Living with a chronic illness such as cancer can have both a physical and mental impact. Heightened levels of stress, anxiety, pain, nausea and worry can affect both the patient and their family, friends and carers. And while modern medicine can help to relieve some of these symptoms, new research into the benefits of integrative medicine are leading many people to look at other avenues to help along their journey.
There are a range of complementary therapies becoming increasingly available and recognised, such as acupuncture/acupressure, massage, reiki, meditation, yoga, tai chi, herbal medicine, homeopathy and art therapy, to name just a few.
What is Reflexology?
Reflexology is a type of ‘pressure massage’ and is a very ancient form of therapy. Evidence of its use points back to both China and Egypt as early as 2330 B.C. Similar forms were also used throughout India, North America, Europe and Japan. It is considered both a science and holistic therapy, and works on the belief that there are points on the hands, feet, ears (amongst other places) connected to every part of the body, including the spinal cord, organs, glands and brain. Similar to acupressure, compression is used against these points to target specific ‘energy zones’. Most of the modern reflexology therapies you may have come across today are based on these early practices.
How does it work?
Reflexology works by breaking up any congestion in the capillaries and relieving tension through nervous system stimulation. The application of pressure on given nerve endings sends signals to other parts of the body, encouraging and re-establishing the natural flow of energy.
In addition, deposits of toxins, lactic acid, uric acid and inorganic calcium (sometimes known as ‘crystals’) are pushed against the nerve endings and dispersed. And with over 7000 nerve endings in each foot alone, it makes sense that these could have a profound effect on the entire human body!
Are there benefits for cancer patients?
Reflexology may be able to help with a range of ailments, including the reduction of stress, tension and anxiety, stimulation of the lymphatic system, increasing circulation, increased energy and pain management. As it’s a non-invasive form of therapy, it’s an alternative to traditional massage for those who prefer to avoid full-body touch. And as there is no undressing or repositioning required, it can be ideal for those who are very sick, who can’t be moved during treatment or touched in certain places. It could also help to reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Overall, reflexology is thought to be very helpful for anybody on a cancer journey. It can help to improve a person’s quality of life, whilst creating and sustaining an overall sense of wellbeing, which is pivotal for anybody on a healing journey.
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, or are caring for somebody who living with cancer, you could benefit from free reflexology sessions at our Education & Wellness Centre. All of our volunteers and staff are fully qualified and truly passionate about helping others. If you’d like to register with us, please call on 0116 246 0195.
National Institute of Clinical Excellence (2004)
Mason, P (1999) Living With Cancer – A Distance Learning Course for Community Pharmacists
Watts, G.C (2010) An Investigation into the Role of Illness and Treatment Beliefs in Influencing Pain Perception following Reflexology