Reflexology and Fibromyalgia.
Feet first for Wellbeing!
Reflexology is a non-intrusive complementary health therapy, based on the theory that different points on the feet, lower leg, hands, face or ears correspond with different areas of the body. Reflexologists work holistically with their clients and aim to work alongside standard healthcare to promote relaxation and improve wellbeing. Improved wellbeing is much more than simply the absence of illness; it also includes an enhanced frame of mind, better relationships with those around you and increased happiness.
The art of reflexology is an ancient therapy that has been practiced for over 5000 years and was introduced to the western world over 100 years ago.
Will I benefit from reflexology?
As holistic practitioners, reflexologists are there to support you as a whole person and promote your wellbeing. Therefore, reflexologists do not diagnose, prescribe or cure.
Reflexology acknowledges that every person is a unique individual; it is not possible to know in advance how you will react to a treatment. However, after a treatment, people often do feel very relaxed, may sleep better and notice a feeling of improved mood and general wellbeing. You may find that other things improve too, but this is dependent on the problems you have at the time and your individual reaction to it. For some the alterations in health brought about by reflexology can be dramatic and life changing.
There is an interesting research study on reflexology and fibromyalgia from Iceland. Six women aged between 27 and 55 with fibromyalgia were given 10 weekly reflexology treatments. All had suffered from a shock, accident or traumatic experience before the onset of the illness. They were asked to fill in daily symptom diaries for 13 weeks, starting before and ending after the reflexology sessions. Four of the six women noticed dramatic changes after six to eight treatments and felt very much better after the 8th and 9th weeks of treatment. In the early sessions, generally the pain changed and became worse before getting better. Other symptoms also responded to the reflexology such as migraines and oedema. Five women also found they felt less tired and could cope with better with work and responsibility. Of the two that showed little improvement, one had very severe symptoms and the other experienced aggressive pain that briefly benefitted from the reflexology but returned after the drive home.
What is obvious from this research is that reflexology may well benefit people living with fibromyalgia, but that it will not be a quick fix and simply trying reflexology once will not have the desired effect. Symptoms may become also worse before getting dramatically better. However as the case study below shows it is worth sticking with reflexology as it can result in surprising benefits.
Effects of reflexology on fibromyalgia symptoms: A multiple case study Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice Gunnarsdottir TJ, Peden McAlpine C Volume 16, Issue 3, August 2010, Pages 167-172
Marina is a 36 year old, single art teacher in Nicosia Cyprus. She has been suffering with Fibromyalgia since childhood.
Marinas’ specific symptoms are: Chronic fatigue, dizziness, headaches, aching body, Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome that causes pain in her ears, eyes and face, migraines, numbness or tingling around the body, irritable bladder and IBS, irritability, sensitivity to light, sound, smell, mood changes, depression, memory and concentration problems caused by chronic pain and anxiety.
Medication regularly taken before starting reflexology: Opioid painkillers, morphine, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, muscle relaxants and painkillers.
Duration and frequency of treatment: From October 2011, Marina received 2 treatments in the same week (Monday & Friday) once each month over a period of 11 months.
Symptoms Marina saw change after her treatments: less insomnia, more relaxed, less pain, better mobility, relaxed TMJ, less anxiety and the symptoms that came with her anxiety.
Other complementary therapies used: She takes some vitamins and supplements such as magnesium, vitamin D, Aloe Vera and probiotics all under supervision from her holistic practitioner.
Marina experienced a reduction in her symptoms even after one treatment and decided together with her doctor that she would try to gradually stop taking her medication. She is now medication free and has been for the last 10 months. In Marinas' own words “I am so happy and proud of the fact I am chemical free”.
How has reflexology helped?
She felt reflexology helped with making her feel more serene, relaxed, rested. Her sleep pattern was much better and her muscles felt more relaxed. Her headaches, dizziness and moments of unbearable pain all decreased. Her gastrointestinal problems got better as well. Reflexology helped her understand her body/mind connection much better, feeling it helped her learn to deal with her mind and body in a more functional and holistic way, rather than focus on the Fibromyalgia label. She felt it helped control her pain and the symptoms that go with it which in turn had a huge impact on her mood and this impacted on her relationships with friends and family.
Reflexology helped a great deal with her sciatic nerve atrophy, pain and mobility. Not even opioid medication helped with that pain. To not have the seizures and muscle spasms, which were so painful they would make her cry and to be able to walk and deal with everyday life she perceives to be miraculous. She was able to relax once again something she felt would never happen. Marina is convinced the reflexology was responsible not only for the way she was feeling but also enabling her to withdraw from her medication and thus repairing her gastrointestinal system.
To say Marina has become one of reflexology’s greatest advocates would be an understatement:
‘I would love everyone to try reflexology and for them to know that they too can live a happy life with less pain and at times pain free. I love reflexology’.
Where can I find out more about reflexology?
The Association of Reflexologists has an excellent website full of useful information, including a ‘find a reflexologist’ service, where you can put in your postcode and find a well-trained and insured reflexologist local to you. There are also interactive foot and hand maps and videos of real client’s experiences should you wish to find out more at www.aor.org.uk
Mario Demetriou MAR CNHC
First Published in The Fibromyalgia Magazine
UK Fibromyalgia Year 15 - Issue 4 - February 2015