Reflexology pressing on the reflex points of the feet, hands and ears to affect changes throughout the body-is a type of technique practiced by many massage therapists.

New research indicates reflexology affects the hearts of non-cardiology patients. The three-year study by researchers at the University of Stirling has found that reflexology to the upper half of the left foot (the heart reflex point) had an effect on the hearts of healthy volunteers, according to a university press release.

Researcher Jenny Jones, from the School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health, and Professor Steve Leslie, a cardiologist from the Cardiac Unit at Raigmore Hospital, carried out a study into the effects of reflexology in healthy volunteers and patients with cardiac disease.

Reflexologists believe that various reflex points on the feet map to individual body organs, and if these reflex points are massaged, the organ gets more blood, the press release noted.

“This claim has not been rigorously tested before, making the Stirling study the first of its kind,” the release stated.

The study specifically tested the upper left ball of the sole, which is said to map to the heart, and compared this area to other areas of both feet. The study found that in healthy volunteers, reflexology massage to the heart reflex point had a small effect on heart function.

No heart function change was detected when non-heart, or unrelated, areas of the feet were massaged. There was no change in the hearts of cardiology patients.

“Reflexology is unique because it makes quite specific claims that it increases blood flow and this is something you can scientifically test,” Jones said. “In our experiment with healthy people, there was an inexplicable change in the heart function which occurred only when the heart reflex point area was massaged. We have no idea what caused this change so we have applied for funding to investigate this further.”

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