Results of a Vertical Reflex Therapy (VRT) Pain and Mobility Study at the St. Monica Trust, Bristol, England
Study undertaken at a residential complex for elderly persons
May - June 1997
Vertical Reflex Therapy (VRT) is an overall term for a form of treatment I have devised which involves the clients standing at the beginning and end of a session. The middle section of the therapy comprises 5 - 10 minutes of gentle reflexology while the client sits or lies down.
2 CRITERIA AND FORMAT FOR THE STUDY
This residential home for the elderly is one of the largest in the UK and has 200 residents in sheltered accommodation and full nursing care. For the past four years I have held a weekly clinic at the home treating all categories of residents and some staff. Many elderly people had been benefiting from the Vertical Reflex Therapy that I have devised and I felt that a small medical study would be a useful method of proving its efficacy. All residents were submitted after consultation with the two G.P.’s who liaise with the medical staff at the Trust. All ages and conditions seem to respond well to VRT and I hoped to prove that it was an effective and simple new tool, even when used on the chronically ill and elderly.
Seven residents were submitted by the Matron and the Wing Sisters as willing to take part in the above Study. All had multiple pathologies but the common factor was hip, knee and back problems. It was my particular intention not to treat specific ailments but simply to reassess the individual’s condition after six weeks to ascertain any increase in mobility and decrease in pain. Each resident completed a questionnaire giving a full picture of their limitations. Examples of questions asked were if they had more pain on sitting, standing, going up or down stairs; or if they had pain when raising or lowering an arm or leg. Special attention was paid to mobility as one resident was soon able to raise her arm enabling her to brush the hair on the back of her head for the first time in months. .A timetable was devised for 6 weekly treatments and each resident attended at the same designated time each week for a 15 minute VRT/Reflexology treatment. There was a two week gap at one point due to a holiday and any resident who missed a session was given an extra treatment at the end of the study.
I visited each person first to introduce myself, explain the concept of reflexology and to give them a brief introductory treatment. They were each given a folder containing the timetable, an explanatory letter, a “diary” form to record any positive or negative reactions in the week following each treatment and a reflexology hand chart if they wished to work on their own hands in between treatments. All their diaries were checked and monitored by the nursing staff. At the end of the Study each person was given a questionnaire to complete and was interviewed again to conclude the series of treatments. The resident''s report and personal conclusions were discussed and verified with the nursing staff.
3 RESULTS OF THE VRT STUDY
Overall the results have been very positive with over 60% of the residents reporting improvement including two cases where a major breakthrough in recovery seemed to occur. Two months later the improvements in all cases appear to be sustained despite no further VRT/reflexology treatments..
One of the Study candidates, Mrs H, age 90 years, reacted badly to her first treatment and had neck pains, fatigue and felt very emotional. She decided to withdraw from the study and I invited Mr G to replace her as he had a longstanding hip problem.
3.1 MRS A Age 73
Areas of most discomfort: Left Hip, Both Legs, Back, Ankles
Most pain: On Standing, Walking
This was an extremely successful result. From the first treatment Mrs A noticed improvements her back, knees and hips. She began moving round her room much more easily without using her sticks and after two treatments found herself walking to the bathroom unaided. This action unfortunately had temporary repercussions as she had placed unfamiliar pressure on her knees and the left knee became swollen. However I treated the knee reflexes the following week very thoroughly and the pain and inflammation rapidly reduced. Her general health and wellbeing have improved, as has her sleep. She says that the constant “aches and pains” that have troubled her have gone completely. Her neck and shoulders are less painful and she feels generally relaxed and “more willing to move about as the general aching in my body began to disappear”.
3.2 MRS B Age 61
Areas of most discomfort: Left knee, Left groin
Most pain: Getting up from a chair or off the bed
Mrs B was submitted as a candidate with knee problems. Although there was no major improvement in her knee, a major positive change did take place regarding an excruciating, deep pain in her left groin. This had been causing her acute discomfort for months and whenever she moved forward she felt a sharp stabbing pain that caused her to cry out. On my introductory interview I pressed the groin reflex on her ankle to demonstrate how reflexes could feel more painful when connected to malfunctioning parts of the body. In this instance, she cried out in pain as I touched the ankle and immediately fell into a deep sleep for several minutes. On waking she felt very calm and relaxed and said that the groin pain had subsided. On each subsequent treatment the pain on her ankle, and the groin, itself lessened and at the end of the Study she was virtually pain free and has remained so. This has been a major help to her wellbeing especially as she encountered further health problems during the Study. She also reported being able to sleep better but that could have been due to a change in her sleeping pill.
3.3 MRS C Age 84
Areas of most discomfort: Right hip, Both legs, Swollen ankles
Most pain: Standing, Sitting, Going downstairs
Mrs C was able to report that she had less pain in her back after the Study. Her right hip and left leg were a lot better and have remained so. Her feet were a little improved but the ankles remain troublesome. Mrs C developed an extremely positive attitude to the reflexology despite suffering a very bad headache following the first four treatments. She persevered with the treatments and I worked gently to eliminate this unpleasant side effect. It was a strange headache and I asked if she had ever experienced this type before. Interestingly she replied she had the same sensation in her thirties when she lost her hair and was forced to wear a heavy wig or “transformation” for the first time.
3.4 MISS D Age 81
Areas of most discomfort: Both hips and legs
Most pain: “Always and everywhere”
Miss D reported that her right hip felt better and that there had also been an improvement in her back. At the end of the Study she was able to stand and sit with less pain and felt that all her health problems had improved slightly. She became much calmer and more relaxed and felt that her irritability had “improved greatly, i.e. lessened!” Throughout the Study she was able to report that she had had no major “explosions” of temper towards anyone in eight weeks, which was apparently a record.
3.5 MRS E Aged 90
Areas of most discomfort: Both legs, Lumbar spine
Most Pain: In Bed, Standing, Going upstairs
Mrs E’s feet were extremely sensitive to touch and, after the first two treatments she reported feeling weepy and generally weak. I revised the treatments using a few seconds of VRT plus mainly hand and a little foot massage of the reflexology points. This helped to her relax and her headaches improved and she felt this “benefited her holistically”. She did not improve at all in the lumbar area and she suggested “that reflexology did not benefit me at my age as the degeneration of the bones has gone too far”.
3.6 MRS F Age 85
Areas of most discomfort: Ankles, Feet
Most pain: Standing, Sitting
Two years ago I had successfully treated Mrs F’s painful foot problem to such an extent that she was pain free for 90% of the time. She appears to have become very frail since I last saw worked on her and her heart reflexes seem weak. Her eczema improved during the Study and, although I work with a lot of suffers in my practice, I assume that it was the prescribed bath oil that stopped the itching. Mrs F has always responded well to conventional reflexology and I feel the results would have been more positive had she had a longer session, rather than the shortened form of Vertical Reflex Therapy.
3.7 MR G Age 81
Area of most discomfort: Left leg and back
Most pain: Standing, Walking
Mr G had difficulty with pain and stiffness in his left leg, mainly in the upper thigh area. At first the VRT seemed to be working as the pain eased a little and then moved round to the hip joint area (where the pain had originated). This was not surprising as, in reflexology, the person often experiences sensations of pain identical to those first registered when the complaint began. In Mr G’s case he did not steadily improve as I had anticipated and he and I concluded that the Study had been of no benefit to him. However, two months later, he reports that there has been a slow but steady improvement and he has a little less pain and more mobility than before which may be due to the reflexology.
3.8 MRS H Age 90
Areas of most discomfort: Left hip, Back.
Most pain: Standing, Walking.
Her feet were extremely sensitive and she admitted to being very skeptical that any such treatment could help. Unfortunately she immediately reacted to her first treatment and felt tired, weepy and her back and neck became more painful. The Staff Nurse and myself explained that the body can sometimes overreact initially to treatment before improvements begin. However, she and I agreed that, as she did not want to run the risk of further reactions, it was best for her to withdraw from the Study.
Over 60% of the residents reported improvement in their condition at the end of the seven week Study and the improvements still existed two months later despite no further reflexology. The six week Study became a seven week process because some of those taking part began reporting and recording improvements after the brief introductory interview and demonstration of VRT before the Study began the following week. The positive physical changes in Mrs A’s condition generally and Mrs B’s groin were remarkable. The relief from hip and back problems in four of the people was very encouraging given the duration of their chronic ill-health and the brevity of the treatments. Mrs E and Mrs H felt that, at 90 years, they were too old to undertake a new form of therapy. It was unfortunate that they had such a emotional response to their treatments, although I have treated other people of 90 plus very successfully. Conversely, two other residents remembered and talked about painful memories or illness in the past as I worked on their feet. Reflexology can sometimes cause the original pain or emotion to surface briefly, and the person is better able to deal with it long after the original event, either privately or in confidence with the practitioner.
VRT a basically simple and quick technique. There is a wide application for its use, both preventative and curative, in many fields ranging from geriatric care to sports injuries. I feel that there could be scope within residential nursing homes for developing these basic techniques for use by interested nursing staff. Residents could be treated and assessed by a reflexologist first. Subsequent weekly sessions of a few minutes duration could be undertaken by staff who were trained in basic techniques although there may be problems regarding public liability if the nurses were not qualified reflexologists. I would envisage monthly or six weekly reviews by the practitioner. These ongoing treatments could be preventative or looked on as maintenance.
Vertical Reflex Therapy appears to have a very positive application as a therapy in its own right as well as an extremely useful addition to conventional reflexology (and other therapies such as osteopathy and aromatherapy for example). VRT and reflexology, when used together, appear to create a synergistic effect thus bringing about more immediate healing results.
Copyright Lynne Booth