The Healing Room

Complementary Therapies for your health, well being & relaxation

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Research papers

Reiki, Massage, Reflexology & What's in your Personal Care Products

Can Reiki Help Your Chronic Pain?

This ancient Japanese touch therapy has shown real results for managing chronic pain.

By Wyatt Myers Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

The practice of Reiki sounds almost too good to be true. By "laying on hands" on specific parts of your body or even just positioning hands slightly above your body, a qualified Reiki practitioner can help bring relief to your chronic pain and make you feel better than you have in years. It is an ancient Japanese technique and a form of alternative medicine also sometimes referred to as a "biofield" therapy.

In alternative medicine, Reiki is a treatment in which healing energy is channeled from the practitioner to the patient to enhance energy and reduce stress, pain, and fatigue. Practitioners say that it works by opening up a channel between healer and patient to transfer energy — a Reiki healer restores the body both physically and mentally.

During a Reiki session, muscles are relaxed, and energy flow is unblocked. This helps reduce physical tension and pain. Anxiety and stress also are reduced, helping to unblock and release emotional pain. Although you may not be completely pain-free, you feel relaxed, refreshed, and better able to cope with your condition.

Reiki and Chronic Pain: What the Research Shows

Though Reiki may sound very "new-agey," the effectiveness of this ancient treatment has been shown in some studies. "A [recent] issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine reviewed 66 clinical trials on biofield therapies," says Julie Kusiak, MA, a Reiki practitioner in the integrative medicine department at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. The authors of the review concluded that there was strong evidence that biofield therapies help reduce the intensity of pain in general and moderate evidence that these therapies help reduce the intensity of pain for people who are hospitalized or who have cancer, Kusiak says.

In addition, Kusiak says, a separate review article of 24 studies also showed that touch therapies were successful in reducing pain. This review article noted that the studies involving Reiki therapy seemed to have the most success.

When Reiki is examined for its impact on more specific types of pain, the results seem to hold up equally well. "Recent studies on Reiki therapy reflect a broad spectrum of its benefit for pain relief," says Kusiak. "During colonoscopy, Reiki treatment resulted in decreased anxiety and pain. With abdominal hysterectomies, the women who had Reiki therapy both before and after their procedures experienced lower anxiety and pain. Cancer patients being treated with Reiki reported lower fatigue, less pain, less anxiety, and better quality of life. And in a community of older adults, those who received Reiki therapy were documented to have reduced pain, anxiety, and depression."

Another plus about Reiki, adds Kusiak, is that it seems to be effective with very few side effects. "No serious side effects or risks have been identified in the medical literature on Reiki, and it is considered to be a very low-risk intervention," she says. "Since Reiki is facilitated either with a very light touch or with no touch — slightly off the body — it provides a therapeutic option for those who are in pain or unable to be touched."

Visit the Reiki Page to find out more.

Seize the Daylight Savings Opportunity; Massage Therapy Can Help Reduce Winter Blues

EVANSTON, Ill., Oct. 29, 2015

People looking to fend off the winter blues may find relief by integrating massage therapy into their health maintenance routine. Shorter days and colder temperatures leave many Americans feeling depressed and lethargic, yet studies show that regular massages improve mood and reset circadian rhythms, leading to better sleep and more energy. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is recognised as a major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns. A less severe form of seasonal mood disorder, known as the winter blues, impacts an even larger portion of the population. Combined, the two disorders affect as many as one in five Americans and may be aggravated by the change to Daylight Savings Time. Symptoms include reduced energy, difficulty rising in the morning and a tendency to eat more, especially sweets and starches. "As we approach the colder, darker months, massage therapy may be an effective method of deflecting common seasonal challenges," said Jeff Smoot, President of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). "Massage benefits the way our bodies react to negative influences, whether that's weather, anxieties or disorders." 

A growing body of research is documenting the impact of massage therapy for relief of anxiety and depression for people in a wide range of health situations. For example, in a controlled study composed of HIV-positive adolescents, participants who received massage therapy reported feeling less anxious and less depressed by the end of the 12-week study.

A randomized study found women with stage 1 and 2 breast cancer benefited from regular massage therapy sessions. The immediate massage benefits included reduced anxiety, depressed mood and anger while the long-term impact reduced depression and increased serotonin values. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter with functions in various parts of the body, works to regulate mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning. Massage therapy was also found to improve sleep, specifically by assisting with circadian rhythms, or the body clock. A study investigating the effects of massage therapy on the adjustment of rest to activity, as well as melatonin secretion rhythms in full-term infants, found massage therapy enhanced coordination of the circadian system.

Research on Reflexology

From the moment the reflexologist’s hands start their work, the relaxation begins. Measuring real-time as reflexology is applied, an EEG shows that the brain immediately goes into a more relaxed state as reflexology work commences.

A single reflexology session reduces the onset of pain as well as Those who received a single reflexology session were more able to forestall the perception of pain when hands were immersed in ice water and were able to withstand the pain for a longer period of time.

Pain reduction following reflexology work is documented in 27 studies including research showing impact on individuals of all ages and health states: birthing mothers; menstruating women; sinusitis, phantom limb and lower back pain sufferers; diabetes, cancer and kidney stone patients; senior citizens and individuals with pain following surgery.

Amelioration of Symptoms from Health Concerns A survey of 169 studies from 21 countries found reflexology to be 80% effective in its testing over 78 disorders. Good results were produced as symptoms were ameliorated for health concerns stemming from tension (e. g. elevated blood pressure, anxiety, constipation, headaches, labor times for the pregnant) and pain relief. Further responses (e. g. for those with asthma, diabetes, cholesterol, incontinence) were found to require an appropriate number and frequency of sessions. Research shows reflexology provided by a partner or self-help application bolsters the reflexologist’s efforts and/or is beneficial research using advanced technology shows specific reflexology work impacts specific parts of the brain and body.

Reflexology helps many where nothing else can: phantom limb pain sufferers, neuropathy patients, and hemodialysis patients to name a few. Helping Your Body Work Better Research using advanced technology shows specific reflexology work impacts specific parts of the brain and body.

There are reasons why reflexology gets results and improvement in blood flow is seen as one of them. Studies measuring blood flow in the brain using fMRI technology found that reflexology applied to a reflex area in the foot increased blood flow in the part of the brain related to that part of the body (e. g. intestine reflex area and intestines). Doppler sonogram measurements showed improved blood flow to the intestines when technique was applied to the intestine reflex area as well as with technique applied to the kidney reflex area and the kidneys. Such research provides explanation for studies showing the positive impact of reflexology applied over time on constipation and kidney function. 

Research shows that reflexology influences measurements of the body’s functions. Research provides an objective yardstick to measure reflexology’s effects and explain its benefits with measurements of blood pressure and cholesterol as well as those indicated by ECG, EEG, fMRI and Doppler sonogram (heart activity, brain activity, blood flow to the brain and blood flow within the body.)

Adjunct to Mental Health Care In addition, women in need of emotional support, hospice residents, and individuals with severe and enduring mental health problems were helped by reflexology work. Following reflexology work, chemotherapy patients showed improvements in: pain, nausea, vomiting, and/or anxiety. Beneficial for Post-operative Pain Reduction and Recovery Fifteen studies demonstrate post-operative recovery improvements: reduced pain, lessened use of post operative pain killers.

What's in your Personal Care Products

Is Your Bathroom Poisoning You ?

Is your home the biggest environmental hazard to your good health? Between cosmetics, perfumes, personal care products and feminine hygiene products, the average woman uses 12 products containing 168 man-made toxic chemicals every day, whilst men typically only use 6 personal care products daily containing 85 man-made toxic chemicals according to research published by The Environmental Working Group.

The use of toxic commercial body-care products is the NUMBER ONE reason why women typically have TWICE as much man-made chemical toxins in their body than men! If you go to your bathroom, flip the bottles you use around and look at the ingredients, can you even pronounce them?

