover after a stroke.
Another study, published in 2005, asked whether reflexology could make a difference to activities of daily living (ADL) and fatigue after a stroke. Thirty-one stroke survivors were treated with 40 minutes of reflexology twice a week for six weeks. Tests showed:
‘After foot reflexology, the subjects in the experimental group showed significant improvement in ADL. They also had less physical, psychological, and neurosensory fatigue, which are three areas of fatigue.