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  • Writer's pictureSimone Grove

5 benefits of reflexology in cancer care

Updated: May 7

Following a cancer diagnosis and during treatment it can be difficult to find a sense of normality and wellbeing. The emotional turmoil, side-effects from chemo or radiotherapy and the recovery period following any surgical procedures can all take a significant toll on our health on all levels – mental, physical and emotional.

When I started my practice many years ago, I quickly found that holistic treatments were so beneficial alongside clinical intervention. As I specialised in oncology and palliative care, my understanding of patient needs shifted and I personally became more interested in and intrigued by the positive influence of what were the considered ‘alternative’ therapies, inspired both by my patients and by my beautiful sister who was going through her own cancer journey at the time. I soon trained in and introduced holistic treatments to integrate within my physiotherapy practice, including reflexology – and I’ve been a strong believer in integrative therapy ever since.

This is when I began to see real results and lasting positive change amongst my clients, so much so that it started me down a very transformational path of my own, combining medical and alternative care and bringing it into the mainstream.

As has been the case with massage and acupuncture, continued research is enabling patients to access reflexology as part of their mainstream treatment plan. Now, even the scientific community are starting to recognise links between reflexology and different areas of concern within the body, including the positive impact of this therapy during cancer care.

Today I’m sharing 5 benefits of reflexology during cancer treatment, along with insights from my own experience and patient feedback which demonstrates how powerful and effective this ancient therapy can be for people living with cancer.

What is reflexology?

To start with, I’ll share a quick recap on what reflexology is and how it works for those who are unfamiliar with it. Reflexology is a type of ‘pressure point’ massage, the origins of which have been traced back to China and Egypt thousands of years ago. There are also similar types of massage found throughout India, Japan and Northern Europe. It combines scientific insights with holistic therapy, using compression at certain points which correspond to various areas, energy zones, systems and organs within the body.

From a medical perspective reflexology works through relieving tension in the nervous system, which is especially useful for anyone dealing with chronic stress or trauma. There are 7000 nerve endings in each foot alone!

From a holistic perspective, reflexology supports the natural flow of energy (known in Chinese Medicine as Qi) throughout the body and breaks up stagnant points both at the point of contact and in specific areas and systems such as the digestive system and reproductive organs.

During a reflexology treatment, the patient sits or lies in a comfortable seat or on a bed. Nourishing oils are applied to the feet before pressure is applied at targeted points corresponding to areas within the body needing attention. Music, aromatherapy and warmth may also be used to help to facilitate deeper relaxation.

5 benefits of reflexology in cancer care

Reflexology is incredibly versatile and can support cancer patients with a variety of ailments and concerns. Here I’ve shared the most prominent effects I see within my practice and patients which are also supported by ongoing research into the impact of reflexology on body and mind.

1/ Reducing stress and anxiety

The most well-known benefit of reflexology for cancer patients is the relief it brings from tension, stress and anxiety. This is one often overlooked aspect of the cancer journey, especially within medicine. Following a reflexology session you should notice that you feel calmer and more relaxed, better able to deal with any anxiety, uncertainty or sense of loss that often accompanies a diagnosis. This can also give you the emotional space you need to deal with what is happening and readjust accordingly.

2/ A non-invasive and accessible treatment

One wonderful thing about reflexology is its non-invasive nature – it has no unpleasant side-effects and is suitable for almost everyone. No repositioning or relocation is required – reflexology can be administered wherever you are, even if you are unable to move much or have to spend extended periods lying down. It’s also a wonderful alternative to full-body massage for those who are unable to achieve lying flat on a massage table. Reflexology is versatile and accessible for most people undergoing treatment for cancer or facing a diagnosis – bringing so many benefits in a very accessible and easy way.

3/ Effective pain management

Pain may or may not be one of the symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment - finding pain relief beyond medication alone is usually a high priority for patients. Holistic therapies are excellent for this – in particular reflexology. It has been shown to help reduce pain levels, partially through the relaxation it brings but also through working with the central nervous system which is thought to reduce sensitivity to pain.

4/ Improved quality of life

Studies repeatedly show that quality of life can be significantly impacted by cancer – understandably so. Through reducing pain, soothing stress levels, providing emotional support, stimulating detoxification and helping to gently increase energy levels, reflexology can bring about lasting positive change and increased sense of wellbeing for people living with cancer both during and after treatment.

5/ Support with symptoms

Symptoms of cancer itself, as well as any side-effects of treatment, can be greatly reduced with regular reflexology. These include pain, nausea, sickness and insomnia, all of which can impact upon your overall health.

Following reflexology treatment, patients often say they feel lighter, more relaxed, have more energy and a brighter mood. For this reason it has always remained high on my list of recommendations for anyone dealing with cancer, including my friends and family.

Would you like to learn more about reflexology in cancer care? Get in touch today to discover the benefits or to book a treatment with me:

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