To complement the Research Reports in the August 2016 print edition of MASSAGE Magazine.

foot reflexology found to ease pain infants


Infants who received one session of foot reflexology, lasting around 20 to 30 minutes, immediately before getting a vaccination injection exhibited lower pain levels following the injection than infants who did not receive foot reflexology, according to recent research.

The study, “The effect of foot reflexology on acute pain in infants: a randomized controlled trial,” involved 60 babies ranging in age from 1 to 12 months. These infants were randomly assigned to either the reflexology group or the control group. Those assigned to the reflexology group received 20 to 30 minutes of foot reflexology—the time depended on each baby’s foot size—prior to receiving a vaccine injection.


Study Methodology & Outcome Measures

“Before reflexology, the practitioner’s hands were washed and kept at body temperature. The treatment was conducted while the infant was in his or her mother’s arms to make the infant relax and feel more secure,” stated the study’s authors. “Reflexology was performed starting on the toes of one foot down to the heel, [and] the same process was performed on the other foot.”

The main outcome measure in this study was the level of pain among the babies. This was measured using the Face, Legs, Activity, Cry, Consolability (FLACC) Pain Assessment Scale before the start of the study, immediately after the intervention session and again immediately after the vaccine injection. Other outcome measures included heart rate, oxygen saturation levels and crying periods.


Reflexology Helped Ease Pain After Vaccination

According to the FLACC scale, the pain score among all 60 infants was statistically similar at the start of the study. However, following the foot reflexology, the FLACC pain score among the infants in the reflexology group was reduced. Then, after the vaccine injection, the FLACC pain score was around 5.5 in the reflexology group and around 9.6 in the control group.

This marked a statistically significant difference, with lower levels of pain among the infants in the foot reflexology group following the acute pain of vaccination. In addition, the babies in the foot reflexology group also exhibited lower heart rates, higher oxygen saturation and shorter crying periods as compared to the babies in the control group.

“This study was conducted contending that reflexology would enable infants to relax before and after vaccine and could be reliably used for pain control among infants,” stated the authors. “Findings support that reflexology was effective on the pain, heart rates, oxygen saturations and crying periods of vaccinated infants.”


About the Study

Authors: Tuba Koç and Duygu Gözen.

Sources: Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Pediatric Nursing Department, Instanbul University, Turkey. Originally published in 2015 in Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, 12(5), 289-296.