Reflexology research press release is lame

Reflexology: Ancient foot massage technique may ease cancer symptoms.

A study led by a Michigan State University researcher offers the strongest evidence yet that reflexology — a type of specialized foot massage practiced since the age of pharaohs — can help cancer patients manage their symptoms and perform daily tasks.

Funded by the National Cancer Institute and published in the latest issue of Oncology Nursing Forum, it is the first large-scale, randomized study of reflexology as a complement to standard cancer treatment, according to lead author Gwen Wyatt, a professor in the College of Nursing.

“It’s always been assumed that it’s a nice comfort measure, but to this point we really have not, in a rigorous way, documented the benefits,” Wyatt said. “This is the first step toward moving a complementary therapy from fringe care to mainstream care.”

The article notes:

Reflexology is based on the idea that stimulating specific points on the feet can improve the functioning of corresponding organs, glands and other parts of the body.

And is completely without scientific merit.

Note that this piece says that the regular foot massage worked best for fatigue (and they were “surprised”). And reflexology didn’t work for important things like nausea or pain, only “shortness of breath”. So what? Then they bolster the findings with arguments from antiquity:

“Reflexology comes out of the Chinese tradition and out of Egypt,” Wyatt said. “In fact, it’s shown in hieroglyphics. It’s been around for a very long time.”

SO WHAT?! That’s not science! It was PRE-SCIENCE. This press release was desperately spun to make this treatment sound far more important than it is. If this is the best “evidence” they can put in the promotional material, I’m wondering how worthless the study results really were. Reflexology is still silly.

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  3 comments for “Reflexology research press release is lame

  1. November 14, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    Curing ailments is bunk, but hell, a good foot massage is *so* relaxing. Several years ago I was stressed out before a major event and one of my wife’s friends, mad into the alternative medicine stuff and supposedly a reflexology expert gave me such a good foot massage I fell fast asleep within minutes.

    Slept well that night too! :)

  2. jbspry
    November 15, 2012 at 3:22 AM

    I was a bit surprised when I read that it was a “study led by a Michigan State University researcher” but as I read on that it was published in the “Oncology Nursing Forum” I saw the light. The nursing profession is lousy with this kind of pseudo-medicine.
    For instance, the American Nursing Association recognizes as a legitimate “healing modality” Therapeutic Touch, the waving of hands in the air over a patient’s being (not body – “being”) to smooth out spikes and ripples in his “bioenergy field”, presumably much like the old-time nurses used to smooth out a patient’s bedsheets. MDs like to joke that “therapeutic touch is neither”. But the ANA issues special certificates to members adept in the practice.
    It all stems from the nursing profession’s ferocious inferiority complex whencomparing themselves to medical doctors. They are desperate to prove that they to have their own “science”, one that is equal to that of the MDs so they embrace all this blowsy nonsense in an attempt to give their profession some kind of mystique.

  3. LovleAnjel
    November 16, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    I don’t have access, but it looks like reflexology rarely fared better than “lay foot manipulation”, whatever that is. Reflexology uses an electric hammer. If the LFM did not involve an electric hammer, then it’s not a valid control. They needed to hammer the foot in places that would, according to reflexology, not help for a true comparison. I am very surprised that it didn’t help pain or nausea, those are two things very amenable to placebo effects.

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