Bringing together Breathe Blogs

As Breathe Holistic Therapy has developed over the last 9 years I have introduced a number of specialised blogs with their own aim and focus including this reflexology research blog.  This blog aims at reporting on  a wide spectrum of reflexology research.  I have reviewed research from all over the world looking at issues such as reflexology for pain, headaches and pregnancy.

foot massage

Each of the blogs which I have  developed include information and interesting posts exploring subjects all relating to one thing: the work of Breathe Holistic Therapy and needs of the clients. After thinking about the experience of reading the blogs I have decided to consolidate all the blogs into one. I believe this will make the posts more accessible and easier to find, a better experience for readers. All future posts sharing interesting pieces of reflexology research will now be posted on the Breathe Therapy Blog.

The most recent posts can now be accessed below in the "featured" section. All the previous posts will still remain published here and can be read or shared again, remaining available to you into the future.  I hope you find the single blog more accessible and continue to enjoy reading.

Posted on July 8, 2016 and filed under reflexology.

Reflexology and Headaches

Reflexology is a popular complementary therapy enjoyed by people of all ages around the world. I work in a busy reflexology practice in Kidderminster DY115LB with clients experiencing many different issues including headaches. As I am from a nursing background I always look into the reflexology research to guide my treatments and inform clients of the results obtained.

Headaches can range from a mild discomfort that causes little trouble to a debilitating condition that seriously limits people's lives. If you experience headaches it is important to speak to your G.P. about the symptoms prior to addressing them through complementary therapy. The NHS statistics stats that more than 10 million people in the UK get headaches regularly, making them one of the most common health complaints. But most aren't serious and are easily treated. Tension headaches are the most common headache and are what we generally think of as a normal, "everyday" headache. They generally feel like a steady ache that affects both sides of the head. A tension headache normally won't be severe enough to prevent you doing everyday activities. They usually last for 30 minutes to several hours, but can last for several days. there are many other types of headaches such as migraines, cluster headaches, hormonal headaches, viral headaches and rarely headaches related to conditions such as stroke, brain injury or brain tumour. For more information on types of headache please visit NHS conditions and search "headache".

In 1995 a Danish study involving 220 subjects being given reflexology for 3 months concluded that 65% found reflexology helpful for managing their headaches while 16 % reported that they felt their headaches were cured.  

A Chinese study in 1993 looked at 7 adults with a variety of headache types including tension and migraine.  After two sessions of reflexology five of the subjects found their symptoms alleviated while the remaining two were improved after three sessions. Another Chinese study looked at a larger group of subjects and concluded that foot reflexology was a helpful technique for managing symptoms.

In 2000 reflexology for migraines headaches was studied. 60 cases including men and women were divided into two groups, one treatment and one control. The treatment group received reflexology daily for two weeks.  The control group were given medication. The study concluded that 83% of the treatment group found reflexology to be effective compared to 66% of the medication group. The reflexology group experienced no unpleasant side effects but the medication group reported dry mouths, drowsiness and nausea. A Danish study also focused on migraine headaches. the study concluded that reflexology was supportive for migraine sufferers who reported significant reductions in medication use after reflexology treatments.

Reflexology is a complementary therapy which has been shown to be effective for the relief of tension headaches and migraines. The studies are, however, all small in size and consequently all results must be considered as informative rather than prescriptive. 

For more information on reflexology please click: Reflexology or return Home

Reflexology in the Workplace

As a reflexologist and hypnotherapist I feel very lucky to work in a calm and relaxed environment in my Kidderminster treatment room. Many workplaces are not so tranquil and I regularly see clients with some level of work related stress and anxiety. In many sectors employers are looking into way to reduce work place stress to protect their employees from the negative effects of such stress but also to increase productivity. Reflexology is an accessible therapy that requires little space and short treatments can reap large results. This combination means that reflexology can be a powerful tool in the battle against work related stress and anxiety.

