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Medical Student's First-Hand Experience with Reflexology

Article by Linda Chollar

(this is part II of a related article, “Reflexology and a New Era”)

I recently met a young medical student named Sarah, as a result of a lecture I gave to a class at the Keck School of Medicine on the benefits of reflexology for fibromyalgia. Sarah was motivated to do research on FM and I invited her to participate in a small study of my FM clients to show the effects of reflexology on pain.  She recorded the effects on stress and pain levels as each person received a specific reflexology session for FM.  Each one experienced 100% relief from their pain and each reported feeling calmer and a sense of overall well-being. This was a new experience for Sarah to observe alternative medicine in action and she shared that it shifted her vision for her medical career. 

She later prepared a paper for a clinical study review board and she gave me permission to print it. My thanks to Sarah for her contribution to this article. Sarah is a reflection of the new era of medicine.  Here is her paper: 

My Motivation and Training for the Study of Reflexology for Fibromyalgia 
by Sarah Gilman-Short 

I am a unique medical student in that I have a degree in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, and I came into medical school with very little experience in biological research. I love studying medicine, but most research seemed too esoteric and removed from actual patients to warrant expenditure of my precious free time.

After a conversation with Dr. T, however, my attitude about research dramatically changed. He had just given a lecture about catecholamines, and during the lecture he mentioned, in passing, a comment about fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). Intrigued, I asked him to expand on his comment after class.  

The conversation that transpired was certainly the beginning of a life-changing experience for me. My mother was diagnosed with FMS about seven years ago, and watching her and my father (who is a family practitioner) struggle with understanding her diagnosis and exploring treatment options was extremely difficult for me. Despite its widespread prevalence in the population, most people know very little about FMS. My conversation with Dr. T was the first time in my (admittedly short) medical career that I had spoken with someone who shared in my frustration and really understood how ineffective the current standard of care is for FMS patients.

During our conversation, Dr. T told me about Linda Chollar, a reflexologist who has had great success treating FMS sufferers. He told me about his understanding of the pathology of FMS, which was very different from what I later learned in my classes, but much more consistent with the symptoms I had observed in my mother. My conversation with Dr. T filled me with hope, and I was ready to help him and Linda in any way that I possibly could.

Since becoming involved with their research, I have gained a considerable amount of knowledge about FMS. I have performed literature searches and read countless articles about theories of the pathogenesis of FMS and imaging studies that have been performed on FMS patients. I’ve read most of a very thorough textbook by Daniel S. Clauw, entitled Fibromyalgia and Other Central Pain Syndromes, and I am now familiar with most of the research that has been done in the past on FMS.

I have also been extremely fortunate to shadow and learn from Linda Chollar. She is a healer in every sense of the word, and spending just a few hours with her introduced me to a holistic perspective of treatment that I will take with me in my own practice. Until that time with Linda, I was very unfamiliar with alternative health care, but watching her treat patients opened my eyes to the possibilities of noninvasive, holistic treatment that is much more effective than pharmaceuticals.

In addition to my own personal interest in helping my mother, I’ve become intensely interested in FMS from a public health and medical philosophical perspective. Most doctors don’t like to treat FMS patients because their disease is so holistic: they have symptoms in multiple organ systems, and they are often sufferers of physical or emotional trauma. FMS is a syndrome, not a disease, and there is no one pill or surgery that will fix all of the aspects of the syndrome. I think that this is very hard for most doctors to understand, and many of them feel powerless by their inability to “cure” FMS. I think that in order to effectively treat FMS, doctors have to change their perspective and really look at the whole of the patient’s dysfunction instead of trying to individually treat all of their symptoms. In my opinion, this paradigm is much better than the traditional approach of medicine for any disease, and my hope is that as more research is done on FMS, doctors will be given the tools to more effectively treat all of their patients.

As we move into another phase of our research, I look forward to being involved in and learning about the logistical processes necessary for performing an interventional study on human subjects, such as drafting an IRB proposal. Being a part of this study has been an unexpectedly rewarding experience for me both personally and professionally, and even at this early point Dr. T and Linda have made a small success by changing my attitude about FMS and medicine as a whole.


Copyright 2003-2010 Linda Chollar — All rights reserved. Permission given to reproduce or distribute for non-commercial use only, as long as Linda Chollar is credited as the author, and the URL is included as the source.  All commercial uses require written approval.