Objective: Clinical experience suggests that reflexology may have beneficial effects on the symptoms occurring in menopausal women, particularly psychological symptoms. This study aims to examine that effect rigorously.
Design: Randomised controlled trial with two parallel arms.
Setting: School of Complementary Health in Exeter, Devon, UK.
Sample: Seventy-six women, aged between 45 and 60 years, reporting menopausal symptoms.
Methods: Women were randomised to receive nine sessions of either reflexology or nonspecific foot massage (control) by four qualified reflexologists given over a period of 19 weeks.
Main outcome measures: The Women's Health Questionnaire (WHQ), the primary measures being the subscores for anxiety and depression. Severity (visual analogue scale, VAS) and frequency of flushes and night sweats.
Results: Mean (SD) scores for anxiety fell from 0.43 (0.29) to 0.22 (0.25) in the reflexology group and from 0.37 (0.27) to 0.27 (0.29) in the control group over the course of treatment. Mean (SD) scores for depression fell from 0.37 (0.25) to 0.20 (0.24) in the reflexology group and from 0.36 (0.23) to 0.20 (0.21) in the control (foot massage) group over the same period. For both scores there was strong evidence of a time effect (P < 0.001) but no evidence of a time-group interaction (P > 0.2). Similar changes were found for severity of hot flushes and night sweats. In the control group, 14/37 believed they had not received true reflexology.
Conclusion: Foot reflexology was not shown to be more effective than non-specific foot massage in the treatment of psychological symptoms occurring during the menopause.