Stephenson, N.L., Swanson, M., Dalton, J., Keefe, F.J., & Engelke, M. (2007). Partner-delivered reflexology: Effects on cancer pain and anxiety. Oncology Nursing Forum, 34, 127–132.doi: 10.1188/07.ONF.127-132
To test the effectiveness of reflexology delivered by partners in patients with cancer
An initial reflexology session of 30 minutes was provided in the hospital setting. The session included relaxing techniques, 15 minutes of reflexing areas of the feet corresponding to areas of the patient’s reported pain and body parts where cancer or pain was located. The final five minutes were used to reflex the entire area of the feet. Partners were taught how to perform a reflexing protocol and provided with associated written materials. Partners practiced the technique on the investigator or the patient and were given feedback on the technique. Signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis were reviewed to alert partners to avoid foot reflexology in that situation. Patients in the control group received usual care plus special attention for 30 minutes, consisting of reading a selection of the patient’s choice to the patient. Study data were obtained pre- and postintervention.
A randomized controlled trial design was used.
In the total sample, there were no significant differences between groups in pain outcome measures. In patients with higher baseline pain levels (≥ 5), significant differences were found in favor of the reflexology group in analysis of variance (p = 0.001, eta2 for effect size = 0.12). Patients in the reflexology group had significant reduction in anxiety, with a 62% reduction from baseline to postintervention in those receiving reflexology versus 23% reduction in controls. Among those with higher levels of anxiety (≥ 5), significant differences were found in favor of reflexology (p = 0.001, eta2 = 0.13).
Partner-delivered reflexology was associated with reduction in pain and anxiety compared to controls. The intervention appeared to be most effective in patients with higher levels of pain and anxiety.
Findings suggest that foot reflexology can be helpful for patients with cancer in reducing anxiety and perception of pain in the short term. Study findings suggest that partners can be taught to provide this type of intervention. Addition of partner-delivered reflexology might be a useful adjunct for anxiety and pain control; however, trained individuals need to be available to provide the teaching or the actual intervention. Involvement of caretakers in patient care with this type of approach might be a useful way to empower patients and caregivers.