Nov 14 2008

Reflexology in UK Schools

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Comments: 34

Reflexology is pure, unadulterated, grade-A nonsense. That isn’t stopping some UK schools from spending £90,000 to provide reflexology treatments for aggressive and anti-social behavior in students under 13. As reported by the Guardian, Lambeth council in south London is planning on spending taxpayer money on charlatans to address problem students.

Reflexology

Reflexology is based upon the belief that the body is divided into zones, and these zones are mapped on the hands and feet. The reflexology research website explains:

Reflexology is the physical act of applying pressure to the feet and hand with specific thumb, finger and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. it is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands with a premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.

This is an archaic homonculus or mapping-based system – the idea that one part of the body maps to the entire body. Iridology is another example – proponents believe that the flecks in the iris relate directly to specific organs or parts of the body.

Reflexologists claim that by massaging the foot they can affect remote parts of the body by influencing “energy”, detoxifying, blood flow, or through nerve impulses. Again, reflexology research enlightens us:

Pressure sensors in the feet and hands are a part of the body’s reflexive response that makes possible the “fight or flight” reaction to danger. Feet ready to flee and hands ready to fight communicate with the body’s internal organs to make possible wither eventuality. The sudden adrenal surge that enables a person to lift a car is an example of this reaction. Reflexology taps into this reflex network, providing an exercise of pressure sensors and thus the internal organs to which they are inextricably tied.

The problem, as anyone even vaguely familiar with human anatomy knows, is that this is all bunk.  Pressure of the feet does not provoke a sympathetic “fight or flight” response, there is no direct physiological connection between specific locations on the feet and specific organs or body party, nor is there any reflex network tied to pressure sensors in the feet. This is simply made up – it’s fiction. It is not part of any text of anatomy or physiology. As a side note, there are pressure sensors on the hands and feet, the purpose of which is to feel pressure. But these specialized sensory nerve endings exist throughout the body – it’s how you feel pressure. Again – this is not part of any imaginary reflex network.

And of course there is no credible scientific evidence for any specific effects claimed for reflexology. It therefore fails on both theoretical and evidentiary grounds.

But I Feel Better!

Some people find foot massages to be pleasant and relaxing.  (Others report that reflexolgy techniques can be painful.) This is a non-specific effect from massage – humans generally like the sensation of being touched. This is no evidence for any specific effect from reflexology itself nor support for the unscientific mechanisms claimed for it. But it can be very compelling to people who feel they have been helped by foot massage.

The officials who have decided to waste taxpayer money on pseudoscience also justify their actions with non-specific effects. A “spokeswoman” reports:

“In fact there has been a 50% increase in attendance and 60% decrease in exclusions among young people involved in the programme.”

The program also includes standard methods of behavioral control, and it is certainly possible that having a foot massage may have a calming effect on aggressive children. If nothing else, it removes them for a time from the usual classroom environment and gives them special attention. It’s quite possible that the attention that would go along with any novel intervention, no matter how absurd or worthless, would achieve similar results.

The more insidious problem with this program is that it represents official recognition of pseudoscience. This implicitly teaches the students that such pseudoscientific notions are legitimate. I wonder if they they then expect to learn in science class about the reflexology network and how it removes toxins and restores the flow of “energy” to the body.

This is officially the worst idea I heard all week. The officials behind this should be ashamed of themselves, or rather they should be shamed by the taxpayers whose money they have squandered and the parents whose children they have subjected to pseudoscience.

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34 responses so far

34 Responses to “Reflexology in UK Schools”

  1. papon 14 Nov 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Aside from the bizarre image of massaging the feet of aggressive students, this decision to fund unscientific treatment strikes me as being very unethical. There are always legitimate programs with good track records that lack funding. And the idea of teens with potentially serious social issues not being helped by a taxpayer-backed flop…Ouch….sorry UK.

  2. w_nightshadeon 14 Nov 2008 at 1:16 pm

    As an American living in Scotland, I would like to object to being lumped in with south-Londoners as “the UK”. The English and Scottish school system work independently, and this seems to be focused in a particular area of London, and not country-wide (you can’t even really say “England” in this context.

    That being said, good on the Guardian for putting the “its nonsense” bullet right under the headline.

  3. Neuroskepticon 14 Nov 2008 at 3:36 pm

    An obvious parallel here is the ridiculous Brain Gym which is used in hundreds of schools across the UK. I’m surprised they bother with reflexology when they already have that!

  4. Traveleron 14 Nov 2008 at 6:27 pm

    “If nothing else, it removes them for a time from the usual classroom environment and gives them special attention. It’s quite possible that the attention that would go along with any novel intervention, no matter how absurd or worthless, would achieve similar results.”

    How true. I suspect that 30 minute sessions of table tennis with a school counselor would be as or more effective.

  5. sonicon 14 Nov 2008 at 6:43 pm

    There are numerous studies that indicate that reflexology might be helpful for the children you mention.

    http://ons.metapress.com/content/k477114620185x62/

    Findings: Following the initial partner-delivered foot reflexology, patients experienced a significant decrease in pain intensity and anxiety

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17631256?dopt=AbstractPlus

    Reflexology reduced ‘state’ anxiety and cardiovascular activity within healthy individuals, consistent with stress-reduction. Considering the connection between stress/anxiety and well being, the effects of reflexology may have beneficial outcomes for patients

    http://stti.confex.com/stti/congrs06/techprogram/paper_29448.htm

    Analysis of variance for repeated measures demonstrated a significantly greater decrease in symptoms of pain, depression and physiologic measures of stress for the residents given reflexology treatment than for those in the control group.

    Apparently the teachers using this are having good results. What is the problem? If they are in fact having good results, then they should use this and we should take an interest in why it works. (I am assuming now they are getting good results- as the studies I have referenced above would lead me to believe is quite possible)

  6. Neuroskepticon 14 Nov 2008 at 6:57 pm

    The control groups in those studies had no treatment, so any benefit could have been the placebo effect (note – “the placebo effect” also includes “saying you feel better because that’s what the experimenters want you to say and you don’t want to disappoint them.)

    In which case, rather than reflexology, an expensive placebo that’s based on unscientific ideas, why not just use foot massage, a cheap placebo that’s not?

  7. Fizziziston 15 Nov 2008 at 2:13 pm

    The only thing worse than pseudoscience, is schools using tax money to promote more pseudoscience.

  8. sonicon 17 Nov 2008 at 2:58 am

    “Begging the question” is a fallacy in reasoning when the reason offered for some conclusion is not really different from the conclusion itself.
    We can see how these last two comments (Neuroskeptic and Fizzizist) fit that description.
    Let’s clean up the comments, gentlemen.

  9. eiskrystalon 17 Nov 2008 at 4:44 am

    Sonic attack fails.

    Apply brain.

    Try again.

  10. Neuroskepticon 17 Nov 2008 at 4:51 am

    I think sonic is displaying a bit of a “knee-jerk reflex” here! Heh…

  11. CKavaon 17 Nov 2008 at 8:45 am

    Sonic following your logic if the school was employing an expensive crystal healing program, was reporting good results and there were trials were crystal healing was shown to be more effective than no treatment then we should be embracing this program and trying to figure out how it works.

    We know how reflexology works i.e. via the placebo and the relaxing effects of a foot massage. It’s no mystery nor is it worth the money. A simple foot massage and a sugar pill is likely to have the same effect for a much smaller cost.

  12. sonicon 17 Nov 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Yes, If something works I would like to know that. I don’t pretend to know why the results of the experiments are what they are in all cases.
    I am of the Feynman school regarding science-
    “The principle of science, the definition almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment.” (Six Easy Pieces)

    How do you know how reflexology works? Is it due to some experiment? Where can I read the results? If there are experiments to back the statements, please list them and there is no further need to discuss.
    (I would guess that a reflexologist could get better results than an untrained foot messager– only because people learn by doing. But that is a guess- I don’t know. If someone is getting good results by actual test- as I has been demonstrated by the experiments I listed, then who am I to say the experiments are wrong? Until I see experiments that show otherwise, I am inclined to be scientific in my thinking- that is to say I go with the experimental evidence.)

    Otherwise I’m guessing that you are assuming the answer in order to know the answer. That is by definition begging the question.

    Pooh-poohing is a refusal to examine an argument seriously. The fallacy is an attempt to obtain by guile what should be gained by work. It is a case of misdirection.

  13. PaulGon 19 Nov 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Speaking as a UK lecturer, and former secondary (high) school teacher, I find it a great pity that the pupils could be offered a foot massage, when it’s people like me that spend all day on our feet in front of the students.

    Free foot massages for teachers – now that would be a policy I could vote for!

    Then we could put a teacher back in front of a class with a pair of relaxed, pampered feet. Maybe we could then study the results of classes that have had teachers with massaged feet, vs. classes that have had teachers with “stressed” feet.

    But how could we make sure that every teacher got exactly the same type of treatment? Or standardise on foot discomfort? Would the size of foot be important? Or the type of shoes worn? Do Jimmy Choo’s or Timberlands result in better educated students?

    Scope here for years of research I think.

  14. howihealedon 20 Nov 2008 at 2:38 am

    Well,

    Tax payer money is a lot better going to Alternative and Holistic Medicine then to Academics and Institutes where people just study and “research” all the day long and then finally come up with a correlation related to the common sense we knew all along.

