Reflexology research …. ‘low hanging fruit’

When you are busy and have so much important stuff to write about, it is so much easier to go after the ‘low hanging fruit’. Much less effort is needed and when it so easy, you don’t need to think too hard about it. Research on reflexology never fails to deliver on that count.

Reflexology is total bunk; it is made up pseudoscientific bullshit that has no basis what-so-ever. There is absolutely no known physiological mechanism linking areas on the foot to different organ systems and not one clinical trial that stacks up to scrutiny shows that it works. Every single clinical trial on it either shows it does not work or if it shows it works, it has fatal flaws in the methodology (and as such should never have been published, let alone carried out) or more often than not, was not even a clinical trial on reflexology, but a clinical trial on a damn good foot massage. Almost everyone is going to feel better after a damn good foot massage, so measures of anxiety etc are going to improve, especially if a chronic illness is present. Being more relaxed after a damn good foot massage is going to affect a number of psychosocial factors as well as some physiological parameters. BUT, that is not evidence for the junk that is reflexology, that is evidence for a damn good foot massage.

I previously blogged about how randomized trials on reflexology almost always end up with the exact same number in each group, which is really hard to do if you randomize properly. That is just symptomatic of the methodology issues that affect clinical trials that are allegedly done on reflexology.

What brought this on today was this study on “reflexology” and EEG testing of cortical oscillatory waves in the brain. The research measured a whole lot of parameters in the brain before and after a massage stimulation of the point on the foot (plantar hallux) that reflexologists claim is linked to the brain. They found changes.

BUT, there was no ‘control’ or ‘placebo’ massage stimulation of any other areas of the foot, nor a separate control group. So we have no way of knowing if the massage stimulation was just that or if it was due to stimulation of the specific area that they claimed is linked to the brain.

And even if they did that, they did not find what they claim they found. The analysis consisted of multiple comparisons which means they need to do a Bonferroni adjustment to an acceptable p-value. This means none of their results were actually statistically significant like they claimed, so they found nothing and certainly did not found what they claimed they found.

Another reflexology paper to consign to the trash heap.

Even more embarrassingly for the authors and the journal is this picture and what they labeled the dorsum of the foot:

oh dear. See why research like this is such a ‘low hanging fruit’: so easy to go after, so easy to debunk and so easy to write. Next.

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Craig Payne

University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger, dad. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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