Reflexology? Isn’t that an alternative therapy? And as such, a physiotherapist would not normally use it, most of us might think.
Well, think again! Here is what the UK Chartered Society of Physiotherapists writes about reflexology:
Developed centuries ago in countries such as China, Egypt and India, reflexology is often referred to as a ‘gentle’ and ‘holistic’ therapy that benefits both mind and body. It centres on the feet because these are said by practitioners to be a mirror, or topographical map, for the rest of the body. Manipulation of certain pressure, or reflex, points is claimed to have an effect on corresponding zones in the body. The impact, say reflexologists, extends throughout – to bones, muscles, organs, glands, circulatory and neural pathways. The head and hands can also be massaged in some cases. The treatment is perhaps best known for use in connection with relaxation and relief from stress, anxiety, pain, sleep disorders, headaches, migraine, menstrual and digestive problems. But advocates say it can be used to great effect far more widely, often in conjunction with other treatments.
Reflexology, or Reflex Therapy (RT) as some physiotherapists prefer to call it, clearly is approved by the UK Chartered Society of Physiotherapists. And what evidence do they have for it?
One hundred members of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Reflex Therapy (ACPIRT) participated in an audit to establish a baseline of practice. Findings indicate that experienced therapists use RT in conjunction with their professional skills to induce relaxation (95%) and reduce pain (86%) for patients with conditions including whiplash injury and chronic pain. According to 68% of respondents, RT is “very good,” “good” or “as good as” orthodox physiotherapy practices. Requiring minimal equipment, RT may be as cost effective as orthodox physiotherapy with regards to duration and frequency of treatment.
But that’s not evidence!!! I hear you grumble. No, it isn’t, I agree.
Is there good evidence to show that RT is effective?
I am afraid not!
My own systematic review concluded that the best evidence available to date does not demonstrate convincingly that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition.
Does that mean that the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists promotes quackery?
I let my readers answer that question.