Research and Evidence of the benefit of Reflexology and Multiple Sclerosis

It is difficult to measure how effective a particular therapy is for MS whether drug or non-drug, since MS varies so much from person to person, and from day to day. It is also hard to conduct trials that measure the effect of therapies and much of the evidence for their use is anecdotal, i.e. based on individual experiences. Many people with MS find that therapies can help not only to ease some symptoms but also to improve general wellbeing. However reflexology has been investigated in M.S. on a number of trials. In one such trial 71 patients were randomised to either reflexology treatment with manual pressure on specific points and massage of the calf area, or to non-specific massage of the calf area. 53 patients completed the study showing significant improvements in paraesthesia (pins & needles), urinary symptoms, muscle strength and spasticity. Another study used a survey method to investigate complementary and alternative medicine used by people with MS. The results of the survey highlighted reflexology as one of the most popular therapies used by people with the condition.

  • Siev-Ner I, et al. Reflexology treatment relieves symptoms of multiple sclerosis: a randomised controlled study. Multiple Sclerosis 2003;9(4) 356-361
  • Esmonde L, Long AF. Complementary therapy use by persons with multiple sclerosis; Benefits and research priorities. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Pratice 2008; 14(3): 176-184

In addition there is much anecdotal evidence highlighting the benefits of reflexology. In 1993 a US study indicated that reflexology may be effective in treating premenstrual symptoms, while UK trials found reduced anxiety and improved psychological wellbeing in cancer patients. The UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence suggests that reflexology may be beneficial for people with multiple sclerosis. However there is no anatomical basis for the theories underpinning reflexology, or physiological explanation for its possible benefits. However, ask any client who has received reflexology if they felt a benefit from it, and there will be a huge percentage who agree.