Analgesic Effects of Reflexology in Patients Undergoing Surgical Procedures: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Aug;24(8):809-815. doi: 10.1089/acm.2017.0167. Epub 2018 Jun 8.


Objective: Inadequate treatment of pain in patients undergoing surgery is associated with unsatisfactory perioperative outcomes. The aim of this study was to examine the role of reflexology in addition to standard analgesic treatment in postoperative pain management.

Design: This was a prospective, unblinded pragmatic controlled trial.

Setting/location: Study participants included patients who were admitted to the general surgery department.

Interventions: Patients in the intervention group received reflexology while standard analgesic care was administered similarly in both groups.

Outcome measures: Pain intensity at rest and in motion was evaluated using visual analog scale (VAS [0-10]) at baseline, and 60-90 min after treatment.

Results: Pain reduction was clinically and statistically significant in the reflexology group, both for pain at rest (from mean VAS of 4.4 to 3.1, N = 77, p < 0.0001) and for pain in motion (from 6.2 to 4.2, N = 77, p < 0.0001). In the control group, pain at rest was not reduced at follow-up (from 4.7 to 4.6, N = 87, p = 0.92), nor was pain in motion (from 5.8 to 5.7, N = 87, p = 0.65). Comparison of mean difference for pain showed significant improvement in the reflexology group compared to the standard of care group (p < 0.0001). The most significant pain reduction in the reflexology group was observed among patients who had moderate-severe baseline pain (VAS >4).

Conclusion: Adding reflexology to standard analgesic care is effective in reducing postoperative pain at rest and in motion, especially for patients experiencing moderate to severe pain.

Keywords: complementary and alternative medicine; integrative medicine; postoperative pain; reflexology.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Integrative Medicine
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy*