What Does the Research Say about Reflexology?

close up of reflexologist hands on a footResearch studies in the U.S. and around the world indicate possible benefits of reflexology, particularly in reducing pain, enhancing relaxation, and reducing psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.

However, reviewers of the research have noted that the quality of reflexology studies is mixed and more high-quality research is needed.

What do summaries of the research say?

One large review by Kunz and Kunz (2008) summarized 168 research studies and abstracts from journals and meetings from around the world. Many of these studies originated in peer-reviewed journals in China and Korea. All of the studies had information about the frequency and duration of the reflexology application. Based on the studies they reviewed, Kunz and Kunz concluded that reflexology may:

✔  Impact specific organs

For example, fMRI readings demonstrated an increase in blood flow to kidneys and to the intestines.

✔  Improve symptoms

In particular, positive changes were noted in kidney functioning with kidney dialysis patients.

✔  Induce relaxation

Though EEG measurements of alpha and theta waves, researchers saw that blood pressure was decreased, and anxiety was lowered.

✔  Reduce pain

Twenty-seven studies demonstrated a positive outcome for reduction in pain; e.g., AIDS, chest pain, peripheral neuropathy of diabetes mellitus, kidney stones, and osteoarthritis.