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3 Studies in Self-Delivered Foot Reflexology

Updated: Jan 22

Can you do reflexology on yourself? In three studies in Korean medical/nursing journals, self-delivered foot reflexology treatment was used to measure whether there were significant positive effects in certain health outcomes. There were! All three studies collectively concluded that self-delivered reflexology reduced depression, stress, and fatigue, strengthened the immune system, and improved blood circulation and skin temperature.


Immune reflexes are on the top of the foot, in the spaces between all the long bones (metatarsals)

Study 1. From "Effect of self-foot reflexology massage on depression, stress responses and immune functions of middle aged women", 2006, 46 middle-aged women were trained in self foot reflexology massage for 2 weeks, and then they did their own daily for 6 weeks. There was a statistically significant difference in depression, perceived stress, systolic blood pressure, natural-killer cells and Immunoglobulin G (a type of antibody), leading to the conclusion that a self-foot reflexology massage could be utilized as an effective nursing intervention to reduce depression and stress responses, and to strengthen the immune system (1).


Study 2. Similar findings came out of a 2009 study, "Effects of self-foot reflexology on stress, fatigue and blood circulation in premenopausal middle-aged women", in which 30 women were placed in the experiment group and 29 in the control group. Self-foot reflexology was performed three times a week for 6 weeks for 40 min sessions. The results showed that self-foot reflexology was effective in reducing perceived stress and fatigue, and improved blood circulation (2).


Study 3. Finally, from "Effects of self-foot reflexology on stress, fatigue, skin temperature and immune response in female undergraduate students", a 2010 study in which participants were 60 university students (30 in the experiment group and 30 in the control group): one hour self-foot reflexology, three times a week for 6 weeks, lead to the conclusion that self-foot reflexology is an effective nursing intervention in reducing perceived stress and fatigue and, in improving skin temperature. "Therefore, it is recommended that this be used in clinical practice as an effective nursing intervention (3)."


Bonus! As a special mention, a fourth study, "Effect of self-administered foot reflexology for symptom management in healthy persons: a systematic review and meta-analysis", pulled together data from other self-reflexology studies, stating that "Self-administered foot reflexology is unrestricted by time and space, economical, and practical because it is easy to learn and apply (4)," however, they found that this was an area that required more rigorous study design, as the groups were small and depended on self-reporting of subjective (rather than objective) outcomes. Even so, "Analysis of three non-randomized trials and three before-and-after studies showed that self-administered foot reflexology resulted in significant improvement in subjective outcomes such as perceived stress, fatigue, and depression (5)."


Sources:

1. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2006 Feb;36(1):179-88.

2. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing. 2009 Oct;39(5):662-72.

3. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing. 2011 Feb;41(1):110-8.

4, 5. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2015 Feb;23(1):79-89.


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