Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Reflexology: Supporting people living with Cancer

Today's post is written by Tracey Smith,  who is Reflexology and Research Manager for the Association of Reflexologists. She discusses the potentials of reflexology to support cancer care and better health.

The theory behind reflexology is that it returns the various systems of the body back to homeostasis, or back to working at their natural level and in doing so that it helps all systems work properly with each other. Reflexology does not claim to cure. It aims to support you through the bad times and may claim only to help relaxation and stress, however as stress is involved in many illnesses the prevention or reduction of stress may well help you. With a reduction in stress many other ‘problems’ may benefit. Reflexology can also help with tension release, relaxation and improve well-being.

 Cancer is the most serious and life threatening illness of modern times. Not only is the illness terrible but the treatment may be distressing as well. Cancer is an overgrowth of cells from a particular tissue that have lost their normal levels of control and can grow where they shouldn't. To stop this overgrowth, treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy are used, these curtail the overgrowth of the cancerous cells but they also interrupt the growth cycle of other normally growing and functioning cells by blocking certain mechanisms. This means that there can be lots of dead or dying cells within the body releasing toxins, which in turn makes the patient feel extremely unwell and open to lots of effects. The immune system in particular can become very depleted which can result in serious infections on top of the treatment. All in all the body suffers greatly. There is also often a lot of emotional stress and pressure as well during diagnosis and treatment and you might feel a lack of control or ability to cope.

The theory behind reflexology is that systems are brought back to their normal level and this may aid the body to heal while helping with some of the nastier side effects such as the stress, nausea, tiredness and constipation. Toxins from the medical treatments and from the body’s reaction to the treatment might be released, allowing the patient to feel better. There has been some research that suggests that reflexology may also help with the ability to cope. It appears to be a useful addition alongside normal medical treatment. It is also a nice-feeling, non-threatening, non-medical, way of receiving therapeutic touch when you are caught up in a very medical environment.

Like most other complementary therapies reflexology works on an individualised basis and the degree of effect is specific to the individual. The only way to know whether reflexology will help your particular symptoms or problems is to try it and see.
Should you have any concerns about receiving reflexology especially in conjunction with other medications or treatments then it is suggested that you seek medical advice from your cancer nurse or multi-disciplinary team before commencing treatment.

The Association of Reflexologists can help you to find a qualified reflexologist in your area, log on to www.aor.org.uk and do a postcode search and then choose a therapist or two and phone and ask if they are experienced in treating problems like yours. The most important thing about finding a therapist is that they are well qualified and that you like them.

'There is no reason I can see why reflexology should be harmful in any way to a cancer patient. It can only be beneficial in improving the quality of life.' Professor Karol Sikora

Karol Sikora is the Medical Director of CancerPartnersUK which is creating the largest UK cancer network as a series of joint ventures with NHS Trusts. He is Professor of Cancer Medicine and honorary Consultant Oncologist at Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, London. He is Scientific Director of Medical Solutions PLC, Britain’s leading cancer diagnostic company. He has recently been appointed Dean of Britain’s first independent Medical School at the University of Buckingham.

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