To complement the Research Reports in the August 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: In a recent study, foot reflexology massage significantly reduced anxiety in patients who had just undergone coronary artery bypass graft surgery.


foot reflexology

In the days following coronary artery bypass graft surgery, one 20-minute session of foot reflexology massage each day for four days resulted in a significant decrease in patient anxiety, according to recent research.

The study, “The effects of foot reflexology massage on anxiety in patients following coronary artery bypass graft surgery: a randomized controlled trial,” involved 80 patients in the days after they had undergone coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. Subjects were randomly assigned to either the intervention or control group.


Foot reflexology intervention

In the intervention group, the patients received 20 minutes of foot reflexology massage, applied to the left foot, for a total of four sessions in four days. The intervention began at least four hours after the last dose of analgesics was administered to these postoperative patients. The protocol involved the gentle application of a lubricating cream to the left foot for one minute, followed by foot reflexology massage to the sole of the foot.

“The researcher used their thumb on the subject’s solar plexus reflex point for those with difficulty relaxing,” stated the study’s authors. “Targeting primarily the reflex points of the endocrine glands and the solar plexus reflex points, the Ingham method of foot reflexology was consequently applied to stimulate the whole body, removing waste products and promoting relaxation.”

In the control group, the same lubricating cream was gently applied to the left leg for one minute, and the same researcher stayed with each patient for the remaining 20 minutes.

The main outcome measure for this study was anxiety, as measured using the short form of the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Visual Analog Scale for Anxiety (VAS-A). Anxiety levels were measured using the VAS-A each of the four days following surgery and using the STAI on postoperative days one and three both before and after the reflexology intervention.


The outcome

Results of the research showed a significant decrease in anxiety following the foot reflexology massage, confirmed on both the STAI and the VAS-A. According to the study’s authors, these results support the use of foot reflexology as a complementary therapy for reducing anxiety among postoperative patients in the days following coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

“Considering that anxiety is common after heart surgery, foot reflexology massage can be a beneficial option for anxiety reduction in CABG patients, bringing patients’ lives into balance,” stated the study’s authors. “Further research should investigate and compare the effects of different reflexology methods on anxiety in CABG patients.”


Authors: Masoumeh Bagheri-Nesami, Seyed Afshin Shorofi, Nahid Zargar, Maryam Sohrabi, Afshin Gholipour-Bardari and Alireza Khalilian.

Sources: Department of Medical-Surgical Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Traditional and Complementary Medicine Research Centre, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Research Centre, Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, Sari, Iran; Department of Anesthesiology, Imam Khomeini Hospital, Mazandaran University of Medical Science, Sari, Iran; Ayatollah Rohani Hospital, Babol University of Medical Science, Babol, Iran. Originally published in February 2014 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 20, 42-47.