Written by Helen Cooke and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated October 24, 2016


Abstract and key points

  • Reflexology employs manual pressure to specific areas of the body, usually the feet, which are thought to correspond to internal organs with a view of generating positive health effects.
  • Evidence for improvements in pain, quality of life, anxiety and breathlessness are limited by methodological shortcomings of trials
  • Reflexology has a good safety record.

Reflexology is a supportive treatment modality employing manual pressure to specific areas of the body, usually the feet (occasionally the hands), which are thought to correspond to internal organs.

Reflexologists suggest that by palpating the feet they can influence specific organ functions, reduce stress, eliminate toxins, rebalance the body’s energy, improve circulation, or promote metabolic homoeostasis.

Evidence from four systematic reviews including eleven individual trials in cancer patients, four additional randomised controlled trials and one non-randomised clinical trial indicate improvements in pain, quality of life, anxiety and breathlessness. Due to methodological limitations such as  lack of blinding and variation between trials in interventions, controls and outcomes measured it is, however, not possible to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of reflexology for people with cancer. 

Reflexology has a good safety record.


Helen Cooke, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Reflexology [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Manipulative-body-based/Reflexology. October 24, 2016.

Document history

Last update and revision in October 2016 by Helen Cooke.
Fully revised and updated in September 2014 by Helen Cooke.
Fully revised and updated in June 2012 by Helen Cooke.
Summary first published in March 2011, authored by Helen Cooke.


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