    Cancer will never be cured by science until they admit that belief and intention have a role in healing the human body. That is what a lot of Alt Medicine is about. It is also looking at the body and its healing capacity from various perspectives. The body is divided into parts that speak with each other whether we believe it or not. The parts then equal the whole.

  15. PaulGon 20 Nov 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Correlation does not equal cause and the only real way to reveal any such cause is exhaustive, logical, objective, peer-reviewed analysis… otherwise known as scientific research.

    But I do agree, there are some areas that are just not worth researching. For example, I know that if I climb into my wardrobe, I’m not going to walk into a talking lion or the land of Narnia.

    Therefore, I won’t be climbing into my wardrobe, armed with camera, compass and recording equipment and writing up my findings for review by experienced scientists any time soon.

    Similarly, a foot massage is not going to cure any form of malignant tumour – even if it’s on my foot. Neither will wishing it away. Thus, you won’t see any rigorous, peer-reviewed, scientific research that shows that reflexology, homeopathy, acupuncture or hypnotism cures Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or anything like it!

    Give me radiation, chemotherapy and surgical intervention any day. They work, maybe not as much anyone would like, but they have the research that shows how and why they work.

    Show me the research on the alternative hocum that shows that works as well and I’ll consider taking that too.

    Until then, I would not decry academic research if I were you… at least not until you know what it really is; I’d start by looking up the word “correlation” in a decent statistics text book.

  16. CKavaon 20 Nov 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Sonic>

    I have to ask if you are familiar with the myriad research conducted on the placebo effect? I could recommend a no. of interesting studies and/or several books that discuss it in detail if you are not and are interested.

    I mention this because you seem to find it genuinely shocking that an ineffective treatment could produce positive results and something that suggests there is ‘something to’ the treatment. This to me seems remarkably naieve but would be understandable if you had never come across any studies on the placebo effect.

    As for reflexology and knowing how it works. Well for a start there is the fact that reflexology theory contradicts the standard anatomical model which is supported by thousands of trials, dissections, scans and just generally mountains of evidence. And if that isn’t enough then how about some studies showing that reflexologists consistently fail to demonstrate their claimed ability to identify the correct ailments of a patient through an examination of their feet.

    1. Jarvis WT. Reflexology. NCAHF Web site, accessed Feb 25, 2002.
    2. White AR and others. A blinded investigation into the accuracy of reflexology charts. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 8:166-172, 2000.

    In regards the studies you already listed. The first one involves comparing refloxology against no treatment. Getting any treatment as opposed to no treatment will enable patients to benefit from the placebo effect. Good trials control for this but this trial doesn’t. Also, the trial is not blinded. It tells us nothing useful.

    The second study compares reflexology to a ‘control’. No details are available from the abstract about the control group or what was involved. Distressingly the study also mentions in it’s introduction a growing body of ‘anecdotal literature’ as if that should be in some way compelling. The lack of knowledge about the control group or blinding protocols make it hard to know what was being compared and how well the procedure was blinded. This trial could tell us something useful but we need to know what treatment the control group received and so on.

    The third one compares reflexology sessions against someone reading to the patient. This is slightly better than the first but all its results reveal is that having your feet massaged is more relaxing than having someone read to you when you are in pain. That’s not exactly astounding nor is it evidence for how reflexology is any better than a normal foot massage. Also, the trial is not blinded. This tells us almost nothing useful.

    A better designed trial would say be one which blinded the patients and compared refloxology with normal massage and conversation. Say like this one:

    Kesselring A. Foot reflexology massage: A clinical study. Forsch Komplementarmed 6 Suppl 1:38-40, 1999.

    Which found that massage provided more beneficial effects than reflexology treatments.

    Or how is this for up-to-date; a systematic review of the efficacy of reflexology published only last month in the journal ‘Evidence Based Nursing’ found that in conclusion:

    “There is no evidence for any specific effect of reflexology in any conditions, with the exception of urinary symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. Routine provision of reflexology is therefore not recommended.”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18489444

    Oh and that one exception is based on data from a single trial.

    So yeah sorry Sonic but the evidence is not on your side on this one and you are also seem to be somewhat misplacing the burden of proof while simultaneously ignoring the problems associated with assuming that correlation=causation as mentioned above. Not a good day is it!

  17. TheBlackCaton 21 Nov 2008 at 11:14 am

    Therefore, I won’t be climbing into my wardrobe, armed with camera, compass and recording equipment and writing up my findings for review by experienced scientists any time soon.

    Don’t be silly, wardrobes won’t let you through if you are expecting to go through. Everyone knows that.

