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Hand Reflexology & Scientific Research: A historical review!

During the past decades various scientific studies have been published discussing & studying the effectiveness of hand reflexology and/or related techniques such as: hand acupressure, hand acupuncture & palm therapy.

A historical overview of 15 significant studies related to hand reflexology (1990-2013: latest reports presented first):

• (1) Samuel CA, Ebenezer IS. Exploratory study on the efficacy of reflexology for pain threshold and tolerance using an ice-pain experiment and sham TENS control. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2013(May);19(2):57-62

ABSTRACT: Objectives - To explore the efficacy of reflexology on acute pain induced in healthy human subjects using a sham TENS control. Design - An ice-pain experiment was undertaken in which the volunteers (n = 15; 11 female and 4 male with a mean ± SEM age of 37.7 ± 2.6 years) were required to immerse their non-dominant hand in a container of ice-slurry whilst two indices of pain, i.e. threshold, (the time taken for subjects to experience the first pain sensation) and tolerance, (the time when the subject is unable to tolerate any further pain), were measured. Results - Compared to control data, reflexology increased acute pain threshold (F(1,14) = 4.5958, p < 0.05) and tolerance (F(1,14) = 5.1095, p < 0.05). Conclusions - These findings demonstrate that reflexology produces antinociceptive effects in a controlled experiment and suggest the possibility that reflexology may be useful on its own or as an adjunct to medication in the treatment of pain conditions in man.

• (2) Dalal K., Devarajan E., Pandey R.M., Subbiah V., Tripathi M., Role of Reflexology and Antiepileptic Drugs in Managing Intractable Epilepsy - a Randomized Controlled Trial. Forsch Komplementmed 2013;20:104-111

ABSTRACT: Background: This report is based on the results of a randomized parallel controlled trial conducted to determine the efficacy of reflexology therapy in managing intractable epilepsy. Methods: Subjects who failed epilepsy surgery or were not candidates for epilepsy surgery or were non-responders of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) took part in this study. The trial was completed by 77 subjects randomly assigned to 2 arms: control (AEDs) and reflexology (AEDs + reflexology therapy). The hypothesis was that hand reflexology therapy could produce results similar to those of vagus nerve stimulation, and foot reflexology therapy could maintain homeostasis in the functional status of individual body parts. Reflexology therapy was applied by family members. The follow-up period was 1.5 years. Quality of life in epilepsy patients was assessed with the QOLIE-31 instrument. Results: In the reflexology group, the median baseline seizure frequency decreased from 9.5 (range 2-120) to 2 (range 0-110) with statistical significance (p < 0.001). In the control arm, the decrease was less than 25% with a baseline value of 16 (range 2-150). The pretherapy QOLIE-31 scores in the control group and the reflexology group were 41.05 ± 7 and 43.6 ± 8, respectively. Posttherapy data were 49.07 ± 6 and 65.4 ± 9, respectively (p < 0.002). The reflexology method allowed detection of knee pain in 85% of the reflexology group patients (p < 0.001), and 85.3% of patients derived 81% relief from it (p < 0.001). 4 reflexology group patients reported nausea/vomiting (n = 1), change in voice (n = 2), and hoarseness (n = 1). Conclusion: Reflexology therapy together with AEDs may help reducing seizure frequency and improving quality of life in individuals with epilepsy.

• (3) Desai V.D, Sharma S., Patil N., An Alternative Approach in Treating Orofocial Pain: A Pilot Study of 24 Patients. World J Dent. 2012; 3(3): p.255-256.

ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVES: Alternative dentistry is the ever increasing topic of interest in order to unlock the secrets of age old techniques used in the treatment of various diseases. This study was done to relieve pain by alternative therapy and compare four different techniques and their effectiveness in relieving pain. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The study comprised of 24 subjects of whom four different techniques namely coconut oil therapy, reflexology, warm cold ice pack and ginger therapy were tried. RESULTS: We can efficiently use alternative medicines in treating different levels of pain and reduce the burden of analgesics and its side effects. KEYWORDS: Coconut oil therapy, Reflexology, Warm cold ice pack, Ginger therapy, Orofacial pain.

• (4) Oh S.Y., Park O.S., Woo M.Y., Effects of Qi Hand Reflexology on Autonomic Nervous System Activity and Physical Resistance to Stress in Inpatients. J Korean Acad Fundam Nurs. 2010; Nov;17(4):531-538. Korean.

ABSTRACT: PURPOSE: This study was done to identify the effects of Qi hand reflexology on autonomic nerve activity in patients admitted to hospital. METHOD: A non-equivalent control group and quasi-experimental research with pre/post test design were used and 59 patients on a medical ward were assigned to either the experimental group (32) or the control group (27). The study variables included vital signs, autonomic nerve activities (ALF (absolute low frequency), AHF (absolute high frequency), nLF (normalized low frequency), nHF (normalized high frequency), SDNN (standard deviation of all normal-normal intervals)) and were evaluated using the QECG-3 system. The experimental group was treated with Qi hand reflexology for 10 minutes per day, for 3days. RESULTS: Skin temperature and systolic blood pressure in the experimental decreased with treatment. ALF, AHF and SDNN for the experimental group increased with regulating proportion (nLF: nHF=6:4) and a significant difference between the groups was observed. CONCLUSION: The results indicated that application of Qi hand reflexology for patients in the hospital is effective in regulating the autonomic nervous system activation. Implication of finding should be useful for future research.

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  • • (5) Sirirat Kanokururote, Sunida Preechawong, Effect of Hand Reflexology on Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms. Vajira Medical Journal. May - August 2010, Vol. 54 No. 2.

    ABSTRACT: Objective: To compare mean nicotine withdrawal symptoms scores of participants receiving conventional smoking cessation program and participants receiving hand reflexology in addition to smoking cessation program. Study design: Quasi-experimental research with posttest measures design. Subjects: Sixty personnel of BMA Medical College and Vajira Hospital, who were regular smokers and wanted to quit smoking. Methods: The participants were equally assigned to have either hand reflexology and smoking cessation program (experimental group-30 cases) or smoking cessation program only (control group-30 cases). Both groups were matched in terms of age, number of cigarettes smoked per day, duration of smoking-free in previous attempts, and level of nicotine addiction. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms were assessed at baseline, on days 1, 2, 3, and 7 after smoking cessation. The Minnesota Withdrawal Scale which has the score of 0-36 was used. Main outcome measures: nicotine withdrawal symptoms score. Results: At 1 week, 19 participants were excluded from the study because they re-consumed smoking. The remaining 41 participants were all male: 19 in the experimental and 22 in the control groups. Mean ages were 35.6 + 6.7 years and 38.4 + 9.4 years respectively. Mean scores of nicotine withdrawal symptoms before smoking cessation and on day 1 of the experimental group were not significantly different from that of the control group, 7.95 vs 9.00 and 18.84 vs 21.36, respectively. On days 2, 3, and 7 after cessation, mean scores in the experimental group were significantly lower than those of the control group, 18.16 vs. 21.32, 13.42 vs. 16.64, and 9.47 vs. 11.14, respectively. Conclusion: Hand reflexology in addition to the smoking cessation program can better relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms than smoking cessation program alone.

    • (6) Hye Sook Shin, Effects of Koryo Hand Therapy on Serum Hormones and Menopausal Symptoms in Korean Women. J Transcult Nurs. April 2010; vol. 21 no. 2 134-142.

    ABSTRACT: Although previous studies have shown the effectiveness of Koryo hand therapy (KHT) in alleviating menopausal symptoms in middle-aged women, few studies have examined physiological data to evaluate the effect of KHT on menopausal symptoms. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of KHT on biological markers such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estradiol (E2), and self-reported symptoms. A two-group pre-post test design was used in the study. Data were collected from October 18 to December 25, 2006. The participants were 23 people in the experimental group and 21 people in the control group. The experimental group received KHT three times per week for a total of 8 weeks. Findings show that the levels of FSH and LH were significantly different in both groups, but levels of E2 were statistically insignificant. The data support the hypothesis that KHT may have a role in reducing menopausal symptoms in the experimental group. KHT is effective in alleviating certain menopausal symptoms and affects the serum level of FSH and LH as shown by physiological evidence and participants' self-reported symptoms. Further studies are necessary to examine the effects of KHT through more objective data.

    • (7) Yossef Blaer, et al. Single-Blind and Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trials of Palmtherapy, an Alternative Medical Approach, for Anxiety before Cardiac Catheterization. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2008; Volume 5 , Issue 1, Pages 103-105.

    ABSTRACT: Alternative medicine is widely used, but lacks consensus regarding its amenability to scientific investigation. Anxiety increases morbidity and mortality in ischemic heart disease. We performed two studies of Palmtherapy, an alternative treatment, for anxiety before cardiac catheterization. In the first study, patients were randomized to receive pressure at particular points on the palm, or at incorrect locations, for about 50min, while the therapist conversed with them. In the second study, the conversation was conducted by a second, 'blind' investigator. In both studies, patients and nurses, all blind to treatment assignment, completed visual analog scale and National Institute of Mental Health measures of anxiety, respectively. Twenty-three subjects completed study 1, and 17 completed study 2. In study 1, palm therapy was superior to sham therapy for both outcome measures. In study 2, palm therapy was superior for self-reported anxiety, but not for nurses' assessments of anxiety. Future studies should attempt to separate possible mechanistic effects of Palmtherapy from therapist-related variables. Whether alternative medicine deserves to be studied at all remains controversial. Palmtherapy may offer anxiolytic benefit without the harm attributable to drugs.

    • (8) Kyung Rim Shin, et al., The effectiveness of hand acupuncture and moxibustion in decreasing pain and "coldness" in Korea women who have had hysterectomy: a pilot study. Applied Nursing Research; February 2006; Volume 19, Issue 1, Pages 22-30.

    ABSTRACT: This pilot study compared the relative effectiveness of hand acupuncture and moxibustion in relieving pain and decreasing "coldness" in certain body parts experienced by subjects who have undergone a hysterectomy. The study participants were 10 women between 40 and 65 years, whose hysterectomies had been performed within 5 years before the study. The 10 subjects were divided randomly into two independent experimental groups, with one group being treated with hand moxibustion, whereas the other group received hand acupuncture therapy. The visual analogue scale evaluation tool was used to measure the pain and digital infrared thermographic imaging to measure "coldness" and blood circulation. When measuring the degree of pain, it was noted that pain scores decreased conspicuously over time. The responses of the two groups did not differ significantly, but moxibustion therapy was found to increase the temperature of internal parts of the body (i.e., abdominal and waist areas), whereas acupuncture affected the peripheral parts of the body.


    • (9) Oh S.Y., Lim N.Y., The Effects of Self-Administered Hand Reflexology on Fatigue in Student Nurses in Clinical Practice. J Korean Acad Fundam Nurs. 2004; Dec;11(3):256-264. Korean.

    ABSTRACT: PURPOSE: This study was to identify the effects of self-administered hand reflexology on level of fatigue in college student nurses during clinical practice. METHOD: A non-equivalent control group, quasi-experimental research with pre and post-test design was used. Forty-seven student nurses in clinical practice were assigned to either an experimental or control group. The experimental group performed self-hand reflexology for 10 minutes once a day during the 5 days of clinical practice. RESULTS: 1. While there was a significant difference in degree of fatigue and fatigue scores in the experimental group over time, there was no significant difference between the two groups. 2. Vigor score for the experimental group was significantly higher than those of the control group during the 5 days except for day 5, but there was no significant difference between the two groups. 3. Levels of fatigue for the experimental group increased after 1 hour in the 1st post time, but there was no significant difference between the groups. CONCLUSION: Self-administered hand reflexology was not found to be an effective method for relieving fatigue for student nurses in clinical practice. Also physiological effects were not identified in this study, and so further research is needed.

    • (10) Bang K.A., The effect of hand reflexology on nausea, vomiting, and fatigue in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Doctoral dissertation. 2003; Keimyung University, Daegu.

    ABSTRACT: (Not available)

    • (11) Yun J.H., Kim Y.S., Yu S.W., Ko S.M., Oh K.S., Park I.A., Effect of hand reflexology massage method on patient's pain and mood following a spinal surgery. Journal of the Nursing Academic Association of Ewha Womans University; 2003; 15(2): page 1-17.

    ABSTRACT: (Not available)

    • (12) Oh S.Y. The Effects of Hand Reflexology on Saeng-Chi and Immunity in ESRD Patients. J Korean Acad Fundam Nurs; 2002; Aug;9(2):213-225. Korea.

    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to identify the Effect of Hand Reflexology on Saeng-chi of physiologic, emotional & motivational responses and Immunity in ESRD patients who received hemodialysis in two general hospital from June to September. 2001. A two group quasi-experimental research with pre and post test design was used. The number of participants in the experimental group was 23, and in the control group, 20. The Hand Reflexology Intervention was developed by the researcher based on hand reflexology by Carter & Weber and Chi-massage by Chia. The Hand Reflexology was applied to both hands for 10 minutes per day, and 5 days by 5 times. To evaluate the effects of the program, pre and post evaluations were done. In the physiologic response, the PR was decreased at the 1st times post treatment and at the 5th. In addition BP was decreased at the 1st time, but not the 5th. After 5 treatments, there were significant increase in Hb and significant decreases in the BUN and Cr. levels in the experimental group. In the emotional and motivational responses, there were significant increases in vigor, mood, uplifts and self care agency scores in the experimental group. but there was no significant difference in the Rosenberg's self esteem score.In the experimental group, significantly increased CD4, and h/s ratios were found, also NK cells were significantly decreased, and there was a decrease in the CD8. However, no significant differences between groups were observed. There were significant increases in CD32, CD33, CD34 in the experimental group. The self care agency score correlated negatively with the CD8. From the above results, Hand Reflexology is shown to be an effective mind-body nursing intervention for enhancing Saeng-chi responses and affecting some of the immune responses. However, Immune cell activation and differentiation with hand reflexology will be achieved with future study.

    • (13) Lee C.H., Oh S.Y., Park O.S., Kwon I.G., Jeong M.A., Lee E.A. Effects of Hand Reflexology on Physiological Emotional Responses and Immunity in the Patients with Chronic illness; Chronic renal failure patients and Cancer patients. J Korean Acad Nurs. 2002; Oct;32(5):716-726. Korean.

    ABSTRACT: PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of hand reflexology on the physiological?emotional responses and immunity of the patients with chronic illness. This study looked specifically at patients with chronic renal failure(CRF) and cancer patients. METHOD: This study was designed as a quasi-experimental nonequivalent control group pre and post test. Subjects were 54 patients who received dialysis and chemotherapy in one hospital. Thirty-one patients were assigned to the experimental group and 23 to the control group. The hand reflexology was applied to both hands of the experiment group for ten minutes each time, 5 times during three days. For data collection, physiological lab levels, immune cells of blood and questionnaires for emotional responses were measured before and after the program. RESULT: BT of the experiment group was decreased significantly on both of the 1st and the 5th application. PR and BP were decreased significantly on the 1st times, but not 5th times. Hb levels of the experimental group were significantly increased. And emotional responses, vigor and mood scores of the experiment group were significantly increased. B cell and CD19 were increased significantly on the experiment group. Suppressor T cell and NK cell showed significant decrease after the program, but no significant differences between the groups. CONCLUSION: We have found that the hand reflexology helps the chronic patients to improve physiological emotional responses and the immune reaction. Through this result, the hand reflexology is effective as a intervention of psychoneuroimmunologic function. Conclusion: These clinical findings support the use of ear, hand, and foot reflexology for the treatment of PMS.

    • (14) Oleson T. & Flocco W. Randomized Controlled Study of Premenstrual Symptoms Treated With Ear, Hand, and Foot Reflexology. Obstetrics & Gynecology. December 1993; Volume 82 - Issue 6.

    ABSTRACT: Objective: To determine whether reflexology therapy-the application of manual pressure to reflex points on the ears, hands, and feet that somatotopically correspond to specific areas of the body-can significantly reduce premenstrual symptoms compared to placebo treatment. Methods: Thirty-five women who complained of previous distress with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) were randomly assigned to be treated by ear, hand, and foot reflexology or to receive placebo reflexology. All subjects completed a daily diary, which monitored 38 premenstrual symptoms on a four-point scale. Somatic and psychological indicators of premenstrual distress were recorded each day for 2 months before treatment, for 2 months during reflexology, and for 2 months afterward. The reflexology sessions for both groups were provided by a trained reflexology therapist once a week for 8 weeks, and lasted 30 minutes each. Results: Analysis of variance for repeated measures demonstrated a significantly greater decrease in premenstrual symptoms for the women given true reflexology treatment than for the women in the placebo group. Conclusion: These clinical findings support the use of ear, hand, and foot reflexology for the treatment of PMS.

    • (15) Dale R.A. The holograms of hand micro-acupuncture: a study in systems of correspondence. American journal of acupuncture; 1990; vol. 18, no2, pp. 141-162 [22 page(s) (article)] (2 p.).

    ABSTRACT: The charts presented include the patterns implied by Chinese pulse diagnosis and palm reading, Fitzgerald's hand reflexology, Requena's Five Element hand morphotypes and Yoo's Koryo (Korean) hand acupuncture which includes the 14 micro-channels.