Objective: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has long been used by people to postpone the aging process and to reverse disease progression. Reflexology is a CAM method that involves massage to reflex areas in the feet and hands. This study investigated the effect of foot reflexology (FR) on the autonomic nervous modulation in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) by using heart rate variability analysis.
Study methods: Seventeen people with angiographically patent coronary arteries and 20 patients with CAD scheduled for coronary artery bypass graft surgery were recruited as the control and CAD groups, respectively. The normalized high-frequency power (nHFP) was used as the index of vagal modulation and the normalized very low-frequency power (nVLFP) as the index of vagal withdrawal and renin-angiotensin modulation.
Results: In both control and CAD groups, the nHFP was increased significantly whereas the nVLFP was decreased significantly 30 and 60 minutes after FR, as compared with those before FR. The systolic, diastolic, mean arterial, and pulse pressures were significantly decreased after FR in both groups of participants. In the CAD group, the percentage change in heart rate 30 and 60 minutes after FR was smaller than that in the control, and the percentage change in nVLFP 60 minutes after FR was smaller than that in the control. In conclusion, a higher vagal modulation, lower sympathetic modulation, and lower blood pressure can be observed following 60 minutes of FR in both controls and CAD patients. The magnitude of change in the autonomic nervous modulation in CAD patients was slightly smaller than that in the controls.
Conclusion: FR may be used as an efficient adjunct to the therapeutic regimen to increase the vagal modulation and decrease blood pressure in both healthy people and CAD patients.