 15 ingredients to evict from your Bathroom and Toilet Bag: 

  • Formaldehyde
         A known Class A carcinogen (cause of cancer) banned in Japan and Sweden.
  • Parabens
  • Increases levels of the toxic form of oestrogen which lies behind many cancers like breast cancer, testicular cancer, colon and prostate cancer. Also lowers sperm count.
  • Phthalates
  • Banned in the EU, but still in toiletries – they damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system -especially developing testes.
  • Bisphenol A
  • Another plastic-based oestrogen mimic.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
  • Skin irritant, stops hair growth, can cause cataracts in adults. 
  • Toluene
  • A neurotoxin that can damage the liver, disrupt your hormones and cause asthma.
  • Fluoride
  • Associated to dementias.
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Used in industrial anti-freeze, robs your skin of moisture and causes your skin to age faster.
  • Talc
  • A known carcinogenic and has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer and general urinary tract disorders.
  • Parfum/perfume
  • A petro-chemical toxic cocktail linked to allergies and breathing difficulties – 26 of the most commonly used chemicals are on the EU hit list for being dangerous.
  • Xylene / xytol / dimethylbenzene
  • Damage your liver, and causes skin and respiratory tract irritation.
  • Diethanolamine, also Tri- and Mono- (DEA, TEA and MEA
  • Cancer causing
  • Retinyl palmitate
  • Pre-sensitises the skin to the harmful effects of Ultra Violet
  • Triclosan sometimes listed as 5-chloro-2 (2,4-dichlorophenoxy) phenol
  • Breakz down in water to create a member of the dioxin family, a proven carcinogen. Serious concerns are under investigation right now.
  • Paraphenylenediamine or PPD
  • Implicated in numerous bladder cancer cases in California. But where does all this Toxic rubbish come from? And why is it put in products in the first place?
  • 1: Formaldehyde
  • A known Class A carcinogen it is used as a disinfectant, fixative, germicide and preservative in a wide variety of products from deodorants to liquid soaps, and from nail varnish to shampoos. Also known as formalin, formal and methyl aldehyde, it has been linked in research to lung cancer and leukaemia. It can also be sourced from chipboard and ceiling and floor tile glues. It can damage DNA, irritate the eyes, upper respiratory tract and mucous membrane, and may cause asthma and headaches. It is banned in Japan and Sweden.
  • 2: Parabens
  • Listed as alkyl parahydroxy benzoates -butyl/methyl/ethyl/ propyl/ isobutyl parabens on products such as some toothpastes, moisturisers and deodorants. They are used as a preservative but, like phthalates, can act as oestrogen mimics. Research suggests that mimics can increase levels of active oestrogens in the body – oestrogen lies behind many cancers like breast cancer, testicular cancer, colon and prostate cancer. Xenoestrogens, as these chemical oestrogens are termed, have also been linked to reductions in sperm count.
  • 3: Phthalates (a plasticiser)Sometimes referred to as “gender benders”, these are a family of industrial plasticisers already banned in the EU from being used in plastic toys, but still widely found in plastic bottles and plastic cups. If the contents is heated, the heat can further denature the plastic causing a greater release – forever. Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled as fumes and ingested in liquids and contaminated food, and even via breastfeeding. They are xenoestrogens, or oestrogen mimics. They can be found in shampoos, shower gels, and even your posh mountain fresh water bottles. Also found in hairsprays, top-selling perfumes and nail varnishes. Animal studies have shown they can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system -especially developing testes. THEY ARE BANNED IN THE EU FROM BEING USED IN PLASTIC TOYS, BUT ARE STILL IN our TOILETRIES
  • 4: Bisphenol A (a plasticiser)Found in plastics, the white linings inside cans, and babies bottles. Recent Canadian research turned BPA up in cans of fizzy soft drinks too. Banned in Canada, and in toys for the under 3´s in California, BPA is another plastic-based oestrogen mimic.
