The latest choice in massage therapy is reflexology with therapists working on your feet. You might have seen a reflexology chart with different colors mapped out on the palm or bottom of a foot representing various body organs or systems. Reflexology suggests applying pressure on these areas will treat a variety of medical conditions. Out of curiosity, a quick look at the research on reflexology reveals there is no evidence that reflexology provides effective treatment for any medical condition. From an evidence based medicine standpoint one cannot recommend reflexology as a treatment, however, many people still use it anyway.
An interesting point that the research does show is that a number of systemic diseases show up in the foot and ankle before the rest of the body. This makes foot doctors often the first to detect a variety of conditions. Here are a few examples:
Diabetes: Diabetes can be a silent disease however a few manifestations appear early in the foot and ankle. Some lower extremity symptoms to look out for include: numbness, tingling, burning sensations, hair loss, dry skin, and cold feet. Other early symptoms include: odor from your urine, increased thirst, and frequent urination. Your Podiatrist is the #1 resource for diabetic foot and ankle care. Podiatrists are equipped to provide diabetic shoes, custom inserts, socks, lotions, blood glucose checks. Diabetics have frequent visits with podiatrists where they keep an eye out for progressing problems and stop them before they get out of control. For most patients diabetes can be controlled easily by diet and exercise and if needed oral medication or Insulin.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): Millions of Americans suffer from PAD, though most are not aware that they have the disease. PAD is a disease in which plaque (plak) builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your head, organs, and limbs. This build-up PAD increases your risk of coronary heart diseast, heart attack, stroke, and transient ischemic attack ("mini-stroke"). Some symptoms to look out for include: legs get tired or cramp with short distance walking, cold feet, wounds on the foot or ankle that heal slowly. Smoking is the primary risk factor and if you smoke you should be checked for this often silent disease.
Other diseases: Discolored or cracked toenails can also be an indication of many problems like cancer, vitamin or other nutritional deficiency, circulatory conditions, and/or fungal infections. If there is a dark spot forming on the nail that changes in shape or color, a biopsy should be performed to check for cancer.
The above are just a few examples of major diseases that can be predicted by our office. If you have questions or concerns, or think you may have a problem, please make an appointment to see Dr. Jay Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona.
Ernst E (2009). "Is reflexology an effective intervention? A systematic review of randomised controlled trials". Med J Aust 191 (5): 263–6.