People living with psoriasis may experience chronic pain. Some people claim that reflexology may help with the pain, though not much clinical evidence supports these claims.

Reflexology uses massage to apply pressure to certain points in the feet, hands, and ears. It is thought that these points connect to other areas of the body and that applying pressure to them can help a person with a variety of issues, such as pain.

Pain is a common symptom of psoriasis, which means, in theory, reflexology may be helpful for psoriasis pain. This article explores the use of reflexology and its potential effects on psoriasis-related pain.

Reflexology is a practice that involves applying pressure to specific points in the hands, feet, and ears. It may help with a variety of health concerns, including:

Reflexology may help a person living with psoriasis with pain management and potential comorbid conditions, such as depression. However, evidence for its effects on pain management is severely lacking.

In fact, few studies fully or convincingly support the use of reflexology for pain or similar symptoms associated with other health conditions, such as breast cancer. As a result, before broad claims about its effect on psoriasis can be made, more clinical research with large numbers of participants is needed.

Proponents of reflexology state that by manipulating and applying pressure to certain points in the hands, feet, and ears, a person can provide therapeutic benefits to the corresponding areas of the body.

Experts at the University of Minnesota offer several theories on how it works. They include:

  • It reduces stress which then reduces pain: This theory states that a person’s stress level can influence how they experience pain, and by reducing stress, a person will find some pain relief.
  • It relaxes the central nervous system: This theory states that manipulating the hands, feet, and ears can send a signal through the nerves to the central nervous system, which can then reduce a person’s pain.
  • Reflexology keeps vital energy flowing: This theory suggests that reflexology helps to keep positive energy flowing throughout the body by reducing stress, which can block the energy from flowing.
  • Zone theory: Zone theory divides the body into 10 different vertical zones. The points on the hands, feet, ears, and other parts of the body correspond to the different zones, so by manipulating them, a person can affect different areas of the body.

A person may be able to find a therapist who performs reflexology at health clubs or other similar facilities. A person interested in trying the therapy should look for a therapist who has experience and can teach them about what they are doing, particularly if they are interested in trying it themselves at home.

At a session, a therapist will massage or manipulate different points on either the ears, hands, or feet to help alleviate a person’s symptoms.

Proponents of reflexology claim that by manipulating or putting pressure on certain points in the hands, feet, or ears, a person can find relief from symptoms such as pain. While these claims may hold true for some, scientific evidence is lacking.

For example, one study published in 2019 found that acupressure applied to the ear had some positive effects in people with psoriasis. The researchers also noted that it was one of the first studies to look at acupressure on psoriasis, indicating that more research is needed.

Other potential evidence for its use comes from looking at acupuncture, a related therapy, and psoriasis. However, in a 2017 meta-review, researchers found that most studies showed an overall positive review of pressure point therapies for psoriasis. They also noted that additional research needs to include larger, well-designed studies to fully understand how acupuncture may help with psoriasis.

The primary benefit of reflexology to a person living with psoriasis is pain relief. Limited evidence suggests that reflexology, along with standard treatments, can benefit a person’s psoriasis symptoms. However, studies looking at other conditions suggest that it has little to no effect on pain.

Another possible area reflexology may help is with comorbid conditions, such as anxiety and depression. In a small 2015 study, researchers found that about 78.9% of participants had depression and 76.7% of participants had anxiety.

Some evidence suggests that reflexology may help patients with cardiovascular diseases with anxiety and depression, which means people living with both psoriasis and depression or anxiety may benefit from reflexology.

Reflexology may provide some benefits to people living with psoriasis, but the clinical evidence is generally lacking.

Proponents suggest it can help manipulate stress levels, which can then help with pain. It may also help with other conditions, such as depression and anxiety, that can appear alongside psoriasis.