Research studies in the U.S. and around the world indicate possible benefits of reflexology for various conditions, particularly as an intervention to reduce pain, enhance relaxation, and reduce psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
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:
Have an impact on specific organs (e.g., fMRI readings demonstrated an increase in blood flow to kidneys and to the intestines)
Be associated with an amelioration of symptoms (e.g., positive changes were noted in kidney functioning with kidney dialysis patients)
Create a relaxation effect (e.g., EEGs measure alpha and theta waves, blood pressure was decreased, and anxiety was lowered)
Aid in pain reduction (27 studies demonstrated a positive outcome for reduction in pain; e.g., AIDS, chest pain, peripheral neuropathy of diabetes mellitus, kidney stones, and osteoarthritis)
Other systematic reviews are cautious in saying that reflexology may have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes and may exert a beneficial effect on lowering blood pressure and incontinence (Song, 2015), may have a positive impact on blood pressure (McCullough, 2014), and may be effective for tingling in MS (Yadav, 2015). These reviews note that the quality of research studies on reflexology is generally low.
Reflexology has been an effective treatment so far on various health conditions. If you want to learn more about this therapy, visit Utah Premier Massage College or check out the college’s blog Myotherapy Blog for updates, news and insights.