There is no doubt that people flock to massage spas to relieve the pain of sore muscles and of course to reduce stress. When massage therapists are armed with the right tools they help their clients relieve headaches, stress, and help loosen rigid muscles. There is even a school of thought that believes foot massage increases circulation, reduces fatigue along with producing a pleasant sensual feeling.
One Michigan State University researcher, Gwen Wyatt believes that foot massage is so robust it can relieve breast cancer symptoms in some women. Redorbit.com says that Reflexology has been around for 5000 years. Reflexology means, healing the feet first. Like yoga or meditation this little known practice has helped countless people tap into their own bodies for therapeutic relief, sometimes instead of medications.
The MSU study was the first large scale use of reflexology as a compliment to standard cancer treatments. Wyatt’s purpose was to take a fringe treatment and push it into the mainstream as an option for those with breast cancer. It is thought that touching different areas of the foot trigger diverse reactions in the body, and may enhance these responses.
Wyatt and her research team recruited 385 women with advanced breast cancer, who were all undergoing either chemo or hormone therapy. The participants were split into 3 separate groups. The first group received a special foot massage from a trained Reflexologist. The second group received a very basic foot rub which acted as the placebo. The final group received no foot massages or rubs at all.
The group was asked about their symptoms 5 and then 11 weeks after the study completed. The first group who were given specialized massages from a trained Reflexologist showed a substantial decrease in shortness of breath, a common breast cancer symptom. They also reported they were more able to complete daily tasks. Wyatt attributed this to their new found decreased shortness of breath. While researchers were surprised that the specialized foot massage relieved this physical cancer symptom, they had expected a decrease in depression or anxiety, which did not occur.
The research group was also stunned to learn that the group that received only a basic foot rub also revealed a decrease in physical cancer symptoms. This group felt less fatigue after their foot rub. The study suggests that people with cancer symptoms can benefit from a foot rub or massage as a way to reduce the accompanying weariness. While, this treatment is certainly not a cure, it may help people undergoing chemotherapy achieve a better quality of life.
Wyatt does mention that the Reflexology treatment did not reduce nausea or pain. However, the women in the study were already taking medications for these ailments. On the other hand, anything that helps cancer symptoms is indeed welcome. As more studies are done it appears that massage will continue to become more of a mainstream medical and rehabilitative tool. This is a far cry from just a few years ago when massage was simply a way to get pampered, and more medical professionals now view massage as beneficial.