Reflexology May Help Cancer Treatment Issues

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By Bayan Raji, Staff Writer

The eyes have been called the windows to the soul, but the hands and feet are often the first parts of the body to experience something, perhaps the softness of a blanket or hot sand on a beach.

The importance of hands and feet make them the focal point of reflexology, a healing art historians believe was used first in China more than 5,000 years ago. It focuses on pressure points of the hands and feet and can be used by anyone, but it may be especially beneficial to cancer patients.

ReflexologyPressure applied to hands, feet
Reflexology may help relieve symptoms often related to cancer treatment such as nausea, insomnia and stress. The technique also is believed to have a generally beneficial effect on a person's health and well-being.

Reflexology therapists use their hands - usually their thumbs or forefingers - to apply pressure to areas of the hands and feet that they believe are connected to specific zones of the body. Stretching and movement techniques also may be used. They may open or close the session with a gentle hand or foot rub.

Symptoms may be helped

Margaret Harle, a registered nurse, holistic health consultant and reflexologist, teaches classes about reflexology to patients and caregivers at M. D. Anderson's Place ... of wellness. She answers questions about the technique and demonstrates reflexology for those who are interested in using it at home.

Harle says that during private sessions reflexologists generally work on the hands or feet for 30 to 45 minutes. Most patients find the sessions relaxing, and many experience temporary symptom relief.

Some patients notice mild temporary, uncomfortable after-effects, including:

    * Nausea
    * Fatigue
    * Need to urinate more often

Check with your doctor first
Reflexology should be part of a comprehensive health care plan, Harle says. Some people with certain side effects of cancer or cancer treatment, including lymphedema and neuropathy, should avoid reflexology. Be sure to check with your health care provider.

Reflexology should not be considered an alternative to medical treatment.

M. D. Anderson resources:
Integrative Medicine Program

Other resources:
Manipulative and Body-Based Practices: An Overview (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

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