Reflexology is a complementary therapy that involves having gentle pressure applied to the soles of your feet or your hands.
It’s thought that different points on the feet are connected to different areas of the body, such as particular organs. Reflexologists believe stimulating these points can encourage natural healing.
As well as providing the calming effects of touch, reflexology can promote relaxation and improve wellbeing.
According to a survey, reflexology is one of the most popular complementary therapies used by people with MS. Although the quality of research is considered low, some studies have found that reflexology can improve pain, fatigue and mood in people with MS.
Some MS Therapy Centres offer reflexology to people with MS for a subsidised fee. Although you don’t need a referral from your GP to try this treatment, it’s advisable that you tell your GP or MS nurse about any complementary therapies you are receiving. You can find your closest centre by using our map of MS services.
I find reflexology reduces my pain, helps me relax and improves my sleep.
– Person with MS
Reflexology has been investigated in a variety of studies to see whether it can help with MS symptoms. In one study, 71 patients were randomised to either reflexology treatment with manual pressure on specific points of the feet and massage of the calf area, or to non-specific massage of the calf area only. 53 patients completed the study and there were significant improvements in the mean scores of paraesthesia (abnormal sensations such as pins and needles), bladder symptoms, muscle strength and spasticity.
In another study, 73 people received either reflexology or basic foot massage weekly for ten weeks, primarily as a treatment for pain. Both groups showed benefit in pain, fatigue, depression and spasms with no clear difference between reflexology and massage. The effect on pain lasted for up to 12 weeks.
More recently, three separate studies compared the effects of reflexology and relaxation on fatigue, pain and psychological symptoms (anxiety, stress and depression) in women with MS. In each of these studies, reflexology was given to 25 women with MS for four weeks, twice a week for 40 minutes. Results were collected through a questionnaire completed before, immediately after and two months after treatment. In all of the studies, reflexology was found to reduce the severity of these symptoms and was considered an effective technique.
- Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 2008;14(3):176-184. Summary Complementary therapy use by persons with multiple sclerosis: Benefits and research priorities.
- Multiple Sclerosis 2009;15(11):1329-1338. Summary Reflexology for the treatment of pain in people with multiple sclerosis: a double-blind randomised sham-controlled clinical trial.
- Multiple Sclerosis 2003;9(4)356-361. Summary Reflexology treatment relieves symptoms of multiple sclerosis: a randomised controlled study.
- Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research 2015;20(2):200-204. Full article Comparing the effects of reflexology and relaxation on fatigue in women with multiple sclerosis.
- Journal of Education and Health Promotion 2017;6(1):11. Full article A comparison of the effects of reflexology and relaxation on the psychological symptoms in women with multiple sclerosis.
- Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine. 2016 Mar;13(1):65-71. Summary A comparison of the effects of reflexology and relaxation on pain in women with multiple sclerosis.
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD012622. Full article Non-pharmacological interventions for chronic pain in multiple sclerosis.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to treatments that are not widely in use in conventional medicine, such as acupuncture and yoga.
Massage is used by some people with MS, often in combination with aromatherapy
Relaxation techniques can be helpful in MS for managing fatigue, relieving stress and promoting better sleep. Here are some ideas for you to try.