Exploratory study on the efficacy of reflexology for pain threshold and tolerance using an ice-pain experiment and sham TENS control

Carol A. Samuel
Ivor S. Ebenezer

To explore the efficacy of reflexology on acute pain induced in healthy human subjects using a sham TENS control.

An ice-pain experiment was undertaken in which the volunteers (n = 15; 11 female and 4 male with a mean ± SEM age of 37.7 ± 2.6 years) were required to immerse their non-dominant hand in a container of ice-slurry whilst two indices of pain, i.e. threshold, (the time taken for subjects to experience the first pain sensation) and tolerance, (the time when the subject is unable to tolerate any further pain), were measured.

Compared to control data, reflexology increased acute pain threshold (F(1,14) = 4.5958, p < 0.05) and tolerance (F(1,14) = 5.1095, p < 0.05).

These findings demonstrate that reflexology produces antinociceptive effects in a controlled experiment and suggest the possibility that reflexology may be useful on its own or as an adjunct to medication in the treatment of pain conditions in man.

Keywords: Reflexology, Reflex zone therapy, Pain, Ice-pain, Heart-rate, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Volume 19, Issue 2 , Pages 57-62, May 2013