Many people seek out reflexology when they have foot pain from plantar fasciitis, arthritis, gout or other painful maladies. Some of these people may be undergoing corticosteroid treatments, or be considering it, when they show up in your office. Here are some useful facts for you to know before you touch these folks.
Corticosteroids are steroid hormones naturally produced by the body in response to pain and other health imbalances. Cortisone, prednisone, dexamethasone, triamcinolone and methylprednisolone are artificial steroids prescribed to mimic the body’s natural analgesic. Steroids are used to treat many health conditions; this article will focus on their ability to help manage pain by reducing inflammation in tissue.
Although I had heard about steroids for most of my adult life, I really became aware of the positive (and negative) repercussions of steroids, when working with a massage client in the 1990’s. He was middle-aged, 5’6” and really into bodybuilding. He had come to me because of shoulder pain, that I was convinced was a result of his continual attempts at bench-pressing 450 lb of weight. He ignored my advice against lifting so much weight and continued his practice. (The shoulder is not a weight-bearing joint; it’s not meant to bear that much weight.) One day he appeared for his weekly session and stated that his shoulder felt fine – he had had a steroid shot. For a couple of months he reported no complaints, until the pain slowly started to re-appear. He again ignored my advice and had another cortisone shot. This cycle played out for almost a year, until he had to stop weight-training completely and have major shoulder replacement surgery.
Steroids can be administered orally, topically, through specific site injection, inhalation, or intravenously. Information regarding medications as they relate to medical conditions can be found at drugs.com and mayoclinic.com. These sites provide easy to understand information that you may want to read and pass onto clients considering corticosteroids or other medications. Effects (and this varies according to dosage, type of steroid, length of treatment) can include:
- a decrease in inflammation by reducing the production of inflammatory chemicals that cause tissue damage. This is good – inflammation causes pain;
- relief from itching;
- a decrease in the immune system’s ability to create white blood cells, resulting in a reduced immune function;
- wakefulness, agitation, nervousness, restlessness;
- increased appetite and weight gain;
- a susceptibility to bruising;
- water retention, swelling;
- thinner skin;
- red streaking or spotting of the skin;
- higher blood pressure;
- development of blurred vision, cataracts or glaucoma;
- worsening of or development of diabetes;
- muscle weakness, myopathy (disease of muscles);
Reflexologists need to be aware of the specific effects of steroids on tissue and bone so as to design a safe and appropriate level of touch for clients. Pressure, range-of-motion and thermal applications all may have to be adjusted.
High dosage cortisone is the second most common cause of osteoporosis. Steroids inhibit the intestine’s ability to absorb calcium and vitamin D; the body is forced to eliminate these necessary bone-building elements through the urine, resulting in inevitable bone loss. My client mentioned above learned this the hard way.
Although steroids can be very effective as a one-time shot at reducing inflammation resulting from sudden trauma to the tissue, they should not be considered until other avenues of treatment have been exhausted. Repeated use destroys the connective tissue in the body, as my former client sadly discovered.
The key, as I see it, is to reduce the inflammation, discover the true origin of the malady and then correct that. That’s why, when treating plantar fasciitis for example, steroids sit seventh on my list of options.
How do you address pain due to inflammation?
Thank you! Very well said! As a practitioner of Reflexology and other modalities I find I am having this discussion all too often with clients. I have had much success with Reflexology, Massage Cupping and Acupressure in treatment.
Ahmad Khan says
Thanks for providing this information.There is evidence of healing work on the hand, ears and feet throughout ancient cultures around the globe. A 5,000 year old tomb Egyptian physician’s tomb contains a 6 panel series of medical procedures including: childbirth, embalming, circumcision, pharmacology, dentistry and work on the hands, feet and arm pit. The pictograph shows the feet, hands and armpits being touched and has an inscription that reads, “Don’t hurt me” and “I shall do as you so praise me”.
Rebecca Finlay says
As I do not want to use steriods, what other remedy do you advise for treating chilblains? I have them in front shins(legs) and they can be very hot and stingy through the day.
Karen Ball says
I’m so sorry to hear of the problem you are having Rebecca. I am not a doctor though, so I cannot prescribe or diagnose. I think it is important though that you determine the cause, whether it was from exposure to cold or something more serious within the connective tissue or your neurological system. Of course, it makes sense that you keep the area (and your feet) as warm as possible. Good luck.
What are your thoughts on topical steroids for atopical dermatitis? I’ve been using them every 3 days on my face for 4 years . My dermatologist said it couldn’t hurt if I applied them as sparsely as I did (elocon). Right now, I try stopping them, my skin is bad. Do you believe Atopical Steroids Withdrawal is real?
Karen Ball says
I can’t really comment on that, since I can’t see your face nor am I a dermatologist. Have you explored every avenue to discover what is causing the dermatitis? Often food allergies can be involved.
Pia Alicia-Pilar Mogollon says
You’re facebook tag is covering your text. Please fix that.
Karen Ball says
I am aware of that Pia. I am launching a new website within the next month, so will not correct this. Thanks.