Objective: To examine the feasibility of delivering reflexology to people moderately to severely affected by multiple sclerosis and to investigate the effect on a range of symptoms.
Methods: A pilot single-blind randomized placebo controlled trial was conducted. Twenty people moderately to severely affected by multiple sclerosis were randomized into one of two groups receiving either reflexology or sham reflexology. Each participant received 8 weeks, 1 hour per week of either reflexology or sham reflexology. The primary outcome measure was the Multiple Sclerosis Impact Scale (MSIS29). Secondary measures assessed a range of symptoms at baseline, 8 weeks and 16 weeks.
Results: There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups at either 8 (P = 0.538) or 16 (P = 0.112) weeks for the primary outcome measure; however, both groups demonstrated small improvements from 92.3 (SD 20.9) to 75.6 (SD 3.3) with reflexology, and 91.3 (SD 29.9) to 81.5 (±18.5) with sham reflexology group after 8 weeks of treatment. Small improvements were noted in most of the secondary outcome measures at 8 weeks. There was no difference between the groups at 8 weeks except for bladder function (P = 0.003) and most scores returned to baseline at follow-up.
Conclusions: The results do not support the use of reflexology for symptom relief in a more disabled multiple sclerosis population and are strongly suggestive of a placebo response. This study demonstrates, however, that reflexology can be delivered and is well tolerated by people who are moderately to severely affected by multiple sclerosis.