Study: Foot Reflexology for Knee Discomfort
A study carried out at the Center of Competence Natural Therapies of the University Hospital Jena (UKJ) has now shown that professional foot reflexology can help with mild knee osteoarthritis. As part of a doctoral thesis, Catharina Güttner examined the efficacy of foot reflexology on pain perception and mobility of the diseased joint in 30 patients with moderate knee arthrosis.
Implementation and results of the study
For six weeks subjects received twelve treatments each, a therapeutic massage of the corresponding foot reflex zones - this zone is roughly in the back of the heel. Both the personal judgment of the patients regarding their perception of pain and their pain intensity were measured. At the same time, the flexibility of the diseased knee was checked and compared.
"In both aspects, there were significant improvements during and after the foot reflexology therapy: The pain intensity decreased by more than two thirds and the mobility of the knee joint could be improved by 12 degrees", explains Prof. Dr. med. Christine Uhlemann, supervisor of the work. Almost all patients (92 percent) said after completing the study that their condition had improved.
The data suggest that the efficacy of foot reflexology goes beyond a placebo effect. "The pain of rest, that is, the intensity of the pain that also occurs when the knee is not loaded, even went back to zero after the therapy." At points of reference, ie areas not stimulated by foot reflexology, the sensation of pain did not change.
Not always effective, but beneficial
But there were also other results, for example from the UK: Foot reflexology massage is often used to treat patients with irritable bowel syndrome. A study from the year 2002 has shown that this treatment does not bring more than any foot massage. The scientists around Philip Tovey from the University of Leeds in the UK subjected 34 patients with irritable bowel syndrome to a foot reflexology massage ( Brit J of General Practice 52, 2002, 19 ). One half of the patients were treated with targeted massage at the intestinal reflex points of the foot, the other half with a nonspecific "placebo massage" on the whole foot.
After six massage sessions within three weeks, there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of symptoms of upper abdominal pain, bloating and constipation or diarrhea. The massage had little therapeutic effect in both groups. The weakness of the foot reflexology massage is probably the fact that you can not exactly assign which zones of the foot are related to which parts of the body. Because all findings are mostly experience.
Nevertheless, almost all patients feel a foot massage as soothing, relaxing and sometimes as an analgesic. An effect against pain could result according to the so-called principle of "counter-irritation". By pressing on painful foot zones, a stimulus is generated that temporarily extinguishes other painful stimuli in the body. This principle is also known in the anti-pain effects of acupuncture.