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Reflexology Research

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

A summary of recent results of scientific research, worldwide, on the benefits of Reflexology.

Health-Related Quality-of-Life Outcomes (HRQOL): A Reflexology Trial With Patients With Advanced-Stage Breast Cancer

Gwen Wyatt, RN, PhD, Professor, Alla Sikorskii, PhD, Assistant professor, Mohammad Hossein Rahbar, PhD, Professor, David Victorson, PhD, Assistant professor, and Mei You, MS, Information and statistical analyst

In 2012 a Michigan State University led study on reflexology reported the results of its longitudinal, randomized clinical trial completed in thirteen community-based medical oncology clinics across the midwestern United States. The long-term objective of this research was to help clarify which Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies have a sound scientific basis for safety and efficacy. The current study informs clinicians and patients on which CAM therapies are transferable to community-based cancer centers and home care programs to improve HRQOL for patients receiving treatment.

In summary, no adverse events were reported by the study. The longitudinal comparison revealed significant improvements in physical functioning and the severity of dyspnea in the reflexology group compared to the control group.

The researchers concluded that Reflexology may be added to existing evidence-based supportive care to improve HRQOL for patients with advanced-stage breast cancer during chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy. The current study found reflexology was safe among even the most fragile patients with advanced-stage breast cancer and contributed to improvements in physical function, dyspnea, and fatigue, but did not affect depressive symptoms, anxiety, pain, and nausea.

Additional Information at

Can foot reflexology be a complementary therapy for sleep disturbances? Evidence appraisal through a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

In a 2021 publication, researchers reviewed forty-two articles with a total sample of 3,928 participants from randomized controlled trials that reported changes in sleep disturbances after the intervention among adults over 18 years old and written in the English or Chinese language. Two reviewers' independently assessed the eligibility, extracted data, and conducted a quality assessment. Based on the extracted data, two separate meta-analyses were performed.

The most commonly employed outcome measurement tool was the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, followed by the therapeutic effect between the intervention and control groups (as evaluated by participants with sleep problems compared with those without sleep problems in each group after the intervention).

Results revealed that foot reflexology resulted in a greater reduction in the sleep quality score compared with the controls. As for the therapeutic effect, participants in the intervention group were less likely to have sleep problems than those in the control group.

The study’s findings suggested that foot reflexology produced significant improvements in sleep disturbances. Foot reflexology is a non-invasive and convenient intervention and regularly receiving foot reflexology can be considered complementary therapy to improve the sleep quality of adults with sleep disturbances. Furthermore, healthcare providers can actively press the solar plexus and heart zones to alleviate sleep disturbances when performing foot reflexology.

Read the full study summary at

Symptom response analysis of a randomized controlled trial of reflexology for symptom Management among Women with Advanced Breast Cancer

Alla Sikorskii, PhD,a,b Pratim Guha Niyogi, PhD(c),b David Victorson, PhD,c Deimante Tamkus, MD,d and Gwen Wyatt, RN, PhD, FAANe

In 2019 researchers released the results of their study on symptom responses resulting from a home-based reflexology intervention delivered by a friend/family caregivers to women with advanced breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy, targeted and/or hormonal therapy. Each symptom was categorized as mild, moderate, or severe using established interference-based cut-points. Symptom response meant an improvement by at least one category or remaining mild.

In general, Reflexology was more successful than attention control in producing responses for pain, with no significant differences for other symptoms. In the reflexology group, greater probability of response across all symptoms was associated with lower number of comorbid conditions and lower depressive symptomatology at baseline. Compared to odds of responses on pain (chosen as a referent symptom), greater odds of symptom response were found for disturbed sleep and difficulty remembering with older aged participants.

The study concluded that home-based caregiver-delivered reflexology was helpful in decreasing patient-reported pain. Age, comorbid conditions and depression are potentially important tailoring factors for future research, and can be used to identify patients who may benefit from reflexology.

The Effects of Aromatherapy Massage and Reflexology on Pain and Fatigue in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Zehra Gok Metin, Leyla Ozdemir

The goal of this 2016 randomized controlled study was to examine and compare the effects of aromatherapy massage and reflexology on pain and fatigue in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The study originated from an understanding that nonpharmacologic interventions for symptom management in patients with rheumatoid arthritis are under investigated. Also, limited data suggest that aromatherapy massage and reflexology may help to reduce pain and fatigue in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Pain and fatigue scores were measured at baseline and within an hour after each intervention for 6 weeks. Pain and fatigue scores significantly decreased in the aromatherapy massage and reflexology groups compared with the control group. The reflexology intervention started to decrease mean pain and fatigue scores earlier than aromatherapy massage (week 1 vs week 2 for pain, week 1 vs week 4 for fatigue).

Although the sample size of this study was small (N=51) it provides evidence for further study on Aromatherapy massage and reflexology as simple and effective non pharmacological nursing interventions that can be used to help manage pain and fatigue in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

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