Partner-delivered reflexology: effects on cancer pain and anxiety

Oncol Nurs Forum. 2007 Jan;34(1):127-32. doi: 10.1188/07.ONF.127-132.


Purpose/objectives: To compare the effects of partner-delivered foot reflexology and usual care plus attention on patients' perceived pain and anxiety.

Design: The experimental pretest/post-test design included patient-partner dyads randomly assigned to an experimental or control group.

Setting: Four hospitals in the southeastern United States.

Sample: 42 experimental and 44 control subjects comprised 86 dyads of patients with metastatic cancer and their partners, representing 16 different types of cancer; 23% of patients had lung cancer, followed by breast, colorectal, and head and neck cancer and lymphoma. The subjects had a mean age of 58.3 years, 51% were female, 66% had a high school education or less, and 58% were Caucasian, 40% were African American, and 1% were Filipino.

Methods: The intervention included a 15- to 30-minute teaching session on foot reflexology to the partner by a certified reflexologist, an optional 15- to 30-minute foot reflexology session for the partner, and a 30-minute, partner-delivered foot reflexology intervention for the patient. The control group received a 30-minute reading session from their partners.

Main research variables: Pain and anxiety.

Findings: Following the initial partner-delivered foot reflexology, patients experienced a significant decrease in pain intensity and anxiety.

Conclusions: A nurse reflexologist taught partners how to perform reflexology on patients with metastatic cancer pain in the hospital, resulting in an immediate decrease in pain intensity and anxiety; minimal changes were seen in the control group, who received usual care plus attention.

Implications for nursing: Hospitals could have qualified professionals offer reflexology as a complementary therapy and teach interested partners the modality.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods
  • Massage / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Spouses / psychology*