Hand reflexology (a study by Jade Davidson)


Jade feels very lucky to have worked with Professor Mark Whiteley on a research project which took reflexology to a new level.

Hand reflexology was brought into the operating theatre whilst patients were undergoing surgery and as far as they know, this has never been done before. They wanted to see if hand reflexology made an impact on pain and anxiety with patients undergoing surgery.

The study is due to be published in ‘The Lancet’ in late 2014. A summary of the research project and the results are below:


The impact of hand reflexology on pain, anxiety and satisfaction during minimally invasive surgery under local anaesthetic: a randomised controlled trial


One hundred patients were recruited (mean age 47.8 years, 83% female). Participants received endovenous thermal ablation and/or phlebectomy for the treatment of varicose veins at a private clinic.


Treatment as usual versus treatment as usual with the addition of intra-operative hand reflexology.


To explore whether the addition of hand reflexology to treatment as usual during minimally invasive varicose vein surgery under local anaesthetic impacted upon patient reported pain and anxiety during surgery, and patient satisfaction with treatment.


Measures of anxiety were collected before surgery and intra-operative anxiety was assessed immediately after surgery using 11 point numeric rating scales. Intra-operative pain was assessed using the McGill Pain Questionnaire following treatment. Treatment satisfaction was assessed using 6 point numeric rating scales.


Randomisation was completed on a block basis, with the day of surgery determining participant allocation.

Blinding (masking):

It was not possible to blind participants, researchers or surgeons to treatment allocation due to the nature of the intervention studied.


Numbers randomised

Full data sets were collected for 100 participants.


137 participants were assessed for eligibility, 30 participants did not meet the inclusion criteria, 7 patients declined participation giving a recruitment rate of 93%. Fifty participants were randomised to each trial group.


Intra-operative anxiety was significantly lower (mean score of 3.24 on an 11 point rating scale) in the reflexology group than control group (mean score of 5.0) (p<.001, cohen’s d =.77). Intra-operative pain was rated shorter in duration in the reflexology group. No differences in patient satisfaction.


Intra-operative hand reflexology is a useful adjunct to local anaesthetic endovenous varicose vein surgery resulting in significantly reduced intraoperative anxiety and pain duration.

Jade Davidson at The Royal Society of Medicine in April 2014 where the results were presented.