Reflexology is discouraged in patients with recent or healing foot fractures, unhealed wounds, or active gout flares affecting the foot. Patients with osteoarthritis affecting the foot or ankle, or severe vascular disease of the legs or feet, should seek a medical consultation prior to starting reflexology.
In general, patients should inform their medical practitioners of any existing medical problems or medications. Some reflexology texts note specific conditions that theoretically may be negatively affected by this therapy, although scientific data is lacking in these areas. These conditions include diabetes, heart disease or the presence of a pacemaker, unstable blood pressure, cancer, active infections, past episodes of fainting (syncope), mental illness, gallstones, or kidney stones.
Caution is advised in pregnant women, due to reports that rigorous stimulation of the feet may lead to uterine contractions.
Reflexology should not delay diagnosis or treatment with more proven techniques or therapies.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
There is preliminary evidence that reflexology may be useful for relaxation. However, it is not clear that reflexology is equivalent or superior to massage or other types of physical manipulation. Better research is needed in this area before a recommendation can be made.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Preliminary human research reports that weekly reflexology sessions over a two-month period can reduce the severity of premenstrual symptoms in the short-term. Further research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be reached in this area.
Early research suggests that reflexology may relieve pain from migraine or tension headaches, and that pain medication requirements may be reduced. However, study in this area has not been well designed or reported scientifically, and further evidence is necessary before a firm conclusion can be reached.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Preliminary study of reflexology in humans with irritable bowel syndrome has not yielded definitive results.
Comfort/palliation in cancer patients
Preliminary research reports no difference between reflexology and standard foot massage in palliative care cancer patients. Better research is necessary in this area before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Chronic lower back pain
A large trial comparing reflexology to relaxation or no therapy reports that reflexology is not effective for managing chronic lower back pain.
Preliminary research examining the accuracy of diagnoses made by reflexologists reports a lack of agreement between practitioners, and diagnostic inaccuracies when compared to well-accepted techniques. Future study with comparisons to other diagnostic approaches, or to the accuracy of other health professionals, would provide additional useful data in this area.