  18. Calli Arcaleon 25 Nov 2008 at 4:33 pm

    We had a “wellness fair” here at work not too long ago. Mostly, it’s an opportunity for the various insurance providers to make sure we know what our benefits are good for, but they also try to bring in some folks to help with actual health. For instance, there’s always a nurse to check your blood pressure, and they do a flu shot clinic as well. And then there’s the chiropractor, who does massages (extremely brief, desultory massages, frankly) and who this year brought along a set of colored eyeglasses with labels explaining what ailments they treat. Wow. Next to him was the reflexologist, a new feature this year.

    I swallowed my irritation long enough to let her give her spiel. She clearly did not have a good grasp of her material, had no real response to any of my questions (just regurgitated her existing material rather than actually responding), and then gave me a hand massage that was about half as good as the one given to me for fun by a student volunteer during finals week in college. (The student activities committee was always putting together fun little things like that to take the mind off of the stress of finals. No woo; just some pampering of the hands.)

    She also told me that the lotion (which she applied *before* asking) only contained rosemary. She lied. I know because while I am not allergic to rosemary, I was definitely allergic to whatever else was in it.

    It was quite a sad experience, to see actual college educated people swallowing this hokum, and sadder still to know that my employer (a high tech engineering firm) had organized it.

  19. Viikon Tiedeuutiset « Skeptics Unitedon 02 Dec 2008 at 5:23 pm

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  20. footc1on 05 Dec 2008 at 1:42 pm

    You know I have to say we are getting a better class of skeptics. That is exciting.

    Most are dull and boring with no challenge to them. I call them pseudo-skeptics because they never research. They just know what is right. Psychically?

    But what fascinates me is why you are all so fearful of reflexology in light of all these posts. Surely if you were convinced it was just hokum or just a foot massage you wouldn’t spend all the time being so involved or picking on these poor people who are trying to solutions to a very difficult problem. You would figure it would fade out.

    Well it hasn’t faded out. In fact, it is thriving. And there is more and more research for you to ignore or put down.

    The good professor blatantly misrepresented our work. Is this a sign of desperation? Or is the typical skeptics tactic of setting out a falsehood and then defeating it.

    We have never ever said that the feet trigger “fight or flight”. We did say the feet (and hands for that matter) do participate in the overall response to a fight or flight situation.

    If you don’t believe this is true try the following experiment. Place a tack on the floor. Now step on it. Notice your response. It involves a myriad of sensory and motor responses. The foot is lifted as the vestibular apparatus tries to maintain balance. Cross lateral reflexes kick in an attempt to stabilize the opposite limb.

    Actually I take a great pleasure in outraging skeptics. Skeptics seem to see feet as like inert objects with no tie into the nervous system.
    Reminds me of wheels on a handcart.

    So I am going to skip the twisting of our words and go straight to the outrage. We think of the foot as a sensory/motor organ. The feet detects pressure, stretch, movement, heat, cold and vibration.

    The feet are an highly evolved communicator with the rest of the body. There is no direct link between the feet and the internal organs. Rather there is an elaborate interplay mediated by the brain and relayed to the internal organs.

    Part this has to do with O2 and glucose demands. Locomotion requires ample supplies of these substances. Without these supplies you fall down.

    Would you not think such a schemata would require information sharing among all body parts? If you were developing a feedback and feed forward system of locomotion that is bipedal and highly evolved would it not have “routers” that would stream information about changing interior and exterior environment conditions. Isn’t the information sharing and the redundant nature of this communication well beyond a simple electrical system like your house wiring?

    Sorry not to allay your fears. We are here to stay. and stop trying to bully those people who are trying to find solutions to a very difficult problem.

    Kevin Kunz

    Reflexology Research Project

  21. DevilsAdvocateon 05 Dec 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Mr. Reflexology, meet Mr. Central Nervous System. You should get acquainted.

  22. PaulGon 06 Dec 2008 at 3:08 pm

    >> You know I have to say we are getting a better class of skeptics. That is exciting.

    Thanks. Condescending, pointless, adds nothing to your argument but thanks anyway.

    Hokum enthusiasts however, remain the same as ever.

    >> Most are dull and boring with no challenge to them. I call them pseudo-skeptics because they never research. They just know what is right. Psychically?

    Aha, research. Objective, analytical, valid research, that really is what it’s all about. Well-designed, double-blinded, peer-reviewed, experimental analysis – you will find absolutely nothing that fits that definition and supports any of the claims made for reflexology.

    About the best that can be said (even according to research published on their own site), is a “powerful reduction in anxiety, with no significant effect on underlying anxiety” (McVicar, et al., 2007 – http://www.reflexology-research.com/newabstracts.html). Let’s compare that with a foot massage and a talk with a trusted friend shall we – where’s the double-blinded research which compare this with a placebo in a way that people aren’t aware of what the “genuine treatment” is? The problem here is finding something that look and feels just like reflexology, but isn’t actually reflexology… maybe a foot massage by an understanding “nurse”?

    My null hypothesis would be “no difference between two, properly monitored, sample populations of sufficient size”.

    >> But what fascinates me is why you are all so fearful of reflexology in light of all these posts.

    Not fearful, I just object to unsubstantiated hokum, masquerading as science. Especially when some people use it to take money from the gullible.

    >> Surely if you were convinced it was just hokum or just a foot massage you wouldn’t spend all the time being so involved or picking on these poor people who are trying to solutions to a very difficult problem. You would figure it would fade out.

    I don’t think that the gullible should ever be left unprotected. Education is the duty of society, and promoting clear, analytical thinking should be the backbone of any educational system.

    Nevertheless, even in the early years of the 21st century, a fool and their money are still easily parted, which means that education still has a long way to go.

    >> Well it hasn’t faded out. In fact, it is thriving. And there is more and more research for you to ignore or put down.

    No, it hasn’t faded out, even in the early years of the 21st century, a fool and their money are still easily parted, which means that education still has a long way to go.

    Research? Show us some. So far, what your web site calls research doesn’t meet any of the basic criteria I have mentioned above… including, but not limited to the paper cited above, conducted at the University where I received my post-graduate teacher training.

    >> The good professor blatantly misrepresented our work. Is this a sign of desperation? Or is the typical skeptics tactic of setting out a falsehood and then defeating it.

    Hardly desperation or dishonesty. Rather, if Dr. Novella feels anything like I do about the ridiculous arguments you have laid out, you probably barely “register on his radar”, and it’s only a slow Saturday night that means you even warrant a response.

    >> We have never ever said that the feet trigger “fight or flight”. We did say the feet (and hands for that matter) do participate in the overall response to a fight or flight situation.

    If you don’t believe this is true try the following experiment. Place a tack on the floor. Now step on it. Notice your response. It involves a myriad of sensory and motor responses. The foot is lifted as the vestibular apparatus tries to maintain balance. Cross lateral reflexes kick in an attempt to stabilize the opposite limb.

    Stick a tack on my office chair and you’ll prompt a reaction when I sit on it. “Cross lateral reflexes [may even] kick in” when I shift my weight to the opposite buttock, to compensate for a minor pain in the backside. That doesn’t mean that my “fight or flight” response is in evidence, much less being “participated in” by my buttocks.

    Get some evidence for what you claim, your arguments are laughable.

    >> Actually I take a great pleasure in outraging skeptics. Skeptics seem to see feet as like inert objects with no tie into the nervous system. Reminds me of wheels on a handcart.

    Well, you’ve failed. You’ve mildly amused and offered yourself up as an object of ridicule, but outraged? No. I was only outraged when I noticed that you charged people for your brand of pseudoscientific garbage on your website.

    >> So I am going to skip the twisting of our words and go straight to the outrage. We think of the foot as a sensory/motor organ. The feet detect pressure, stretch, movement, heat, cold and vibration.

    Try thinking more of the central nervous system and get yourself a good, basic text book. I’d recommend Molecular Biology of the Cell, Fourth Edition by Bruce Alberts et. al. (http://www.amazon.com/Molecular-Biology-Fourth-Bruce-Alberts/dp/0815332181). It’s a bit expensive, but what the heck, massage a few more feet.

    >> The feet are an highly evolved communicator with the rest of the body. There is no direct link between the feet and the internal organs. Rather there is an elaborate interplay mediated by the brain and relayed to the internal organs.

    Part this has to do with O2 and glucose demands. Locomotion requires ample supplies of these substances. Without these supplies you fall down.

    Would you not think such a schemata would require information sharing among all body parts? If you were developing a feedback and feed forward system of locomotion that is bipedal and highly evolved would it not have “routers” that would stream information about changing interior and exterior environment conditions. Isn’t the information sharing and the redundant nature of this communication well beyond a simple electrical system like your house wiring?

    Yep, well beyond, but then, so is the central nervous system. It took about 64 million years to evolve you know.

    Read the text book.

    >> Sorry not to allay your fears. We are here to stay. and stop trying to bully those people who are trying to find solutions to a very difficult problem.

    I don’t like bullies, or anyone that takes advantage of somebody else in any way. I wouldn’t dream of bullying anybody. Simply pointing out the idiotic is not bullying, and if the truth really upheld your proposals above, then I fail to see how you could feel threatened by an analytical examination of the facts.

  23. footc1on 10 Dec 2008 at 10:48 am

    You disappoint me. I was expecting more out of you. Name calling is a form of bullying. And to imply this is all about money demonstrates your ignorance of our culture.

    I am not afraid of analytical examination of facts- you are. You didn’t really counter my arguments. You pulled the I am a Yale professor and you are not. Sounds like a Monty Python bit.

    So you admit that the feet are sensory/motor organs. And whether our schemata is accurate or not you admit that a schemata of some sort must exist for information sharing to take place. The feet must process feedback from the environment and also receive feedforward information from the brain. Survival depends on this. Or not?

    Proprioception ties together the rather complex system of communication. So pressure changes to the feet shifts the ANS. Adaptation takes place. The allostatic load is shifted changing the tone of the body.

    Reflexology taps into the proprioceptive network which is where I think some form of information sharing takes place. To act as an integrated whole the body must juggle information from all body parts. If the saber toothed tiger is about to pounce on me I must not only act but act intelligently. And it must be quickly taking into account my capabilities- movement intelligence.

    Movement intelligence to me is the basis of the working of reflexology. We must reflexively respond. It is this fine neural network which shifts the ANS in an appropriate direction and do it intelligently.

    >>Yep, well beyond, but then, so is the central nervous system. It took about 64 million years to evolve you know.

    And about 40,000 years to screw up. That is how long research has shown that we as a species have worn shoes. Shoes are a sensory blindfold. They blunt the incoming messages.

    I go to my father’s assisted living center frequently. What is the major malfunction you see? It is locomotion. The signs are all there. Walkers and motorized carts are in the majority. And frail people are prone to malfunctions in many of the body’s systems.

    And then throw in flat surfaces such as sidewalks and building floors . It is a recipe for disaster. Seniors can’t avoid the slightest change in the surface under foot. They fall in record numbers. And it costs lives and billions of dollars.

    But you are busy condemning stimulation to the bottom of the feet in order to protect your worldview.

    >>Read the text book.

    Give me more than vaporware and stop bluffing and I will.

    And by the way we are on our 14th book and we are in 19 languages. And we have been published by most of the major- Prentice Hall, Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins. RandomHouse and now DK/ Penguin.

    So bring on the ridicule. Or can you pull the opinions and start working off facts.

    Kevin Kunz

  24. PaulGon 11 Dec 2008 at 8:04 am

    I cannot remember the last time I was met with such a list of fallacies, inaccuracies and (possibly intentional?) misconceptions. Frankly, there are too many in the posting by Mr. Kunz (above) to bother refuting each and every one.

    I will therefore concentrate on the central issues which underpin the whole nature of reflexology (and other alternative therapies).

    Foot reflexology is based on the fictional premise that some sort of direct connection exists between areas of the feet and other organs of the body. My point in recommending the text book was that you could learn more about how the Central Nervous System works, thereby gaining some understanding of how you might make such a misconception.

    Beyond that, reflexology in any form, remains entirely unproven (which I think is probably being a little too kind).

    No clinical trial of reflexology (in any form) has been undertaken in which a credible, double-blinded control has been used – being that neither the researchers nor the participants were aware of the nature of treament or placebo being administered.

    Studies have examined this flaw in the past (e.g. Oleson and Flocco, 1993; Stevenson and Ernst, 2001), criticising just such a limitation. In Oleson and Flocco (1993), participants in the study reported that the placebo administered was “either overly light or very rough.” Showing a clear difference in the perceptions of the treatment administered, thereby invalidating the methodology.

    In Stevenson and Ernst (2001), they studied almost thirty trials of complimentary / alternative therapy, including reflexology, and found that… “Despite some positive findings, the evidence was not compelling for any of these therapies, with most trials suffering from various methodological limitations. On the basis of current evidence, no complementary / alternative therapy can be recommended as a treatment for premenstrual syndrome.”

    The problem with, or rather, beauty of, valid, double-blinded studies, is that in such a study participants should be randomised to one of two or more study groups, and all treatments given should appear to be identical in every way – to both participant and researcher. Treatments should only be identifiable by a study number, the key to which should be unavailable to researchers during the study.

    It is (as I’m sure “a trained reflexologist” would be the first to point out), extremely difficult (if not impossible) to have someone, who is not a reflexologist, administer reflexology in exactly the same way as someone who is.

    Any trial, purporting to be “scientific”, must be able to illustrate that such rigorous methods have been used to eradicate bias, otherwise it just cannot be considered evidence.

    This standard holds true for all clinical trials – and should do so for all “alternative therapies”.

    Un-biased, double-blinded, peer-reviewed, studies which show a consensus that reflexology has any more effect than a relaxing foot massage just do not exist.

    Until they do, reflexology is unproven and may be judge to be founded upon an entirely fictitious premise.

    There is simply no further need for discussion.

