The effects of foot reflexology on anxiety and pain in patients with breast and lung cancer

Oncol Nurs Forum. 2000 Jan-Feb;27(1):67-72.


Purpose/objectives: To test the effects of foot reflexology on anxiety and pain in patients with breast and lung cancer.

Design: Quasi-experimental, pre/post, crossover.

Setting: A medical/oncology unit in a 314-bed hospital in the southeastern United States.

Sample: Twenty-three inpatients with breast or lung cancer. The majority of the sample were female, Caucasian, and 65 years or older; had 12 or fewer years of education and an annual income of $20,000 or more; and were receiving regularly scheduled opioids and adjuvant medications on the control and intervention day.

Methods: Procedures included an intervention condition (foot reflexology to both feet for 30 minutes total by a certified reflexologist) and a control condition for each patient (with at least a two-day break). No changes were made in patients' regular schedule or medications.

Main research variables: Anxiety and pain.

Findings: Following the foot reflexology intervention, patients with breast and lung cancer experienced a significant decrease in anxiety. One of three pain measures showed that patients with breast cancer experienced a significant decrease in pain.

Conclusions: The significant decrease in anxiety observed in this sample of patients with breast and lung cancer following foot reflexology suggests that this may be a self-care approach to decrease anxiety in this patient population.

Implications for nursing practice: Professionals and lay people can be taught reflexology. Foot reflexology is an avenue for human touch, can be performed anywhere, requires no special equipment, is noninvasive, and does not interfere with patients' privacy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / nursing*
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / nursing
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Foot
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / complications*
  • Lung Neoplasms / nursing
  • Lung Neoplasms / psychology
  • Male
  • Massage / methods
  • Massage / nursing*
  • Massage / standards
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / nursing*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Measurement / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors