Reflexology And Cancer Care

Let us see how ancient system of energy medicine, reflexology heals in cancer treatment.

What is Reflexology?

Reflexology is the practice of applying targeted pressure to the feet and hands utilizing specific thumb, finger and hand techniques.

These techniques stimulate the nervous system and create relaxation, improved circulation and strengthened immunity.

How it works

This ancient system of Energy Medicine understands that the entire body and key organs are criss-crossed by energy meridiens, which carry ‘Chi’ or ‘Prana’ throughout the body. Illness is a reflection of this energy flow being imbalanced or stuck in some way and healing involves getting this energy to flow steadily and strongly again.

What is interesting is that all these energy meridiens are concentrated in our feet and hands. When targeted pressure is applied here, the ‘Chi/ Prana’ is stimulated and this affects a physical change in different organs and parts of the body.

History of Reflexology

Around the world and throughout history, reflexology has been rediscovered time and again. Archaeological evidence points to active reflexology practices in China (2704 BCE), Egypt (2330 BCE) and Japan (690 CE).

In the West, Reflexology emerged in the 19th century with European and Russian research into the nervous system. Reflex therapies were created as medical practices but were soon eclipsed by use of surgery and drugs.

Benefits of Reflexology, in relation to Cancer

Research has shown the specific techniques of reflexology to be effective and beneficial in many ways.

  • A compilation of 170 studies from 21 countries shows that reflexology impacts a variety of physical and psychological concerns.
  • Another compilation of 24 studies conducted in 10 countries (specific to cancer) shows that reflexology helps at all stages of the cancer experience: post-surgery, during and post-chemo and radio-therapy, to manage symptoms/ pain and during palliative/hospice care.
  • Research demonstrates further, that cancer patients who receive reflexology treatments show significant improvements in physical and emotional symptoms: lower pain, anxiety, depression and stress; reduced nausea and vomiting; reduced fatigue and improved quality of life.

What to expect from a Reflexology session?

A typical session lasts for 30 – 60 minutes. The client sits in a reclining chair, placing the feet and hands conveniently for the reflexologist’s work. The therapist uses pressure, stretching and movement to work through the hands and foot methodically.

One great benefit of reflexology is that specific techniques can be easily learned and self-practiced.

Cautions

Of course, reflexology is a complement (and not a replacement) for standard medical care. People with cancer and chronic conditions such as arthritis and heart disease should talk to their doctors before having any type of therapy that involves moving joints and muscles. Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care may have serious health consequences.

As with massage and other forms of bodywork, reflexology can generally be adapted to meet the needs of cancer patients.

  • Bodywork should be only provided by a trained professional with expertise in working safely with people who have cancer and with cancer survivors.
  • Deep pressure and vigorous manipulation of the feet should be avoided during times of active treatment for cancer, particularly if there is edema or swelling in the foot or lower leg.
  • Pressure must not be applied directly to known tumour sites or to lumps that may be cancerous.
  • Patients with cancer that has spread to the bone or who have fragile bones should avoid physical manipulation or deep pressure because of the risk of fracture.

Author

Written by Krithika Raghavan, a first-year student of Mass Communications from Mt. Carmel College, Bangalore.

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