Reflexology in the management of low back pain: a pilot randomised controlled trial

Complement Ther Med. 2008 Feb;16(1):3-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2007.05.001. Epub 2007 Jun 27.


Objective: The current study was designed as a pilot study for a randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of reflexology in the management of low back pain (LBP).

Materials and methods: Participants suffering non-specific LBP were recruited and randomised into either a reflexology or a sham group. Patients and outcome assessor were blinded to group allocation. Each patient received either a 40 min reflexology treatment or sham treatment (according to group allocation) once per week for six consecutive weeks. The primary outcome measure was pain (visual analogue scale), secondary outcome measures were the McGill pain questionnaire, Roland-Morris disability questionnaire, and SF-36 health survey. Outcome measures were performed at baseline, week 6, week 12 and week 18.

Results: VAS scores for pain reduced in the treatment group by a median value of 2.5 cm, with minimal change in the sham group (0.2 cm). Secondary outcome measures produced an improvement in both groups (McGill pain questionnaire: 18 points in the reflexology group and 11.5 points in the sham group). Results indicate that reflexology may have a positive effect on LBP.

Conclusion: Reflexology appears to offer promise as a treatment in the management of LBP; however, an adequately powered trial is required before any more definitive pronouncements are possible.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pilot Projects