Multiple Sclerosis patients should be made aware that studies have shown that symptoms of MS can be relieved by reflexology.

In persons with Multiple Sclerosis, the body’s own immune system attacks the central nervous system, destroying the insulating myelin and forming scars on the white matter of the brain and spinal cord.The word “sclerosis” actually means sacrs, plaques and lesions. This affects the brain’s ability to communicate with the spinal cord. Various neurological symptoms appear, leading eventually to physical disability, cognitive disability and neuropsychiatric disorder. The symptoms may have slow onset, progressing with time, or may come as sudden attacks that relapse with symptom-free periods in between.

Among the many symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are paresthesia, spasticity and urinary problems. Paresthesia consists of unusual skin sensations such as tingling, tickling, itching and burning. This is due to peripheral nerve damage. Spasticity means having spasms. These spasms also affect internal organs. In fact, spasms in the bladder cause the urinary problems such as hesitancy, urgency, frequency and incontinence.

The cause of Multiple Sclerosis is not known and neither is there any known cure. Medication has proven to be ineffective, with adverse side effects. Palliative treatments can only attempt to alleviate symptoms, delay if not prevent attacks, relieve the discomforts of symptoms an attacks, and delay if not prevent disability.

A study published in 2003 in the Multiple Sclerosis journal of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Sheba Medical Center in Tel-Hashomer, Israel showed that reflexology significantly improved symptoms of paresthesia and spasticity, as well as urinary problems, of patients with Multiple Sclerosis. The study was done by I. Siev-Ner; D. Gamus; L. Lerner-Geva; and A. Achiron, staff of the Department of Orthopedic Rehabilitation, Complementary Medicine Clinic and the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Sheba Medical Center; and the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research.

Seventy-one participants of the study were randomly divided into two groups. The first group received 45-minute reflexology  treatments weekly for 11 weeks, concentrating on specific reflexology points on the feet and calves. The second group also received 45-minute treatments weekly for 11 weeks, but it consisted of non-specific massage of the calves, only providing touch and relaxation.

The patients were assessed before the 11 week study, at the start of the study, on the sixth week of the study, at the end of the 11 weeks, and three months after the end of the study. Paresthesia was assessed using the Visual Analogue Scale. Urinary symptoms were assessed using the American Urological Association symptom score. The strength of the iliopsoas, quadriceps, hamstrings and adductor muscles were assessed using the British Medical Research Council scale. Spasticity was assessed using the Ashworth scale.

The reflexology group showed significant improvements at the end of the study period for scores of paresthesias, urinary symptoms and spasticity. Muscle strength scores for the reflexology group showed borderline improvement. The improvement in the intensity of paresthesia remained significant at the three-month follow-up.

Subjects in the control group showed no significant improvements on any of the outcome measures.

“It is of interest to note such positive effects of single intervention on a broad range of symptoms,” state the study’s authors. “Further clinical and laboratory studies are needed to validate these results and to understand the mechanisms by which reflexology improves symptoms secondary to [multiple sclerosis].”

It was established, therefore, that reflexology specifically, and not just random touch and relaxation, helped ease the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis patients.


– Source: Department of Orthopedic Rehabilitation, Complementary Medicine Clinic, Multiple Sclerosis Center at Sheba Medical Center in Tel-Hashomer, Israel; and Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research. Authors: I. Siev-Ner; D. Gamus; L. Lerner-Geva; and A. Achiron. Originally published in Multiple Sclerosis, 2003, Vol. 9, pp. 356-361.

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