Posts tagged #reflexology

Pain management and Reflexology

Reflexology research into pain management.

Chronic or acute pain is debilitating and depressing. At Breathe Holistic Therapy in Kidderminster we see many clients who are experiencing pain. Traditional medicine still struggles to treat pain effectively for many people. There is a growing evidence base for the use of reflexology and other complementary treatments such as hypnotherapy and mindfulness. As more people start to take control of their health care it is vital that those experiencing pain are aware of the research to enable them to make informed choices about their treatment.

It is not fully understood how reflexology helps to manage pain but current studies suggest it is related to the release of our own natural pain killers such as endogenous opioids. It is well established that the stress response is influential on pain and by releasing these influential hormones this can potentially be counteracted.

Pain affects many millions of people across the world and has serious implications on their quality of life. It can also have negative physical impacts on aspects such as sleep, immune system and digestive responses. Finding ways to manage pain that are noninvasive and without complicated side effects could be life changing for many people and their families.

A research study in 2003 (Samuel etal 2003) found that reflexology decreased pain sensation and increased pain tolerance by up to 40%.  Research into patients with cancer pain report that foot reflexology had an immediate positive effect on pain (Stephenson etal 2003). The same positive results were found when partners were trained to deliver a 30 minute reflexology treatment. Following the initial partner-delivered foot reflexology, patients experienced a significant decrease in pain intensity and anxiety. This emphasises another aspect of reflexlology and many other therapies. They can usually be delivered anywhere the client needs them and by relatives after appropriate training. This means the pain relief can be available exactly when it is needed without waiting for treatments.

Back pain is a common form of pain that causes many lost days at work and prevents many people from enjoying some aspects of life. It can be disabling and cause low mood and fatigue.  Nurses with lower back pain were given six 40 minute reflexology sessions.  The nurses showed a significant reduction in reported pain after reflexology compared to the control group (Eghbali etal 2012). A study in 2007 reflects these results. Subjects receive weekly reflexology for six weeks and they too showed reduced pain scores ( Quinn 2007).

Taking an active role in their choices of pain management can begin to help people feel more in control of their bodies. A sense of hopelessness can develop when pain becomes chronic and making decisions regarding management can instill a sense of hope and power which itself helps pain management.

Many of the research studies are small and larger experiments are needed before the use of reflexology in pain management is fully understood. The evidence is positive enough for reflexology to be a useful choice when looking at pain management strategies.

For more information please contact me :  e-mail me or call 07531 12199

Back to home page

Reflexology research: PMS

Pre Menstrual Syndrome is a condition that effects many women and can have a very negative effect on their lives. They may feel physically and emotionally unwell, causing daily life to be very negatively affected. There are many different symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which can vary from person to person and change slightly every month.

The symptoms of PMS usually happen at the same time in your menstrual cycle each month, which can be up to two weeks before your period starts. They usually improve once your period has started, and then disappear until your cycle starts again.

More than 100 different symptoms of PMS have been recorded, but the most common are listed below:

    fluid retention and feeling bloated
    pain and discomfort in your abdomen (tummy)
    changes to your skin and hair
    muscle and joint pain
    breast tenderness
    insomnia (trouble sleeping)
    weight gain (up to 1kg)
    mood swings
    feeling upset or emotional
    feeling irritable or angry
    depressed mood
    crying and tearfulness
    difficulty concentrating
    confusion and forgetfulness
    decreased self-esteem
    loss of libido (loss of interest in sex)
    appetite changes or food cravings

There have been several studies exploring the use of reflexology in the management of PMS. The results are promising suggesting reflexology would be helpful for most women experiencing PMS. One such study is summarised below.

  • Terry Oleson PhD and William Flocco, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 82, No. 6, December 1993

This study was designed to explore whether reflexology treatments could significantly reduce pre menstrual symptoms compared to a placebo treatment. Thirty-five women who reported pre menstrual syndrome (PMS) were randomly assigned to be treated by reflexology or to receive placebo reflexology. The subjects completed a daily diary monitoring 38 premenstrual symptoms on a four-point scale. Physical and psychological indicators of premenstrual distress were recorded each day for 2 months prior to treatment, for 2 months during reflexology treatment, and for 2 months afterward.

The reflexology sessions for both groups were provided by trained reflexology therapist once a week for 8 weeks, and lasted 30 minutes each.The placebo group recived manual stimulation of feet but not specific reflexology. All the placebo subjects indicated that they believed they were recieving reflexology and found it pleasant.

Results: Statistical analysis for repeated measures demonstrated a significantly greater decrease in pre menstrual symptoms for the women given true reflexology than for the women in the placebo group. The treatment group showed a 46% reduction in premenstrual symptoms, which continued at 41% during the post treatment period. This included both psychological and physical symtpoms. It was concluded that reflexology is a positive therapy choice for the management of PMS.

The study would need to be repeated with a larger group of subjects before reflexology could be described as a treatment for PMS but the results are very promising.

Posted on January 8, 2014 and filed under reflexology, woman's health.

Reflexology and phantom limb pain.

Phantom limb is the term for abnormal sensations in a previously amputated limb. These may be painful or non painful. Phantom limb pain is often considered to be a form of nerve pain.

The "phantom" sensations are usually located in the end sections of the missing limb. Pain and tingling may be felt in the fingers and hand, and in the toes and the feet. People may feel a mixture of sensations from the amputated limb. The limb may feel completely intact despite its absence. Non painful sensations may include changes in temperature, itching, tingling, shock-like sensations, or perceived motion of the phantom limb. Painful sensations can include burning, throbbing, or stabbing in nature. Touching the remaining stump may elicit sensations from the phantom.

The pain after amputation usually occurs within days or weeks, although it may be delayed for months or years. Pain can last for years, and tends to be intermittent. Pain may last up to 10–14 hours a day and can vary in severity from mild to debilitating.  This condition can be very distressing for the sufferer and as the limb is no longer in place ways to soothe the pain may feel limited. A holistic approach to managing this condition is essential as it has both physical and emotional effects.

A pilot study involving ten patients was undertaken to discover if reflexology could be helpful in reducing the intensity of phantom limb pain.  The objectives were to explore the possibility of reflexology, both hand and foot,  being used as a non-invasive form of pain relief and of empowering patients to maintain any positive results with self-treatment.  The study took place on five phases: phase 1 gave a baseline of pain, whilst phase 3 was a resting phase. Phases 2, 4 and 5 provided the reflexology treatments. 

REFLEXOLOGY INTERVENTIONS: In phase 2, six weekly reflexology treatments were given:  full foot reflexology to the remaining foot and hand reflexology to the hand of the amputated side. In phase 4, six weekly hand reflexology teaching sessions were carried out; patients copied on their own hands what the therapist did.  In phase 5, the patients treated themselves at home for 6 weeks at home, using the reference material.

The results werer encouraging. Over the 30-weeks there was an improvement in the amount and the intensity of the phantom limb pain, with a corresponding improvement in the duration of the pain and the affect on the person's lifestyle. The improvement was maintained when the clients self-treated.

The study indicated that reflexology, teaching and self-treatment were effective in reducing the intensity and duration of phantom limb pain. The follow-up questionnaire revealed that there was a continued improvement in the intensity of phantom limb pain and that the majority still self-treated.

This is only a small study and more research would be necessary before recommending reflexology as a first choice of treatment for phantom limb pain, but the results are encouraging enough to include reflexology on a holistic treatment plan alongside other therapies.

Phantom limb pain is a distressing and disabling condition. If you are concerned please do contact your health care provider for assessment and assistance. Holistic treatments can work well alongside western medicine.


Posted on November 25, 2013 and filed under reflexology, pain.

Reflexology research: fatigue and insomnia

Many people find reflexology to be extremely relaxing and calming. Research into the effects of reflexology on fatigue and insomnia have reported positive results.

