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Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a nervous system dysfunction that is a collection of symptoms most commonly including chronic pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances. Standard care includes anti-inflammatory drugs, local analgesics and sedatives.
Recent studies support the benefits of a multidisciplinary approach to address the myriad of problems associated with FMS. Holistic, non-invasive approaches, including foot reflexology, have been shown to be effective at reducing pain and sleep disorders associated with FMS.
The object of therapeutic foot reflexology on the Fibromyalgia patient is to facilitate a body-wide relaxation response thus promoting a parasympathetic effect. The result is a reduction in the patient’s present level of pain perception.
Reflexology pressure techniques applied to the feet provoke a response from the body based on the physiological science of reflexive influences via the neural system of the body and the autonomic/somatic integration that takes place when the internal organs adjust to sensory input.
A sequence of reflexology protocol explored and proposed for fibromyalgia is based on the current research theories. One states that the fibromyalgia patient experiences abnormal pain processing resulting from imbalances in the central nervous system and neuroendocrine system.
The following foot reflexology protocol of specific technique, pressure and duration would be applied bilaterally to reflexes in both feet and monitored at intervals for evaluation purposes.
- General Relaxation (solar plexus reflex, muscular system reflexes)
- Nervous System (spinal reflexes, brain reflexes and emphasis on the pituitary/hypothalamus/pineal/frontal cortex reflexes)
- Endocrine System (adrenal gland reflex, thyroid reflex)
Linda Chollar, HHP, LMT, AAEd, Pain Management Therapist conducted a private study at Pain Free Wellness Centre that included the above protocol given to 16 female clients, aged 40 to 59, presenting with a physician diagnosis of fibromyalgia. The objective was t investigate the effects of foot reflexology to (1) reduce pain perception and (2) improve sleep in adult women with fibromyalgia after receiving a total of 6 reflexology treatments over a three-week period (two sessions per week). None of the clients made any changes to existing medications.
Subject reporting by the clients was done using a Visual Analog Scale (VAS), a Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and a XY/Axis Pain Graph. The graph allowed monitoring of pain perception changes from level 10 to zero over a 30-miute reflexology protocol. A medical student recorded the changes at 5-minute intervals as they were reported in real time by the client participants. Consistently, pain levels reduced at each interval. At the conclusion of each protocol,client graphs indicated a reduction from their beginning pain levels to a pain level of zero.
Findings support the use of a consistent, predefined protocol of foot reflexology as a treatment for the body wide pain experienced with fibromyalgia.
Note: Fibromyalgia is featured as a clinical perspective for the muscular system because chronic muscular pain is a dominant characteristic.
Holler, Linda (Winter 2008). Research and the New Era: Sarah’s Story: A Study of Foot Reflexology for Fibromyalgia. Reflexology Across America, pp.11-12.
Williams, David A., and Gracely, Richard H. (2006). Biology and Therapy of Fibromyalgia: Functional magnetic Resonance Imaging Findings in Fibromyalgia. Arthritis Research & Therapy 8:225.
Wallace, Daniel J., and Clauw, Daniel J. (2005). Fibromyalgia & Other Central Pain Syndromes. Lippinacott Williams & Wilkins.
Martinez-Lavin, Manuel, and Hermosillo, Antonio (February 2000). Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction May Explain the Multisystem Features of Fibromyalgia. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism 29:4, PP197-99.
Used with permission of Linda Chollar.