Reflexology utilizes finger and thumb techniques on the feet and hands to promote deep relaxation, clarity of mind, and a sense of well-being. A session assists with: digestive ailments, hormonal imbalance, structural pain, attention deficit disorders, headache/migraines, sleeping disorders, releasing emotional tension, and strengthening the immune system.
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It is important to note that the reflexology group only received two months of treatment, whereas the ibuprofen group had two months. In addition to being “associated with more reduction of intensity and duration of menstrual pain in comparison with ibuprofen therapy,” it appeared that reflexology actually promotes healing and not just pain management.
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A study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and published in The New York Times, found that volunteers who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as arginine vasopressin-a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. Volunteers also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system, and a boost in the immune cells that may help fight colds and the flu.
While a foot massage may feel the same as a reflexology treatment, a reflexologist will work on areas to promote a healing response in the corresponding organs. A massage therapist giving a foot massage will manipulate muscles and other soft tissues to improve circulation, relieve pain, and heal injuries in the area or to induce overall relaxation.
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In broad terms, reflexology is intended to reduce generalized stress and help the body achieve a state of deep relaxation and homeostasis (that is, optimal balance of the body’s biochemical and other systems). Yet efficacy studies are few, and a 2009 systematic review of randomized controlled trials conducted by researchers at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, UK, concluded that “the best evidence available to date does not demonstrate convincingly that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition.”
Swedish massage is now gaining acceptance from the medical community as a complementary treatment. Studies have shown that massage can relax the body, decrease blood pressure and heart rate, and reduce stress and depression. It may also provide symptomatic relief for many chronic diseases. Many doctors now prescribe massage therapy as symptomatic treatment for headache , facial pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, other chronic and acute conditions, stress, and athletic injuries. Many insurance companies now reimburse patients for prescribed massage therapy. As of 2000, however, Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for this form of alternative treatment.