A brief feasibility study in 2009 concluded that both reflexology and acupuncture produced a clinically relevant improvement in sleep quality. This benefit was reported after only six treatments over a three week period. ( Acupunct Med 2009;27:163-168 doi:10.1136/aim.2009.000760 Acupuncture and reflexology for insomnia: a feasibility study). The authors concluded that the improvement was significant enough to warrant further research.

A study published in 2005 explored the effects of reflexology on fatigue and insomnia in patients suffering from coal workers' pneumoconiosis. Foot reflexology was performed for one hour twice a week for five weeks in the experimental group, but none in the control group. Statistical analysis tools were used to evaluate the results. These showed a decrease in scores for insomnia and fatigue in the reflexology group. After the intervention there was a significant difference of fatigue and insomnia between the two groups. (Lee YM, Sohng KY Department of Nursing,  Kangwon-Do, Korea. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe chi [2005, 35(7):1221-1228])

ON the NICE evidence database an analysis of research into reflexoogy a sleep is available. A systematic review and analysis of the research available were conducted. Electronic database and manual searches were conducted on all published studies reporting the effects of foot reflexology on fatigue and sleep. Forty four studies were eligible including 15 studies associated with fatigue, 18 with sleep, and 11 with pain. The effects of foot reflexology were analyzed using statistical tools. This analysis of research indicated that foot reflexology is a useful intervention to relieve fatigue and to promote sleep. (J Korean Acad Nurs. 2011 Dec;41(6):821-833. English. Effects of Foot Reflexology on Fatigue, Sleep and Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.)

A further analysis of data also reached similar conclusions. They analysed 40 research studies. this analysis found that using complimentary therapy including reflexology had a statistically significantly positive effect on insomnia. ( Acupressure, reflexology, and auricular acupressure for insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials Yeung WF et al 2012)

All the reports do concluded that as many of the studies are small more extensive research is required but current research does suggest that reflexology has positive effects for individuals experiencing fatigue and insomnia. This supports the experience I have with clients who often report improved sleep and better energy levels.




Posted on October 9, 2013 and filed under pain, insomnia.

Reflexology Lymphatic Drainage Research

Exciting new research has been published into the effects of lymphatic drainage techniques used in foot reflexology on unilateral secondary lymphoedema. 

Reflexologist Sally Kay has researched and developed reflexology lymphatic drainage (RLD) to help manage secondary lymphoedema following breast cancer treatment. Breast cancer, the most common form of cancer in the UK,with one in eight women at risk of developing it in their lifetime ( Breast Cancer UK 2011). Approximately 20% of these develop secondary lymphoedema of the arm following treatment which includes radiotherapy or surgery. Secondary lymphoedema is a progressive debilitating condition causing swelling in the tissue in and under the arm, pain in the shoulder, weakness and problems with everyday activities.

The study involved women with lymphoedema receiving RLD weekly for six weeks.  As the weeks passed clients reported less discomfort and swelling and an increase in arm mobility. The circumference of the effected arm was measured and the study showed a statistically significant reduction in arm volume.

This study involved only a small group of subjects therefore more research is needed to confirm the results but the evidence so far is positive. One participant stated "I feel like I've got my arm back" while another explained " I'm not embarrassed to take my cardigan off, which has given me my confidence back"

Following more research a course for reflexologists will be designed to train qualified therapists in the techniques of RLD.  Im looking forward to completing the course and sharing this technique with clients who may benefit.


Exploratory study on the efficacy of reflexology for pain threshold and pain tolerance

ReflexologyDr Carol Samuel is a trained reflexologist who carried out the experiment as part of her PhD studies. She said it was the first time this therapy had been scientifically tested as a treatment for acute pain.

Dr Samuel concluded the results suggested that reflexology could be used to complement conventional drug therapy in the treatment of conditions associated with pain such as osteoarthritis, backache and cancers.

The experiment involved 15 subjects who attended two sessions, in which they were asked to submerge their hand in ice slurry.

