Updated: Jan 21, 2020
Although the current state of the science is not based on numerous large-scale trials, findings suggest the potential benefit of reflexology as supportive care for physical and emotional symptoms among patients with cancer.
1. A systematic review by Ernst (2009) included the following three cancer studies, which used reflexology.
1) In Stephenson, Weinrich, and Tavakoli (2000), use of reflexology significantly decreased anxiety in patients with breast and lung cancer.
2) In Hodgson (2000), patients with cancer receiving palliative care demonstrated significant improvement in quality of life (QOL), including ease of breathing, following reflexology.
3) Finally, no change was reported in depression or anxiety in a sample of patients with cancer receiving palliative care in Ross et al. (2002).
2. A systematic review by Wilkinson, Lockhart, Gambles, and Storey (2008) included an additional study with hospitalized patients with metastatic cancer and demonstrated an immediate postintervention reduction in pain.
3. A systematic review by Kim, Lee, Kang, Choi, and Ernst (2010) examined the use of reflexology for patients with breast cancer receiving surgery.
1) A randomized clinical trial (RCT) within that review (Sharp et al., 2012) reported significant improvement in QOL and mood.
Randomized Control Trials (RCTs):
Three RCTs of reflexology (Quattrin et al., 2006; Stephenson, Swanson, Dalton, Keefe, & Engelke, 2007; Tsay, Chen, Chen, Lin, & Lin, 2008) have focused on populations of patients with cancer. All three reported a significant improvement in anxiety, and Stephenson et al. (2007)and Tsay et al. (2008) reported lower pain.
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