Systematic review: Effects of reflexology on child health

9 mins read
Effects of reflexology on child health: A systematic review


Background: It is known that the parents of one of every two children who need health care seek at least one complementary health-care approach. Reflexology, which is one of these, increases well-being while maintaining the continuity of homeostasis. As studies with children are limited, there is a need for evidence that includes the positive as well as the negative effects of reflexology that can be transferred to clinical practice and recommendations for future studies.

Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the effects of reflexology on child health by systematically summarizing the results obtained.

Method: In this study, which was structured as a systematic review, data were obtained by scanning CINAHL, Cochrane Library, Academic Search Complete, WoS, Scopus, Science Direct, PubMed, and ProQuest. According to MeSH terminology, (zone therapy OR reflexology OR foot massage OR hand massage) AND (pediatrics OR child OR infant OR baby) were used. Randomized controlled studies (RCTs), systematic reviews, and meta-analyses conducted with a pediatric population and accessible in English and full text up to 07.08.2019 (with no time limitation) were included. Exclusion criteria for the present study included applying a massage procedure different from reflexology, the inclusion of an adult sample, or publication of the article in a predatory journal. The Cochrane guidelines (Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.2.0, 2017) were applied and the article reported on according to the PRISMA checklist.

Results: In all six of the RCTs, which included a total of 277 infants and children, the only method used was foot reflexology. Regarding the results of nine investigated outcomes, reflexology was found to be effective in infancy for reducing pain level and regulating heart rate, for increasing oxygen saturation, for relieving infantile colic symptoms, and neonatal abstinence symptoms. Reflexology was also found to decrease spasticity and improve motor skills in children with cerebral palsy, but it failed to produce positive change in regard to constipation and quality of life. Four of the studies were performed in a nursing context, one in midwifery, and one in physiotherapy.

Conclusion: As a common result of the studies conducted with different sample groups, it is possible that reflexology had positive effects on children. However, the absence of standardization related to reflexology, inadequate use of a study protocol and guidelines, the heterogeneity of the data, and the determination that half the studies were conducted with high-risk groups according to the bias analysis with RoB 2.0 indicate that it is too soon to generalize the results. Well-structured, randomized controlled double-blind trials are required.

Keywords: Child health; Pediatric nursing; Reflexology; Systematic review.


Karatas N, Dalgic AI. Effects of reflexology on child health: A systematic review. Complement Ther Med. 2020 May;50:102364. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102364. Epub 2020 Mar 3. PMID: 32444044.

The conclusion of this research paper in Greek

The purpose of this section is to make this research paper useful to Greek speaking reflexologists. This is a tool developed by the Center of Reflexology and Research (Κέντρο Ρεφλεξολογίας και Έρευνας) in Greece and supervised volunteers from across the world.

Μετάφραση των συμπερασμάτων της συγκεκριμένης έρευνας:

Ως κοινό αποτέλεσμα των μελετών που διεξήχθησαν με διαφορετικές ομάδες δειγμάτων, είναι πιθανό η ρεφλεξολογία να έχει θετικά αποτελέσματα στα παιδιά. Ωστόσο, η απουσία τυποποίησης που σχετίζεται με τη ρεφλεξολογία, η ανεπαρκής χρήση ενός πρωτοκόλλου και κατευθυντήριων γραμμών μελέτης, η ετερογένεια των δεδομένων και ο προσδιορισμός ότι οι μισές μελέτες διεξήχθησαν με ομάδες υψηλού κινδύνου σύμφωνα με την ανάλυση μεροληψίας με το RoB 2.0 δείχνουν ότι είναι πολύ νωρίς για να γενικευτούν τα αποτελέσματα. Απαιτούνται καλά δομημένες, τυχαιοποιημένες ελεγχόμενες διπλά τυφλές δοκιμές.

Previous publication

Reflexology in 63 patients after abdominal hysterectomy

Next publication

Reflexology versus segmental massage in reducing pain of migraines 48 cases