In one of the sessions they were given foot reflexology before they submerged their hand, and in the second session they believed they were receiving pain relief from a Tens machine, which was not actually switched on.

The researchers found that when the participants received reflexology prior to the session they were able to keep their hand in the ice water for longer before they felt pain, and that they could also tolerate the pain for a longer period of time. The study found that people felt about 40 per cent less pain, and were able to stand pain for about 45 per cent longer. Statistical analysis showed the compared to control data, reflexology increased acute pain threshold (F(1,14) = 4.5958, p < 0.05) and tolerance (F(1,14) = 5.1095, p < 0.05).

Dr Samuel said: "As we predicted, reflexology decreased pain sensations.

"It is likely that reflexology works in a similar manner to acupuncture by causing the brain to release chemicals that lessen pain signals."

Dr Ivor Ebenezer, co-author of the study, said: "We are pleased with these results. Although this is a small study, we hope it will be the basis for future research into the use of reflexology."

Dr Ebenezer said: "Complementary and alternative therapies come in for a lot of criticism, and many have never been properly tested scientifically.

"One of the common criticisms by the scientific community is that these therapies are often not tested under properly controlled conditions.

"When a new drug is tested its effects are compared with a sugar pill.

"If the drug produces a similar response to the sugar pill, then it is likely that the drug's effect on the medical condition is due to a placebo effect.

"In order to avoid such criticism in this study, we compared the effects of reflexology to a sham Tens control that the participants believed produced pain relief.

"This is the equivalent of a sugar pill in drug trials."

Reflexology is a complementary medical approach, which works alongside orthodox medicine, in which pressure may be applied to any body area but is commonly used on either the feet or hands.  More reserach is needed with larger subject groups but this study represents an exciting starting point in studying the effects of reflexology on pain.

Posted on April 16, 2013 and filed under pain, reflexology.

Reflexology Research

As a reflexologists with a nursing background it is always brilliant to read new research studies examining reflexology.  I believe it is vital that complementary therapists do not make claims about the benefits of their treatments that can not be supported by research evidence.  It can be difficult to find robust studies so when new reflexology research is published it is greeted eagerly by therapists who can then share the results with their clients.

In The International Therapist Journal  there is a study on the use of reflexology for constipation.  Constipation is a common problem in the U.K. with up to 20% of the population being affected at some time.  It can be a painful and distressing condition with many of the traditional medical treatments having associated adverse effects. The clients in the study had no underlying medical cause for their constipation ( idiopathic constipation ). 

After a course of reflexology treatments over six weeks the study found 94% of the participants reported an improvement in their condition. This does suggest that reflexology can potentially help people with idiopathic constipation.  This reflexology research does have some limitations and further studies are needed before the results can be certain but it is definitely a promising development for reflexology research and reflexology for clients struggling with the discomfort of constipation.



Reflexology Kidderminster. Please contact 0753 1121199


Reflexology in Pregnancy: A Research summary

Reflexology is a popular form of complimentary therapy enjoyed by people at all stages in their lives. Research into its effectiveness is sparse, but the use of reflexology in pregnancy and childbirth has been explored through research.

Exploring easier births using reflexology:

in 1988 103 out of 593 women giving birth at Gentofte county hospital chose to have reflexology as an alternative to analgesia or chemical induction. The results showed 89% stated reflexology had reduced their pain in childbirth. 8% felt no effects from the reflexology treatment. There were 49 women who chose reflexology to stimulate labour, of these 24 gave birth without additional drug therapy. All of the women found reflexology pleasant and relaxing.

Reflexology and labour:

Study conducted by Dr. Gowri Motha and Dr. Jane McGrath, Forest Gate London reported 1994

The study involved 37 pregnant woman who were offered and completed 10 free reflexology treatments. The effects on the labour process were perceived as outstanding. The average time of a first stage of labour was 5 hours, some lasting only 2 hours. This compared to the text book of 16-24 hours for the first stage of labour. This effect of shortening labour occurred in women of all ages including mothers in their 40s. Dr Gowri Motha includes reflexology as an integral part of her gentle Birth method.