There have been many pieces of research looking at the benefits of reflexology in the workplace.

In 1993 a reflexologist was employed by a telecom company and the results were studied and recorded. Over a 2 year period the reflexologist employed by the Telecom firm of Taastup in Denmark treated 156 employees, who experienced:

*  Positive effects on back pains, the musculo-skeletal system, headache, migraine, stomach and intestinal problems

*  Sick leave was reduced

It was concluded that there was a direct economical benefit as well as increased well being for the employees.  Reflexology, they concluded, had a positive effect for both employees and the company.

A study was conducted by Anne Jordan (1994) on staff at Worcestershire hospitals.Twenty-eight subjects (22 females & 6 males, aged 22 to 66 years) were included in this study. Individuals received one  reflexology session every week for six weeks. Response to reflexology was measured after each session on several issues including: pain, mobility, energy and psychological stress. 

All subjects reported some improvement after six sessions, with significant improvement being reported by: 74% of the 23 subjects experiencing pain, 53% of subjects concerned about mobility, 62.5% of subjects concerned with energy levels, and, 55% of subjects concerned with psychological stress. It was concluded that reflexology is a cost effective therapy for companies and institutions concerned about absenteeism and sick leave.

In Denmark a longer study was undertaken on post office workers (1993). In a 3 year period 235 employees received reflexology for a number of health problems.  

*  170 reported a good effect (73%)

*  60 had some effect (25%)

*  5 had no effect (2%)

*  Absenteeism was reduced from 11.4 to 8.5 days per person per year, implying savings of 1 million Danish Kroner

There have been a  number of studies in Denmark all of which have shown a reduction in absenteeism and positive well-being results for many employees.

Although more extensive research is required the studies available suggest reflexology is beneficial for both the employees and the employers. I am not aware of any local companies who currently provide complementary therapies for their staff but if you run a business locally please do consider the benefits for both your staff and productivity. Reflexology is very accessible and requires only a small room.  If you would like to know more about reflexology please visit : reflexology explained. or contact me

Posted on March 16, 2016 and filed under reflexology.

Lavender: research summary

Lavender for anxiety reduction.

There are many sources of contemporary research demonstrating that lavender has sedative and calming properties. Below is a summary of some of this research.

Diego et al (1998) studies EEG activity, alertness, and mood in 40 adults given 3 minutes of aromatherapy with lavender.  Participants were also given simple math computations before and after the therapy. After exposure to lavender oil the subjects showed increased beta power, suggesting increased drowsiness, they had less depressed mood and reported feeling more relaxed and performed the math computations faster and more accurately following aromatherapy.

Lehrner et al (1998) researched the use of lavender to reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dentists surgery. The goal of the study was to investigate the effect of  essential oils of orange and lavender on anxiety, mood, alertness and calmness in dental patients. Two hundred patients between the ages of 18 and 77 years (half women, half men) were assigned to one of four independent groups. While waiting for their dentist appointment subjects were either stimulated with the odour of orange or the odour of lavender. These conditions were compared to a music condition and a control condition (no scent, no music). Anxiety, mood, alertness and calmness were assessed while subjects waited for dental treatment. Statistical analyses revealed that compared to control condition both oils of orange and lavender reduced anxiety and improved mood in patients waiting for dental treatment. This study supported the previous opinion that aromatherapy is capable of altering emotional states and may indicate that the use of aromatherapy is helpful in reducing anxiety in dental patients.

Toda et al (2008) studied the effect of lavender on salivary stress markers. These markers present in human saliva indicate levels of stress. They evaluated the stress relief effect of lavender aroma by measuring sensitive salivary stress markers. Thirty subjects performed a mathematics task for 10min and then rested for 10min. During the rest, 16 students (aroma group) were exposed to airborne organic essential oil of lavender. Saliva samples were collected immediately before and after the  task, and at 5 and 10min after that.  In the aroma group, levels of stress marker that had been elevated at the end of the arithmetic task were statistically significantly lower 10min later. The control group showed no such change.  The results strongly suggest that lavender aroma has a measurable biological stress relief effect.

Field et al (2008) Studied the effects of lavender on babies and their mothers. Babies were given a bath with or without lavender-scented bath oil. The mothers in the lavender bath oil group were more relaxed, smiled and touched their babies more during the bath. Their babies looked at them a greater percentage of the bath time and cried less and spent more time in deep sleep after the bath. The cortisol levels  (a biological stress indicator) of this group of mothers and infants significantly decreased, showing increased relaxation of the mothers and their infants. These findings supported the  body of research demonstrating the relaxing and sleep-inducing properties of lavender oil.

There are many more research studies available that support the use of lavender for relaxation and anxiety management.

The use of aromatherapy oils in pregnancy, when trying to conceive and breast feeding should only be undertaken after consulting with a trained professional. Please seek medical advise if you are concerned about stress or anxiety. Lavender oil is not suitable for all and you should check with a aromatherapy professional before use.

Posted on April 17, 2015 and filed under woman's health.

Pain management and Reflexology

Reflexology research into pain management.

Chronic or acute pain is debilitating and depressing. At Breathe Holistic Therapy in Kidderminster we see many clients who are experiencing pain. Traditional medicine still struggles to treat pain effectively for many people. There is a growing evidence base for the use of reflexology and other complementary treatments such as hypnotherapy and mindfulness. As more people start to take control of their health care it is vital that those experiencing pain are aware of the research to enable them to make informed choices about their treatment.

It is not fully understood how reflexology helps to manage pain but current studies suggest it is related to the release of our own natural pain killers such as endogenous opioids. It is well established that the stress response is influential on pain and by releasing these influential hormones this can potentially be counteracted.

Pain affects many millions of people across the world and has serious implications on their quality of life. It can also have negative physical impacts on aspects such as sleep, immune system and digestive responses. Finding ways to manage pain that are noninvasive and without complicated side effects could be life changing for many people and their families.

A research study in 2003 (Samuel etal 2003) found that reflexology decreased pain sensation and increased pain tolerance by up to 40%.  Research into patients with cancer pain report that foot reflexology had an immediate positive effect on pain (Stephenson etal 2003). The same positive results were found when partners were trained to deliver a 30 minute reflexology treatment. Following the initial partner-delivered foot reflexology, patients experienced a significant decrease in pain intensity and anxiety. This emphasises another aspect of reflexlology and many other therapies. They can usually be delivered anywhere the client needs them and by relatives after appropriate training. This means the pain relief can be available exactly when it is needed without waiting for treatments.

Back pain is a common form of pain that causes many lost days at work and prevents many people from enjoying some aspects of life. It can be disabling and cause low mood and fatigue.  Nurses with lower back pain were given six 40 minute reflexology sessions.  The nurses showed a significant reduction in reported pain after reflexology compared to the control group (Eghbali etal 2012). A study in 2007 reflects these results. Subjects receive weekly reflexology for six weeks and they too showed reduced pain scores ( Quinn 2007).

Taking an active role in their choices of pain management can begin to help people feel more in control of their bodies. A sense of hopelessness can develop when pain becomes chronic and making decisions regarding management can instill a sense of hope and power which itself helps pain management.

Many of the research studies are small and larger experiments are needed before the use of reflexology in pain management is fully understood. The evidence is positive enough for reflexology to be a useful choice when looking at pain management strategies.

For more information please contact me :  e-mail me or call 07531 12199

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Reflexology and Heart Function

Research study 2014 finds reflexology improves cardiac output.

A research team at Stirling University Scotland have undertaken a three year study into the effects of reflexology on heart function in healthy volunteers.  The team included PhD researcher Jenny Jones, from the School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health, and Professor Steve Leslie, a cardiologist from the Cardiac Unit at Raigmore Hospital.

