Millions of people around the world suffer from anxiety. While most individual experiences can be considered mild or temporary, there are others for whom anxiety is a debilitating mental and emotional disorder that can have significant negative effects on one’s physical, emotional, and social functions. As an alternative treatment, reflexology massage is commonly recommended to help individuals achieve a sense of relaxation and well-being.
Reflexology is a type of massage that uses light to moderate pressure on specific points in the feet, hands, or ears. These points correspond to certain body parts and organs. By massaging these points, beneficial effects can be experienced by the other part or organ. Reflexology uses massage techniques to help relieve tension, improve blood circulation, and induce relaxation and rest. Frequently, reflexologists use tools that aid the in targeting and adding more pressure on specific points. The benefits derived from reflexology by people with anxiety are mainly from its therapeutic effects. Massage movements are slow and deliberate, allowing the patient to relax and calm the mind. As a result, heartbeat is regulated and the patient is better able to breathe deeply. It is the preferred form of therapy for many individuals because it is non-invasive, does not require medication, and in its most basic form, does not require the use of special equipment.
Studies on the efficacy of relaxation techniques such as therapeutic massages have been conducted since the late 70s and results have been promising. In a study performed by the University of Udine in Italy, the group that received massages reported a general decrease in anxiety versus the control group. The study concluded that reflexology in the form of a foot massage can be used as a treatment to complement or support conventional medical treatments to alleviate anxiety particularly brought on by chemotherapy. It has also proven effective in improving patients’ feelings of wellbeing.
In another study by the East Carolina University School of Nursing published in 2000, 30-minute reflexology sessions were used as support treatment for cancer patients to minimize their anxiety. Patients who received the massages reported significant decreases in their feelings of anxiety following the intervention.
As a means to help relieve anxiety, reflexology massages have shown to be very helpful as support treatment. There are, however, an unknown number of people who enjoy its benefits in inducing physical relaxation and peace of mind.