Reflexology and Lactation:

Study conducted be Zhang Jie Tianjin China.

Ten women with reduced milk production chose reflexology. The mothers milk production increased and the use of drugs was avoided. The milk production remained stable for the mothers who found the treatment successful.   The study involved only a small number of women and so there would need to be more work in this area before definate conclusions could be made, but it does appear that reflexology would be a positive choice for women with reduced milk supply.

Reflexology and fertility:

There are a number of studies that suggest reflexology can help couples who have experienced difficulties conceiving.

Study By Leila Ericksen, FDZ Research Committee, Denmark

108 women under 35 years with no previous children, and that had attempted to become pregnant for more than two years were selected from 260 applicants. Forty-seven of the 108 withdrew. The remaining 61 women were given sixteen 45 minute reflexology treatments over a 7 - 8 month period. Treatments were given twice a week for 4 weeks, then 2 treatments before ovulation. Nine women (15%) became pregnant within six months after starting treatment. Two thirds of the women had menstruation problems and 77% experienced an appreciable improvement, with the majority totally getting rid of the problems. Three quarters of all the women reported improvements in other ailments such as: muscle tensions, psychic imbalances, indigestion, poor circulation and general imbalance.

Studies such as this suggest that reflexology may help some couples. Professionals such as Zita West, a pioneer in fertility midwife and acupuncturist, recommend reflexology in preparation for IVF treatment. There, however,  must be many more studies before reflexology can be seen as an answer to conception problems but it is a treatment that improves feeling of wellbeing for the women at a difficult time. The stress reduction amd calmness created is a positive influence while the couple continue to explore their reduced fertility.


Maternity reflexology

Reflexology in Kidderminster. Please contact 0753 1121199

Reflexology researched with eating disorder care

Eating disorders are a complex set of physical and emotional conditions.  The symptoms vary from extreme starvation to binge eating and purging. The causes of eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia are multiple and complicated. Orthodox treatment addresses these various causes and symptoms. The reason why individuals develop eating disorders may be debated but the long and often difficult path to recovery is well documented.

Complimentary therapies have in some instances been integrated with conventional medicine to treat eating disorders.  The holistic nature of complimentary therapies such as reflexology may be one of the reasons their use is so helpful with eating disorders because they involve a complex interaction of physical, emotional and psychological factors.

Reflexology is known for its relaxing and calming effect. Recovering from an eating disorder is often described as a slow and frustrating process, reducing stress may well support the other treatments being provided. Reflexology has also been shown to potentially influence healthy hormonal balance which is often disrupted by eating disorders.

Grange Specialist eating disorder hospital in Sheffield offers a range of complimentary therapy as well as support from dieticians, cognitive behavioural therapists and psychiatrists.  The facility is known for being at the forefront of medical thinking and successfully treats and supports many sufferers of eating disorders and their families.

References : International Therapist, FHT, January 2013.

Reflexology Treatments in Kidderminster. Please contact 0753 1121199



Posted on January 29, 2013 and filed under woman's health, reflexology.

Reflexology Research

Reflexology is a popular therapy not only with clients but also in complimentary therapy research.  This blog aims to regularly share reflexology research with you to enable you to learn more about the therapy and see the results attained in the studies.  There will be studies related to many issues including maternity, menstruation, surgery, mobility and pain relief.

I am a reflexologist working in Kidderminster and also providing mobile treatments in the Stourbridge, west Midlands and Worcester areas.  I qualified as an Adult General Nurse and moved on to train in Reflexology and a number of other therapies including massage and aromatherapy.

I aim to present the reflexology research to you in brief terms to enable you to read it when you have a few moments to spare, rather than overloading the blog with too many long detailed reports.  If you ever want more information I will include links to the original pieces where possible.

I hope you find this blog useful and enjoy the insights into reflexology.

Reflexology home page

Posted on January 19, 2013 and filed under reflexology.