A pilot study of the effectiveness of reflexology in treating idiopathic constipation in women

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010 Feb;16(1):41-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2009.06.002. Epub 2009 Sep 9.


Objectives: Constipation is a common problem in the UK, affecting up to 20% of the population. Reflexologists claim that reflexology can be beneficial in the treatment of constipation. The aim of this exploratory pilot study was to determine the effectiveness of reflexology in treating idiopathic constipation in women and it is the first study of the effectiveness of reflexology for the treatment of women with idiopathic constipation defined according to Rome II criteria.

Methods: Nineteen female patients referred to a specialist biofeedback service with idiopathic constipation defined by Rome II criteria were recruited. A course of reflexology treatment (weekly for six weeks) was given. Patients' subjective perception of constipation was recorded as well as the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HAD), the Short form 36 (SF36), whole gut transit and the Holistic Complementary and Alternative Medicine Questionnaire (HCAMQ) before and after the intervention.

Results: All participants completed the intervention and none were lost to follow-up. Ninety-four percent of participants identified their constipation to be improved to some extent. Ten participants had improved colonic transit times and two patients had normalised colonic transit. Ten patients (53%, p=0.19) demonstrated an improved anxiety score and 11 participants (58%, p=0.14) demonstrated an improved depression score on the HAD scales. Improvement was seen in general health, mental health and vitality on the SF36 scale, with vitality improving significantly (p<0.05). Sixty-three percent of participants had a more positive attitude (p=0.03) towards CAM and holistic health following treatment.

Conclusions: This study shows that in this sample reflexology has potential benefit for treating idiopathic constipation in women. Further randomised trials are required.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Colon
  • Constipation / physiopathology
  • Constipation / psychology
  • Constipation / therapy*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Transit
  • Humans
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult