State passes law giving credence to reflexology and somatic education

The Washington State legislature has updated it’s RCW 18.108 to reflect state credence of the massage techniques of reflexology and somatic education. Both these methods have no basis in proven scientific methods of treatment, and are considered by some in the medical profession to be nothing more than fake medicine. It is disheartening to see the State legislature taking steps to legitimize these massage techniques that come with little or no proof of their ability to treat patients other than that the industry has come up with educational programs to train people in these techniques. While there seems to be nothing more than hearsay to validate their techniques, the legislature abrogates it’s duty to protect the public from non-scientifically valid procedures, and work towards giving these techniques and their practitioners a cloak of medical respectability.

According to information on Quackwatch.com, the leading source for tracking non-scientific health claims in the US:

Many proponents claim that foot reflexology can cleanse the body of toxins, increase circulation, assist in weight loss, and improve the health of organs throughout the body. Others have reported success in treating earaches, anemia, bedwetting, bronchitis, convulsions in an infant, hemorrhoids, hiccups, deafness, hair loss, emphysema, prostate trouble, heart disease, overactive thyroid gland, kidney stones, liver trouble, rectal prolapse, undescended testicles, intestinal paralysis, cataracts, and hydrocephalus (a condition in which an excess of fluid surrounding the brain can cause pressure that damages the brain). Some claim to “balance energy and enhance healing elsewhere in the body.” [2] One practitioner has even claimed to have lengthened a leg that was an inch shorter than the other. There is no scientific support for these assertions.

Reflexology was introduced into the United States in 1913 by William H. Fitzgerald, M.D. (1872-1942), an ear, nose, and throat specialist who called it “zone therapy.” Eunice D. Ingham (1899-1974) further developed reflexology in the 1930s and 1940s, concentrating on the feet [3] Mildred Carter, a former student of Ingham, subsequently promoted foot reflexology as a miraculous health method [4-6]. A 1993 mailing from her publisher stated:

Not only does new Body Reflexology let you cure the worst illnesses safely and permanently, it can even work to reverse the aging process, Carter says. Say goodbye to age lines, dry skin, brown spots, blemishes—with Body Reflexology you can actually give yourself an at-home facelift with no discomfort or disfiguring surgery [7].

You can read the whole overview by Dr. Barrett along with research studies that have been done that conclude that reflexology has no legitimate scientific standing.

http://quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/reflex.html

Dr. Barrett’s conclusion: “Reflexology is based on an absurd theory and has not been demonstrated to influence the course of any illness. Done gently, reflexology is a form of foot massage that may help people relax temporarily. Whether that is worth $35 to $100 per session or is more effective than ordinary (noncommercial) foot massage is a matter of individual choice. Claims that reflexology is effective for diagnosing or treating disease should be ignored. Such claims could lead to delay of necessary medical care or to unnecessary medical testing of people who are worried about reflexology findings.”

Also from Dr. Barrett’s web site, the definition of “Somatic Therapy” that the state is tacitly supporting:

somatic therapy (somatic disciplines, somatic methods, somatics, somatic techniques, somatic therapies): Field that encompasses aikido, the Alexander Technique, applied kinesiology, Arica, Aston-Patterning, Awareness Through Movement, bioenergetics, Body-Mind Centering®, “Capoeria,” “Continuum,” CranioSacral Therapy, Eutony, Focusing, Functional Integration, Hakomi, Hellerwork, judo, karate, kundalini yoga, kung fu, “Lomi” (see “lomi-lomi” and “Lomi work”), “Oki yoga” (see “Oki-Do”), Process-Oriented Psychotherapy (process psychology), rebirthing, reflexology, Resonant Kinesiology, Rolfing, “Rosen work” (see “Rosen Method”), “sensory awareness,” SHEN, somasynthesis, tai chi, Touch for Health, Trager, “Trans Fiber,” yoga therapy, and Zero Balancing. “Subtle-energy elements” are a commonality of somatic therapies. Thomas Hanna, founder of the journal Somatics, coined the word “somatics.”

While I have no doubt that some of these techniques, such as Capoeria, Akidido, etc. are good exercise and lead to relaxation, by turning these into some kind of pseudo medical technique leads to people thinking it’s a treatment for a disease or condition that should be treated with proven medical techniques. It’s disappointing to see the Washington State Legislature give validity to these marketing tactics for these  techniques.

We can hope the Governor chooses to not sign this update to the RCW.

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