The study involved the use of a reflexology point known as the heart point, compared to a sham reflexology point on the subject's heel. The results showed that during the use of the true heart point the volunteers displayed a small improvement in cardiac output. This is a measure of how efficiently the heart is pumping. Significantly there was no change at all during the sham treatment.

This research therefore shows that reflexology has a physical effect on the functioning of the body. Many who enjoy reflexology treatments would agree that reflexology has a positive effect on their body but it is very difficult to prove this scientifically. This study suggests that with an approach focusing on one specific physical function it may be possible to scientifically demonstrate the physical effects of reflexology.

This research also looked at the effects of reflexology on patients with heart disease. Interestingly, there was no significant change in the heart function of cardiac patients. Whilst this may appear disappointing all the patients found the treatment relaxing and the research shows no negative effects. This would suggest that reflexology is a safe therapy for clients with heart problems who want to benefit from relaxation.  

Although this is a robust study following strict research guidelines it only used a small number of volunteers. Further research is needed to provide unique data to enable both reflexology clients and clinicians to evaluate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of reflexology.

If you are concerened about your heart health please contact a medical practitioner as reflexology and other holistic therpies are not designed to replace medical diagnosis or treatment. 

For more information on reflexology please click here.

Reflexology Research in Stroke/CVA rehabilitation

Research related to Stroke rehabilitation.

The Effects of Foot Reflexology on Activities of daily living (ADL) and Fatigue in Stroke Patients.  

Authors: Song MR, Song HM.

PURPOSE: This study was to examine the effects of foot reflexology on ADL and fatigue in stroke patients.

METHOD: The subjects were 31 stroke patients hospitalized in the Oriental Medicine Hospital from June to November, 2002. Foot reflexology was applied to the experimental group twice a week for 6 weeks, 40 minutes each. For the data analysis, statistical tests were conducted to verify the general characteristics and clinical characteristics. To examine the relative efficacy of the intervention statistical tests were conducted.

RESULTS: After foot reflexology, the subjects in the experimental group showed significant improvement in ADL. They also had less physical, psychological, and neuro sensory fatigue, which are three areas of fatigue.

CONCLUSION: The results suggest that foot reflexology is an effective intervention that helps the body work efficiently, eases stress and strain, and enhances the homeostasis of the body through stimulating the reflex zone of internal organs in the body. Therefore,after further larger studies, it may be advisable to develop foot reflexology as a therapy during stroke rehabilitation.

The Effects of Community based Self-help Management Program on the Activity of Daily Life, Muscle Strength, Depression and Life Satisfaction of Post-stroke Patients.  

Kim KS, Sea H, Kang J.

Stroke is a leading causes of death. The authors developed a community based self-help management program for post-stroke patients to enhance their rehabilitation process. The program consists of five sessions and each session contains health education. range of movement (ROM) exercise, ADL training, and stress management including foot reflexology. To test the effects of the program we conducted a 5 week program to the 10 conveniently selected post-stroke patients. The Questionnaires about ADLs, depression and life satisfaction were asked to all subjects before and after the programme. The hand grasp power and muscle strength of four limbs were measured at the end of each session.

The analysis of data revealed that the program was effective to increase the ADLs,  and muscle strength and to decrease the depression levels of subjects. However, there was no significant difference between pre and post hand grasp power and life satisfaction. Because the program was effective to improve the physical and psychological function of subjects, we suggest continual development and implementation of community based self-help management programs.

The analysis of data revealed that the program was effective to increase the ADLs,  and muscle strength and to decrease the depression levels of subjects. However, there was no significant difference between pre and post hand grasp power and life satisfaction. 

Further research has also shown positive results regarding maintaining healthy blood pressure post stroke.

Reflexology is a complimentary therapy and should not be used to replace prescribed medication or treatment. If you feel you are at risk of stroke please contact your medical practitioner.  If you suspeect you or someone you are with is experiencing a stroke call 999 (in uk) for emergency medical intervention.

