Study finds reflexology affects the hearts of non-cardiology patients

July 15, 2012, University of Stirling

(Medical Xpress) -- A three-year study by researchers at the University of Stirling has found that reflexology to the upper half of the left foot (the heart reflex point) had an effect on the hearts of healthy volunteers.

PhD researcher Jenny Jones, from the School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health, and Professor Steve Leslie, a cardiologist from the Cardiac Unit at Raigmore Hospital, carried out a study into the effects of reflexology in healthy volunteers and with .

Reflexologists believe that various points on the feet ‘map’ to individual body organs and if these reflex points are massaged, the organ gets more blood. This claim has not been rigorously tested before making the Stirling study the first of its kind. The study specifically tested the upper left ball of the sole which is said to ‘map’ to the and compared this area to other areas of both feet.

The study found that in healthy volunteers reflexology massage to the heart reflex point had a small effect on heart function. No heart function change was detected when ‘non-heart’ or unrelated areas of the feet were massaged. There was no change in the hearts of cardiology patients.

Researcher Jenny Jones said: “Reflexology is unique because it makes quite specific claims that it increases blood flow and this is something you can scientifically test. In our experiment with healthy people there was an inexplicable change in the heart function which occurred only when the heart reflex point area was massaged. We have no idea what caused this change so we have applied for funding to investigate this further.”

She added: “Cardiology patients have problems with coronary blood flow so we wanted to find out if there was any impact on their whilst receiving reflexology too. Interestingly, there was no effect on the hearts of cardiology patients; however all the patients found the treatment to be really relaxing, so it seems to be a safe and useful relaxation tool for cardiac patients to use.

“We want to investigate further why the hearts of cardiology patients are not affected in the same way as the healthy volunteers, with medication being a possible cause. We also want to research and better understand why this one area of the foot – the upper left ball of the sole - had an effect on the heart.”

Professor Steve Leslie added: “Most patients respond well to conventional medicine but for some patients symptoms of cardiac disease persist despite best medical treatments. For these patients we wished to test if reflexology was safe. The results of this study, demonstrated that reflexology did not affect cardiac function, heart rate or blood pressure and therefore it would appear safe for patients, even those with significant cardiac disease to undergo reflexology. Whether reflexology can improve cardiac symptoms requires further research.”

Jenny describes the UK’s complementary therapies market as “huge” and says there is clearly a large public interest in the topic.

She concluded: “There are limitations of what we can do with clinical medicine but there has not been much scientific research available on complementary therapies such as reflexology to help people decide if they work or not. However, if people are choosing to pay to have these complementary therapy treatments to treat symptoms when we have a health care service which is free, you need to ask what it is that these therapies offer that is missing in conventional healthcare.”

The University plans to carry out further research to investigate whether the research effect is repeated in patients with various gradations of cardiac disease and other patient groups, in order to determine if a beneficial effect is likely and is safe.

Further research will have the potential to provide unique data to enable both reflexology purchasers and clinicians to evaluate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of reflexology.

Explore further: Genetically engineered cardiac stem cells repaired damaged mouse heart

Related Stories

Genetically engineered cardiac stem cells repaired damaged mouse heart

July 19, 2011
Genetically engineered human cardiac stem cells helped repair damaged heart tissue and improved function after a heart attack, in a new animal study.

Looking at the micro could mend broken hearts

February 6, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers have completed the first comprehensive survey of the tiny cellular molecules found in the heart and which are essential for its healthy function. The breakthrough could lead to the development ...

Helping the heart help itself: Research points to new use for stem cells

April 8, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- Human trials of stem cell therapy for post-heart attack patients have raised as many questions as they have answered -- because while the patients have tended to show some improvement in heart function, the ...

High blood sugar lowers chances of surviving a heart attack

March 26, 2012
Patients with high blood sugar run an increased risk of dying if they have a heart attack, and diabetics are less likely to survive in-hospital cardiac arrest than non-diabetics, reveals research at the Sahlgrenska Academy, ...

Heart attacks, other emergencies spike during holidays

December 21, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- During his 23-year career, the medical director of the UCSF Emergency Department has done everything from treat traumatic injuries to deliver babies. While medical emergencies occur throughout the year, ...

Recommended for you

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

Place of residence linked to heart failure risk

January 9, 2018
Location. Location. Location.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.