Reflexology: a randomised controlled trial investigating the effects on beta-endorphin, cortisol and pregnancy related stress

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Reflexology is used for various pregnancy related complaints. A three-armed, pilot randomised controlled trial was conducted to test changes in physiological and biochemical stress parameters. Ninety primiparous volunteers experiencing low back and/or pelvic girdle pain (LBPGP) were recruited to receive either six reflexology or footbath treatments or usual care. Primary outcome data included pain intensity and frequency measured on a visual analog scale (VAS), and salivary beta-endorphin and cortisol levels. 61 (68%) women completed the intervention. A clinically important reduction of 1.63 cm occurred for VAS pain frequency following reflexology. Beta-endorphin levels increased by 8.8% and 10.10% in the footbath and usual care groups respectively and decreased by 15.18% for the reflexology group. Cortisol increased by 31.78% for footbath participants, 31.42% in usual care and 18.82% in the reflexology group. Reflexology during pregnancy may help reduce LBPGP, and associated stress. However, antenatal reflexology is under researched and requires further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-84
Number of pages9
JournalComplementary Therapies in Clinical Practice
Early online date3 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2018



  • Reflexology
  • RCT
  • Low Back and Pelvic Pain
  • Pregnancy
  • Cortisol
  • Endorphin

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