story first appeared on freep.com
Reflexology -- the method of massaging the feet to stimulate parts of the body -- can help cancer patients perform daily tasks better.
That's the conclusion of a new study led by Michigan State University researcher Gwen Wyatt, a professor in the College of Nursing.
The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, is believed to be the first large-scale study to put hard science behind the benefits of reflexology as a complement to standard cancer care,
"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 in a report released by the MSU today. "This is the first step toward moving a complementary therapy from fringe care to mainstream care."
People who received the reflexology treatment had significantly less shortness of breath and were able to more easily perform such tasks as climbing stairs, getting dressed and going grocery shopping, according to the MSU report.
Over an 11-week period, they compared the reflexology group with a group that had regular foot massage and a group that had neither foot massage nor reflexology. The study involved 385 women undergoing chemotherapy or hormonal therapy for advanced-stage breast cancer that had spread beyond the breast. The women were assigned randomly to three groups: Some received treatment by a certified reflexologist, others got a foot massage meant to act like a placebo, and the rest had only standard medical treatment and no foot manipulation.
Wyatt is now researching whether massage similar to reflexology performed by cancer patients' friends and family, as opposed to certified reflexologists, might be a simple and inexpensive treatment option.