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Case Study Issue 67: Reflexology for Psoriasis and Arthritis

by Kate McKennan(more info)

listed in case studies, originally published in issue 67 - August 2001

Client: Jim Brown (Not his own name)
Sex: Male
DOB: 20/07/40

Psoriasis is a chronic skin complaint known since biblical times and suffered by between one and two per cent of the population. Most forms are mild or even transient, but for a small number of people it is a devastating and crippling condition, although generally not life threatening. All forms cause a great deal of distress among the sufferers, partly because of its appearance. In some of the more serious and rare varieties, e.g. guttate psoriasis, the distress is due to intense itching or burning. In some cases psoriasis is linked to arthritis and then the distress is due to pain.

Psoriasis is characterized by raised patches of wine red skin known as lesions. These are often covered in silvery white scales. The areas are mostly dry and rough, and quite often noticeably warm to the touch. Some forms of psoriasis, however, weep so that clothes stick to the affected areas and at times have to be cut away. The most vulnerable parts of the body are the elbows, knees, scalp, nails and groin area. It has been noted that these are areas that are restricted from air and sunlight, and this is given as a reason why the face is generally unaffected because it is usually uncovered. (It would be interesting to survey cultures where faces are covered.) In its more severe forms, e.g. guttate psoriasis, the whole skin may be involved, as that of the main character in the Dennis Potter TV drama The Singing Detective.

I first met Jim Brown in my Italian class. He presented as a cheerful, sympathetic stoic. I noticed that sometimes he walked badly and, as the weeks passed, I learned that he suffered very badly from psoriasis and that in his case this was linked to arthritis.

His main reason for trying reflexology was to gain some relief from the arthritic pain and he hoped to sleep rather better than he had been doing for the last ten years, which was only a few hours each night with perhaps a catnap in the day. Jim admitted to being sceptical as to the value of reflexology, but as I was taking him on as a case study for about six or eight sessions, and this would not cost him anything, he agreed to give something new a try.

Jim's psoriatic arthritis was sufficiently severe to cause him to enter hospital twice yearly. Here he was treated with various coal tar products such as shampoos and emollients. Many of these are now discredited but Jim always found them beneficial. While in hospital Jim was also treated with ultraviolet light. At the time of the case study, Jim also used a product called Dovanex. Unfortunately this had some undesirable side effects; for instance, if used over a long period, a large build-up of bone could result. Moreover, it had to be washed immediately from the hands after application, could only be used on lesions, and never on the face.

The lesions on Jim's legs were very large, hot and sore, with thick silvery plates or 'plaques' around them. He experienced intense burning and itching and he had much pain in the neck, shoulders and lower back. Furthermore, his feet were noticeably enlarged at the lymph areas on the ankles and the upper surfaces of the feet. They were also noticeably tender down the Achilles tendon (this is the reflex for chronic problems in the lower back or bowel areas). Jim commented that his feet had been tender around the base of the big toe, which is the reflex area for the neck.

When I began to work Jim's feet I found them to be tender and enlarged at the neck and lower back areas. The kidney and bladder areas were extremely tender. His feet were tender and enlarged at the reflexes for the thymus, large intestine and chronic bowel problems. It is generally accepted that in cases of eczema, asthma and psoriasis there are disruptions to the bowel. For this reason adaptations to the diet can help. I made a number of suggestions and Jim subsequently cut out caffeine and increased his intake of water.

After the first treatment Jim had six hours of uninterrupted sleep that night for the first time in ten years. He noticed that he felt a little 'off colour' for a few days, but then began to feel lighter. After three more treatments Jim's sleeping pattern was still showing improvement, and he began to feel that there was a lessening of pain in his neck.

Subsequent treatments proved helpful, as he experienced less bodily pain in general, an improved sleep pattern and, as the kidney reflexes became a little less congested, the middle and lower back pain eased. Jim commented that he was more mobile and felt more optimistic about his condition. He said, "I have had a good summer".

He did notice a disruption in bowel movements after the first and second treatments but then these, which had been inclined to be sluggish, improved and remained more regular for the duration of the course of treatments and continued to show improvement for some time after its conclusion.

This seems to be a very satisfactory result after only eight treatments. In order to improve his well-being further, I suggested that he cut out refined flour and sugar from his diet, where possible. I also suggested that he cut out, by rotation, citrus fruits, milk products and wheat. In this way any benefits or changes experienced after omitting each item singly might more easily be observed. It is generally advised that psoriasis sufferers eat a low protein, wholefood diet, which is rather bland. Because psoriasis sufferers lose calcium from their skin when scales are shed, Jim decided to take a supplement.

During the course of the treatments, Jim's psoriasis improved both in appearance and feeling. The lesions became less crusted, angry and hot. Jim commented that his skin itched less and this helped his state of mind and his sleep, although the sleep patterns improved from within. There was less arthritic pain in the joints and an improvement in the bowel function, which I think was part of the underlying reason for the improvement in the skin's condition.


Gillanders Ann. Reflexology and the Intestinal Link. British School of Reflexology. ISBN 0-951-186-892. 1999.


  1. Ken said..

    I've has psoreasis for many years and tried many treatmetns; some worked a little better than others. Homeopathy has been very helpful. I agree on what you say in the article about diet. When I moved over to a plant-based diet, mainly fresh sprouts, I really felt a great improvement.

    Interesting that I've also always had problems in my gut. Before I did not connect this with psoreasis. One more thing I wanted to stress is probiotics. Fermented vegetables or just a good probiotic supplemlent has been incredably beneficial for my gut health and psoreasis.

    Thanks for a nice article.

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