Work related stress is the largest occupational health problem in the UK today. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of working days lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2016 stood at 137.3 million, with mental health issues, including stress, depression, anxiety accounting for 15.8 million days lost (11.5%).

Excessive stress, without the opportunity to recover, can cause physiological and psychological problems including headaches, digestive problems, tension, fatigue and irritability.  It weakens the immune system which can lead to other physical illnesses. In the workplace stress can result in low morale, reduced performance, productivity and creativity and increased absenteeism.

Chronic Pain

The Oxford Pain Management Centre has some useful resources online explaining chronic pain and the benefits of retraining the nervous system.

Chronic pain, pain which typically lasts 6 months or longer is a function of the nervous system.  The brain registers the pain and the nervous system reacts. Muscles tense, adrenaline increases, and the nervous system shifts to a fight or flight state (Sympathetic nervous system). When dealing with acute pain, this state is beneficial. It tells the body that something is wrong allowing us to protect against further injury. 

Once the damage or illness heals, the nervous system goes back to functioning normally.  However, this doesn’t always happen and in the case of chronic pain the nervous system remains in a persistent state of high alert, and often becomes hypersensitive. It can maintain the pain experienced, even after the original damage heals.  Receiving therapies such as reflexology and massage which work to activate the Parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest state) taking the body and mind out of the fight or flight mode (SNS) can greatly help sufferers of chronic pain. 

Research papers and articles

There is an increasing amount of evidence-based research being published focussing on the effects and benefits of Reflexology and Massage, including case study examples of success within the work environment. A few examples can be found below:

National Institutes of Health (NIH), US Department of Health & Human Services
The NIH site the following research paper “Using reflexology to manage stress in the workplace: a preliminary study
Authors: Atkins RC, Harris P ”

The Touch Research Institute
The Touch Research Institute has conducted numerous studies on the benefits of massage on conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression, back pain

The Cochrane Library
The Effect of Head Massage on the Regulation of the Cardiac Autonomic Nervous System

The FDZ Research Council in Denmark
The FDZ has carried out research into the effects of workplace reflexology.  Companies that participated in the research included Telecom Taastrup, SAS Cargo and Denmark Odense Post Office