Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2014 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health care professional before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Uses based on scientific evidence
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional.
Bedwetting (in children)
Some studies have suggested that reflexology may help prevent fecal soiling and bedwetting in children. However, the research thus far is inconclusive.
Chemotherapy side effects
Reflexology may help relieve nausea, vomiting and fatigue in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. However, further research is needed to confirm this.
Chronic lower back pain
A large trial comparing reflexology to relaxation or no therapy reports that reflexology is not effective for managing chronic lower back pain.
Research has suggested that reflexology may be useful for treating colic in infants. However, further research is needed before reflexology can be recommended as an effective treatment for colic.
Early study of reflexology in humans with constipation has not yielded definitive results.
Reflexology may provide some benefits to those suffering from depression. However, results from numerous studies have been inconsistent. Further research is needed.
Reflexology may help manage type II diabetes in some patients. More clinical trials are necessary to determine whether reflexology is an effective treatment for diabetes.
Enhanced immune function
Some research suggests that self-administered reflexology may help to boost the immune system.
Reflexology may help relieve fatigue and stress in coal miners with lung diseases.
Fetal development (fetal activity)
A small study reported that foot massage increased fetal activity in midgestation. Hand massage did not increase fetal activity.
Early research suggests that reflexology may relieve pain from migraine or tension headaches, and that pain medication requirements may be reduced.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Early study of reflexology in humans with irritable bowel syndrome has not yielded definitive results. Better research is needed in this area before a strong recommendation can be made.
Early research suggests that reflexology may reduce the need for pain relief during labor. Further research is necessary to explore the safety of using reflexology during childbirth.
It is unclear whether reflexology can benefit patients with lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
So far, there is not enough evidence to support the use of reflexology for treating hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
There is some research to suggest that reflexology may relieve menstrual symptoms. Further research is necessary to reach a firm conclusion.
Reflexology treatment may be beneficial in the management of some motor or sensory symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Early research suggests that reflexology may speed recover after surgery in some patients. However, patients who received reflexology also tended to have poorer quality sleep. Further research is needed to determine whether or not reflexology is helpful in post-operative recovery.
Early studies suggest that reflexology may help with overall well being in pregnant women. However, reflexology does not appear to relieve symptoms such as bloating.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
According to early studies, weekly reflexology sessions may help reduce the severity of premenstrual symptoms in the short term. Further research is necessary to reach a firm conclusion.
Early evidence suggests that reflexology may be useful for relaxation, reducing stress, or relieving anxiety concerning other medical problems or surgeries. However, it is not clear if reflexology is better than (or equal to) massage or other types of physical manipulation.
Results from early studies are not conclusive regarding the use of reflexology for sinus infections or sinus inflammation.
Swelling (leg, ankle, or foot edema)
Early research reports that reflexology is a preferred therapy in women with ankle and foot edema in late pregnancy. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion about effectiveness can be made.
Symptom relief/quality of life in cancer and palliative care patients
Foot reflexology may help manage some pain and fatigue in cancer patients. Reflexology may also reduce anxiety and improve general quality of life in cancer patients. However, reflexology may be no better than foot massage in palliative cancer care.
Research suggests that reflexology may have beneficial effects in women with urinary incontinence. More studies are necessary to confirm the benefits of reflexology.
So far, studies have shown that reflexology is no better than placebo at treating asthma.
Early research examining the accuracy of diagnoses made by reflexologists reports a lack of agreement between practitioners, and diagnostic inaccuracies when compared to well-accepted techniques.
Limited study suggests that treatment given by a reflexologist is less effective (in terms of number of ear disorders, number of antibiotic treatments, number of sickness days, and duration of ear disorders) than treatment given by a general practitioner.
*Key to grades:
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
For full grading rationale, click here.
Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional
Abdominal pain, acne, alcoholism, allergy (diagnosis), arthritis, breast cancer, bursitis, chest pain (non-cardiac), chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic illness, dementia, digestive disorders, eczema, elimination of blood toxins, fatigue, fibromyalgia, glandular disorders, gum inflammation, gynecologic disorders, high blood pressure, improvement of blood supply, infant development / neonatal care, insomnia, intestinal disorders, kidney stones, liver disease, neck pain, neck stiffness, pain, pancreatic disorders, paralysis, peripheral neuropathy (in HIV/AIDS), postmenopausal symptoms, postoperative nausea and vomiting, multiple sclerosis, "restoration" of homeostasis, sciatica, shingles (herpes zoster and post-herpetic neuralgia), spine problems, stress-related disorders, whiplash.
Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
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