The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time. (NHS.UK)

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have drooped
  • Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift one or both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake
  • Time – it is time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms

 For more information on Reflexology click here.

Posted on June 6, 2014 and filed under reflexology.

Reflexology research: PMS

Pre Menstrual Syndrome is a condition that effects many women and can have a very negative effect on their lives. They may feel physically and emotionally unwell, causing daily life to be very negatively affected. There are many different symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which can vary from person to person and change slightly every month.

The symptoms of PMS usually happen at the same time in your menstrual cycle each month, which can be up to two weeks before your period starts. They usually improve once your period has started, and then disappear until your cycle starts again.

More than 100 different symptoms of PMS have been recorded, but the most common are listed below:

    fluid retention and feeling bloated
    pain and discomfort in your abdomen (tummy)
    changes to your skin and hair
    muscle and joint pain
    breast tenderness
    insomnia (trouble sleeping)
    weight gain (up to 1kg)
    mood swings
    feeling upset or emotional
    feeling irritable or angry
    depressed mood
    crying and tearfulness
    difficulty concentrating
    confusion and forgetfulness
    decreased self-esteem
    loss of libido (loss of interest in sex)
    appetite changes or food cravings

There have been several studies exploring the use of reflexology in the management of PMS. The results are promising suggesting reflexology would be helpful for most women experiencing PMS. One such study is summarised below.

  • Terry Oleson PhD and William Flocco, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 82, No. 6, December 1993

This study was designed to explore whether reflexology treatments could significantly reduce pre menstrual symptoms compared to a placebo treatment. Thirty-five women who reported pre menstrual syndrome (PMS) were randomly assigned to be treated by reflexology or to receive placebo reflexology. The subjects completed a daily diary monitoring 38 premenstrual symptoms on a four-point scale. Physical and psychological indicators of premenstrual distress were recorded each day for 2 months prior to treatment, for 2 months during reflexology treatment, and for 2 months afterward.

The reflexology sessions for both groups were provided by trained reflexology therapist once a week for 8 weeks, and lasted 30 minutes each.The placebo group recived manual stimulation of feet but not specific reflexology. All the placebo subjects indicated that they believed they were recieving reflexology and found it pleasant.

Results: Statistical analysis for repeated measures demonstrated a significantly greater decrease in pre menstrual symptoms for the women given true reflexology than for the women in the placebo group. The treatment group showed a 46% reduction in premenstrual symptoms, which continued at 41% during the post treatment period. This included both psychological and physical symtpoms. It was concluded that reflexology is a positive therapy choice for the management of PMS.

The study would need to be repeated with a larger group of subjects before reflexology could be described as a treatment for PMS but the results are very promising.

Posted on January 8, 2014 and filed under reflexology, woman's health.

Reflexology and phantom limb pain.

Phantom limb is the term for abnormal sensations in a previously amputated limb. These may be painful or non painful. Phantom limb pain is often considered to be a form of nerve pain.

The "phantom" sensations are usually located in the end sections of the missing limb. Pain and tingling may be felt in the fingers and hand, and in the toes and the feet. People may feel a mixture of sensations from the amputated limb. The limb may feel completely intact despite its absence. Non painful sensations may include changes in temperature, itching, tingling, shock-like sensations, or perceived motion of the phantom limb. Painful sensations can include burning, throbbing, or stabbing in nature. Touching the remaining stump may elicit sensations from the phantom.

The pain after amputation usually occurs within days or weeks, although it may be delayed for months or years. Pain can last for years, and tends to be intermittent. Pain may last up to 10–14 hours a day and can vary in severity from mild to debilitating.  This condition can be very distressing for the sufferer and as the limb is no longer in place ways to soothe the pain may feel limited. A holistic approach to managing this condition is essential as it has both physical and emotional effects.

A pilot study involving ten patients was undertaken to discover if reflexology could be helpful in reducing the intensity of phantom limb pain.  The objectives were to explore the possibility of reflexology, both hand and foot,  being used as a non-invasive form of pain relief and of empowering patients to maintain any positive results with self-treatment.  The study took place on five phases: phase 1 gave a baseline of pain, whilst phase 3 was a resting phase. Phases 2, 4 and 5 provided the reflexology treatments. 

REFLEXOLOGY INTERVENTIONS: In phase 2, six weekly reflexology treatments were given:  full foot reflexology to the remaining foot and hand reflexology to the hand of the amputated side. In phase 4, six weekly hand reflexology teaching sessions were carried out; patients copied on their own hands what the therapist did.  In phase 5, the patients treated themselves at home for 6 weeks at home, using the reference material.

The results werer encouraging. Over the 30-weeks there was an improvement in the amount and the intensity of the phantom limb pain, with a corresponding improvement in the duration of the pain and the affect on the person's lifestyle. The improvement was maintained when the clients self-treated.

The study indicated that reflexology, teaching and self-treatment were effective in reducing the intensity and duration of phantom limb pain. The follow-up questionnaire revealed that there was a continued improvement in the intensity of phantom limb pain and that the majority still self-treated.

This is only a small study and more research would be necessary before recommending reflexology as a first choice of treatment for phantom limb pain, but the results are encouraging enough to include reflexology on a holistic treatment plan alongside other therapies.

Phantom limb pain is a distressing and disabling condition. If you are concerned please do contact your health care provider for assessment and assistance. Holistic treatments can work well alongside western medicine.


Posted on November 25, 2013 and filed under reflexology, pain.

Reflexology research: fatigue and insomnia

Many people find reflexology to be extremely relaxing and calming. Research into the effects of reflexology on fatigue and insomnia have reported positive results.

A brief feasibility study in 2009 concluded that both reflexology and acupuncture produced a clinically relevant improvement in sleep quality. This benefit was reported after only six treatments over a three week period. ( Acupunct Med 2009;27:163-168 doi:10.1136/aim.2009.000760 Acupuncture and reflexology for insomnia: a feasibility study). The authors concluded that the improvement was significant enough to warrant further research.

A study published in 2005 explored the effects of reflexology on fatigue and insomnia in patients suffering from coal workers' pneumoconiosis. Foot reflexology was performed for one hour twice a week for five weeks in the experimental group, but none in the control group. Statistical analysis tools were used to evaluate the results. These showed a decrease in scores for insomnia and fatigue in the reflexology group. After the intervention there was a significant difference of fatigue and insomnia between the two groups. (Lee YM, Sohng KY Department of Nursing,  Kangwon-Do, Korea. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe chi [2005, 35(7):1221-1228])

ON the NICE evidence database an analysis of research into reflexoogy a sleep is available. A systematic review and analysis of the research available were conducted. Electronic database and manual searches were conducted on all published studies reporting the effects of foot reflexology on fatigue and sleep. Forty four studies were eligible including 15 studies associated with fatigue, 18 with sleep, and 11 with pain. The effects of foot reflexology were analyzed using statistical tools. This analysis of research indicated that foot reflexology is a useful intervention to relieve fatigue and to promote sleep. (J Korean Acad Nurs. 2011 Dec;41(6):821-833. English. Effects of Foot Reflexology on Fatigue, Sleep and Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.)

A further analysis of data also reached similar conclusions. They analysed 40 research studies. this analysis found that using complimentary therapy including reflexology had a statistically significantly positive effect on insomnia. ( Acupressure, reflexology, and auricular acupressure for insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials Yeung WF et al 2012)

All the reports do concluded that as many of the studies are small more extensive research is required but current research does suggest that reflexology has positive effects for individuals experiencing fatigue and insomnia. This supports the experience I have with clients who often report improved sleep and better energy levels.




Posted on October 9, 2013 and filed under pain, insomnia.