The clinical efficacy of reflexology in nursing home residents with dementia

J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Apr;14(3):269-75. doi: 10.1089/acm.2007.0577.


Objective: This experimental, repeated-measures, crossover design study with nursing home residents examined the efficacy of reflexology in individuals with mild-to-moderate stage dementia. Specifically, the study tested whether a weekly reflexology intervention contributed to the resident outcomes of reduced physiologic distress, reduced pain, and improved affect.

Setting: The study was conducted at a large nursing home in suburban Philadelphia.

Sample: The sample included 21 nursing home residents with mild-to-moderate stage dementia randomly assigned to two groups.

Interventions: The first group received 4 weeks of weekly reflexology treatments followed by 4 weeks of a control condition of friendly visits. The second group received 4 weeks of friendly visits followed by 4 weeks of weekly reflexology.

Outcome measures: The primary efficacy endpoint was reduction of physiologic distress as measured by salivary alpha-amylase. The secondary outcomes were observed pain (Checklist of Nonverbal Pain Indicators) and observed affect (Apparent Affect Rating Scale).

Results: The findings demonstrate that when receiving the reflexology treatment condition, as compared to the control condition, the residents demonstrated significant reduction in observed pain and salivary alpha-amylase. No adverse events were recorded during the study period.

Conclusions: This study provides preliminary support for the efficacy of reflexology as a treatment of stress in nursing home residents with mild-to-moderate stage dementia.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / metabolism
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Homes for the Aged*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Psychomotor Agitation / etiology
  • Psychomotor Agitation / therapy*
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • alpha-Amylases / analysis


  • alpha-Amylases