The effectiveness of foot reflexology in inducing ovulation: a sham-controlled randomized trial

Fertil Steril. 2009 Jun;91(6):2514-9. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.04.016. Epub 2008 Jun 20.


Objective: To determine whether foot reflexology, a complementary therapy, has an effect greater than sham reflexology on induction of ovulation.

Design: Sham-controlled randomized trial with patients and statistician blinded.

Setting: Infertility clinic in Plymouth, United Kingdom.

Patient(s): Forty-eight women attending the clinic with anovulation.

Intervention(s): Women were randomized to receive eight sessions of either genuine foot reflexology or sham reflexology with gentle massage over 10 weeks.

Main outcome measure(s): The primary outcome was ovulation detected by serum progesterone level of >30 nmol/L during the study period.

Result(s): Twenty-six patients were randomized to genuine reflexology and 22 to sham (one randomized patient was withdrawn). Patients remained blinded throughout the trial. The rate of ovulation during true reflexology was 11 out of 26 (42%), and during sham reflexology it was 10 out of 22 (46%). Pregnancy rates were 4 out of 26 in the true group and 2 out of 22 in the control group. Because of recruitment difficulties, the required sample size of 104 women was not achieved.

Conclusion(s): Patient blinding of reflexology studies is feasible. Although this study was too small to reach a definitive conclusion on the specific effect of foot reflexology, the results suggest that any effect on ovulation would not be clinically relevant. Sham reflexology may have a beneficial general effect, which this study was not designed to detect.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anovulation / therapy*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Female
  • Foot*
  • Humans
  • Massage / methods*
  • Ovulation / physiology*
  • Ovulation Induction / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Reflexotherapy / methods*


  • Biomarkers
  • Progesterone