Foot Reflexology: An Intervention for Pain and Nausea Among Inpatients With Cancer

Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2021 Oct 1;25(5):539-545. doi: 10.1188/21.CJON.539-545.


Background: Pain and nausea affect a significant number of patients with cancer. Applying foot reflexology to this population has had some positive effects, but more studies are needed to confirm its efficacy.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to conduct a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effects of foot reflexology on pain and nausea among inpatients with cancer as compared to traditional nursing care alone.

Methods: A pilot study was conducted with adult patients with cancer hospitalized on a 24-bed inpatient oncology unit. Using convenience sampling, 40 patients provided consent and were randomized into either the intervention or control group. Each group had a treatment session of 20-25 minutes in which pre- and postsession surveys were completed, with reflexology performed in the intervention group only.

Findings: Results show that foot reflexology significantly decreases pain for inpatients with cancer as compared to traditional nursing care alone. Although the effects on nausea are not statistically significant, they may be clinically relevant; the mean changes in pre- and postsession nausea ratings indicate at least some decreased nausea among patients in the intervention group.

Keywords: integrative therapies; nausea; pain; reflexology; side effects; symptom management.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Massage
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations*
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Nausea / therapy
  • Neoplasms* / complications
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Pain
  • Pilot Projects