    References
    ==========

    Oleson and Flocco (1993): Oleson, T and Flocco, W. Randomized controlled study of premenstrual symptoms treated with ear, hand and foot reflexology. Obstetrics and Gynecology 82:906-911, 1993.

    Stevenson and Ernst (2001): Stevinson, C and Ernst, E. Complementary/alternative therapies for premenstrual syndrome: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2001 Jul;185(1):227-35.

  25. Joeon 11 Dec 2008 at 4:23 pm

    @Kevin Kunz,

    “… Or can you pull the opinions and start working off facts.”

    Why rave on? All you have to do is present the convincing evidence that has been peer-reviewed in high-quality journals. It doesn’t get simpler than that …

    If you offer a simple foot-massage (properly priced) that some people enjoy, that is fine. But you misrepresent your abilities,and cheat people. That bothers me (call it a character flaw).

  26. footc1on 03 Jan 2009 at 11:51 am

    >I cannot remember the last time I was met with such a list of fallacies, inaccuracies and (possibly intentional?) misconceptions. Frankly, there are too many in the posting by Mr. Kunz (above) to bother refuting each and every one.

    You did not refute a single one. Looks like you can’t refute them. Looks like you are bluffing. Smoke and mirrors.

    And how can a misconception be intentional? That would make it an intentional misconception. How does that work? How can you intend to have a misconception?

    > Foot reflexology is based on the fictional premise that some sort of direct connection exists between areas of the feet and other organs of the body. My point in recommending the text book was that you could learn more about how the Central Nervous System works, thereby gaining some understanding of how you might make such a misconception.

    I don’t believe that theory either. You won’t find that in our writings. Every bit of our theory is based within the nervous system. We can go through every structure and function if you like. So stop trying to spread misinformation about our work. this is a tactic and not academically honest.

    >Beyond that, reflexology in any form, remains entirely unproven (which I think is probably being a little too kind).
    No clinical trial of reflexology (in any form) has been undertaken in which a credible, double-blinded control has been used – being that neither the researchers nor the participants were aware of the nature of treament or placebo being administered.

    Typical science by proclamation. You haven’t done your research. There are studies done to NIH standards and peer reviewed to boot. Check Medline before making such foolish statements. More misinformation.

    >Studies have examined this flaw in the past (e.g. Oleson and Flocco, 1993; Stevenson and Ernst, 2001), criticising just such a limitation. In Oleson and Flocco (1993), participants in the study reported that the placebo administered was “either overly light or very rough.” Showing a clear difference in the perceptions of the treatment administered, thereby invalidating the methodology.

    I didn’t like the blinding process for either Flocco/ Oleson or Ernst. Ernst is one of the worst at blinding. Your point? It is difficult to blind when the practitioner does both the reflexology and the so called placebo reflexology. I plain don’t think it works. But Ernst, your hero, does it.

    >Un-biased, double-blinded, peer-reviewed, studies which show a consensus that reflexology has any more effect than a relaxing foot massage just do not exist.

    Just don’t bother to research do you? And what do you think we have a worldwide conspiracy to biased the results of studies. Hogwash.

    And you have ignored the fMRI, doppler sonograms, ekg’s and eeg’s studies. They definitely not only show that pressure to the feet creates a physiological change but does so in the appropriate body part (brain, kidneys, heart, intestines, eyes, cerebellum and so forth).

    Simply your statement is false.

    Is it some type of skeptic thing to do to try and palm off the idea that reflexology is no different than a simple foot massage? Ernst seems to follow this agenda.

    But the point is that the type of stimulus is quite different. In foot massage you are effecting the General Adaptive Syndrome as described by Selye. It is a protopathic response to the stimulus. Warm and fuzzy but not without benefit.

    Reflexology is more focused on the epicritical sensitivity. It is finer discrimination and involves precise two point localization. Reflexology has more to do with Local Adaptive Syndrome.

    Science tends to ignore the epicritical sensitivity in favor of protopathic sensitivity. In other words we view stress as a system wide response and do not look at the finer response to stress.

    Reflexology addresses the finer response to stress. If you want to relax a foot massage will just do fine. If however you want to address the very specific adaption to stress that occurs reflexology is very good at this.

    >Until they do, reflexology is unproven and may be judge to be founded upon an entirely fictitious premise.

    So what you are contending is that pressure to the feet does not cause a shift in the ANS. And that change in the ANS (since it doesn’t exist) can not impact the allostatic load. Feet are like wheels on a cart in another words. No connection to the internal organs at all even mediated by the brain.

    And because you believe this to be the case the discussion is over. Fascinating.
    Kevin Kunz

    ************************************

    My response to Joe, the plumber.

    >“… Or can you pull the opinions and start working off facts.”
    Why rave on? All you have to do is present the convincing evidence that has been peer-reviewed in high-quality journals. It doesn’t get simpler than that …

    It is simple Joe. You haven’t done your homework. There are peer reviewed research studies in high-quality journals. Check Medline. Peer reviewed to NIH standards.

    >If you offer a simple foot-massage (properly priced) that some people enjoy, that is fine. But you misrepresent your abilities,and cheat people. That bothers me (call it a character flaw).

    Sorry Joe. Is sentence does make sense. Why should I give up what has been an amazingly successful technique in favor of a adequate but not as effective technique? That is like giving up your present computer is favor of the computer you started out with.

    Your real character flaw is that you are a coward for slandering me and not giving your real name. Slander is actionable.

    And to Dr. Novella you have also displayed a character flaw by allowing Joe, the plumber to slander me. This is a moderated forum. You didn’t have to allow this type of behavior. Shame on you.

    I deserve an apology from both Joe and Dr. Novella.

    Kevin Kunz

  27. footc1on 03 Jan 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Dr. Novella,

    You allowed slander against me to be put on your forum. I believe that I have the right to address your behavior with you dean.

    Please forward his/ her name and telephone number so I can discuss this matter with him/ her.

    Thank you.

    Kevin Kunz

  28. PaulGon 03 Jan 2009 at 7:55 pm

    @ K. Kunz

    I have done my research, I stand by my judgement of the current scientific literature.

    Let me explain once more, no clinical trial of reflexology (in any form) has been undertaken in which a credible, double-blinded control has been used – being that neither the researchers nor the participants were aware of the nature of treatment or placebo being administered – and which shows that reflexology has any more effect than a relaxing foot massage.

    No, I do not think a “worldwide conspiracy to bias the results of studies” exists.

    There have been no reliable studies which show reflexology to be anything other than that which Dr. Novella and others (including myself) have previously stated.

    There is no need for a conspiracy. Any real follower of honest science only needs to be able to judge a clinical trial and the methodology used.

    A skill you appear to be lacking.

    Once again, I will clearly state that I have indeed done my research – and taking ALL of your arguments into due consideration – I stand by my judgement of the current scientific literature. That being, reflexology, is (at best) of no more use to anyone, than a relaxing foot massage and a nice chat with a good listener.

    That means, Mr. Kunz, that unless you have anything new to say that is more convincing than the rest of your arguments, you can be safely discounted as a “noisy” irrelevance in this forum.

    Lastly, I keep “my heroes” to myself Mr. Kunz, you are speaking from a position of ignorance and would be well advised to remain rational in your arguments.

  29. Joeon 04 Jan 2009 at 5:03 am

    Kevin Kunz,

    I have not slandered you, period

    The term you should have used was “libel”. Perhaps I should have written “If you tell people you are providing something more than massage and charging extra for it, then you are cheating people.” Perhaps you are unaware of cheating; but ignorance is no excuse …

    Still, you rave on- with no reliable supporting data. Show me what you think supports your claims.

  30. Neuroskepticon 04 Jan 2009 at 7:52 am

    Mr Kunz,

    You’re in a hole. Stop digging.

    Sincerely,
    Neuroskeptic

  31. Neuroskepticon 04 Jan 2009 at 7:54 am

    P.S Just to be clear I’m not accusing you of literally being a hole in a ground! So please don’t sue me for libel (or is it slander?!).

  32. Brain Gym « The Milliganon 04 Jan 2009 at 10:12 am

    [...] The UK education system is pouring many of thousands of pounds into a system which is so embarrassingly foolish in it’s reasoning, it’s like, oh I don’t know, like spending £90,000 on reflexology for unruly students. [...]

  33. The Milliganon 04 Jan 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I hope nobody minds (with the exception of Kevin Kunz that is), but I’ve started a new blog, mostly on UK teaching and other related topics…

    http://themilligan.wordpress.com/

    I’ve been following this thread (for obvious reasons) and I’ve borrowed a little from some of the posts here & pasted a link bank to the original article.

    Oh, and sorry for the shameless plug.

  34. Reflexology Londonon 03 May 2009 at 7:19 am

    Wow what a fight here !

    Why not get back to the school problem at hand for the purpose of this conversation?

    Here we have schools in the UK trying to tackle kid’s unwanted behaviours :
    ‘They will work with children under age 13 who are considered badly behaved.’
    ‘It’s incredibly important that we address young people’s behavioural problems and we make no apologies for using different and innovative methods, but this obviously won’t replace more traditional ways of dealing with anti-social behaviour.’

    Isn’t it clear to you that traditional methods seem to have failed ?

    I’m gonna ask this in another way. If you were sitting on the board of UK schools and you were now trying to tackle unwanted kids behaviors, what would you try ?

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