Is reflexology as effective as aromatherapy massage for symptom relief in an adult outpatient oncology population?

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2013 Aug;19(3):139-46. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.03.002. Epub 2013 Apr 11.


Aim: To test whether reflexology was inferior to aromatherapy massage for ameliorating self-selected problems or concerns.

Design: Non-blinded, randomised study with a 1:1 allocation. Adult outpatients recruited from a UK cancer centre, randomised by the minimisation method to either four aromatherapy massage or four reflexology sessions.

Outcome measures: MYCaW scores at baseline and completion; VAS (relaxation) pre and post-sessions.

Analysis: Unpaired t-test for the primary outcome; analysis of variance tests for repeated measures for VAS (relaxation); descriptive statistics (means and 95% confidence intervals) and content analysis for patient comments.

Results: 115 subjects (58 aromatherapy massage, 57 reflexology) recruited. Reflexology was found to be no less effective than aromatherapy massage for MYCaW first concerns (p = 0.046). There was no statistical difference between groups for MYCaW second concerns or overall well-being scores, proportions of patients gaining clinical benefit, VAS scores over time (p = 0.489) or between groups (p = 0.408) or in the written responses.

Keywords: Aromatherapy massage; Oncology; Outpatients; Reflexology; Symptom relief.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aromatherapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Outpatients
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Relaxation
  • Relaxation Therapy