  • 5: Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)is one of the ingredients in many a shampoo, bubble bath, liquid soap etc. Why, when it is a known skin irritant, stops hair growth, can cause cataracts in adults, damage childrens eye development and cause urinary tract infection? Because its cheap and produces lots of bubbles when mixed with salt. Hardly compensation! Sodium Laureth Ether Sulphate (SLES) is a slightly less irritant form of SLS, but may cause more drying. Both can lead to potentially carcinogenic cocktails of nitrites and dioxins forming in shampoos and cleansers, by reacting with other ingredients. SLS actually increases the permeability of the skin by about 40 per cent. Skin is not a barrier – it´s a carrier. If anyone tells you otherwise, ask them how HRT and nicotine patches work?
  • 6: Toluene
  • is a common solvent found in nail enamels, hair gels, hair spray, and perfumes. It is a neurotoxin and oestrogen mimic and can damage the liver, disrupt the endocrine system and cause asthma.
  • 7: Fluoride
  • In America toothpaste labels clearly warn about fluoride use. Consider carefully this warning: ´As in all fluoride toothpastes, keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional assistance or contact a Poison Control Centre immediately´. Fluoride is even added to mouthwash. It probably does no good at all if you are over 35 and the FDA has stated that it should be avoided by pregnant women. Some states in America have started banning fluoride from water supplies.
  • 8: Propylene Glycolis a cosmetic form of mineral oil (refined crude oil) used in industrial anti-freeze. People handling it are warned by the manufacturer to avoid skin contact and wear respirators and rubber gloves etc, and yet this is a major ingredient in most moisturisers, skin creams, baby wipes and sun screens. Why? Its cheap and gives the “glide” factor in body lotions – but is in fact robbing lower layers of skin of moisture. Lanolin and collagen can also clog pores and cause skin to age faster than if nothing was used.
  • 9: Talc
  • is recognised as carcinogenic and has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer and general urinary tract disorders. On some baby powder tins it actually says, Do not use near mouth or nose! The distant cousin of asbestos, so dont dust it on your babys, or anyone elses, bottom! And certainly not near your mouth and nose – of course it is in make-up face packs and ´powder puffs´.
  • 10: Parfum/perfume
  • A typical cosmetic can contain up to 150 chemicals in the perfume alone! 95 per cent of these chemicals are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum -26 of which are on an EU hit list. Fragrances have been linked to allergies and breathing difficulties and they penetrate the skin. The ingredients do not legally have to be declared. Avoid all skin contact with fragrances.
  • 11: Xylene
  • is also listed, for example, as xytol or dimethylbenzene on nail varnish bottles. It can damage your liver, is narcotic in high concentrations and causes skin and respiratory tract irritation.
  • 12: Diethanolamine
  • Ans also Tri- and Mono- (DEA, TEA and MEA) are absorbed through skin where they accumulate. If found in products also containing nitrates, they react and form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.
  • 13: Retinyl palmitate (synthetic vitamin a)Is found in many skin creams, skin lotions and sunscreens. There is a growing body of research expressing concern that, far from helping with skin damage or protecting against sunburn, this either pre-sensitises the skin to the harmful effects of Ultra Violet rays in sunshine or is actually carcinogenic where in sunlight! The FDA is reviewing concerns that this may actually cause more skin cancers!
  • 14: Triclosan
  • Sometimes listed as 5-chloro-2 (2,4-dichlorophenoxy) phenol, is an antibacterial agent in deodorants, toothpastes, vaginal washes and mouthwashes. Toxic dioxins are produced during its manufacture or incineration. It is stored in breast.tissue. There are so many Natural products for both personal use and for your home and are available from your local health food store, The Body Shop and from Neil’s Yard. Many supermarkets now stock Ecover and Method natural products which are better for you and for our environment. We feel better, cleaner and more alive when we reduce our toxin exposure on all levels, by using natural products, eating clean and/or organic foods, drinking pure mineral water reduces toxin overload in our systems.