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The present study evaluates the cardiovascular effects of reflexology in a healthy sample. Forty-one participants were randomly assigned to one of three experimental groups: reflexology (n=15), non-professional foot massage (n=14), and a waiting time control group (n=12). Dependent variables were systolic, diastolic and mean blood pressure, inter-beat interval, heart rate variability and baroreceptor reflex sensitivity measured pre- and post- interventions. The study was performed during three 40-min sessions separated by weekly intervals. Results show that the three manipulations produce similar increases in inter-beat interval, heart rate variability and baroreceptor reflex sensitivity. Reflexology specifically produces an increase in blood pressure, which increases gradually over the three sessions. The parallel increase in heart rate variability and baroreceptor reflex sensitivity together with the increase in blood pressure suggest that reflexology is associated with a co-activation of both sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the Autonomic Nervous System. These changes could be helpful in optimizing homeostatic activity, promoting the healing process and increasing the human organism’s capacity to respond adaptively to internal and external challenges. Finally, the observed physiological changes in the waiting-time control group shows the relevance of habituation processes and suggests the need for addition of waiting-time control groups in future studies.
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