Use of reflexology in managing secondary lymphoedema for patients affected by treatments for breast cancer: A feasibility study

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016 May:23:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.01.002. Epub 2016 Jan 15.


Purpose: The aim of this feasibility study was to examine the use of reflexology lymphatic drainage (RLD) in the treatment of breast-cancer related lymphoedema (BCRL) with a view to further research.

Methods: An uncontrolled trial was conducted with 26 women who had developed lymphoedema in one arm following treatment for breast cancer. Changes in upper-limb volumes and in participant concerns and wellbeing were measured. Qualitative data were also collected.

Results: A significant reduction in the volume of the affected arm was identified at follow-up compared to baseline. This reduction in volume appeared to be maintained for more than six months. Participant concerns were significantly reduced and their wellbeing significantly increased. No serious adverse effects were reported.

Conclusions: RLD may be a useful intervention for BCRL although the results could not be attributed to the reflexology intervention because of research design limitations. The main conclusion was, however, that there was sufficient evidence for further research using a randomized controlled trial.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Lymphoedema; Reflexology lymphatic drainage.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arm / physiopathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphedema / etiology
  • Lymphedema / therapy*
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged