Foot reflexology does not appear to have a significant impact on ovulation among women having difficulty becoming pregnant, researchers report.
In a small study of 48 women with fertility problems, Dr. Adrian White, from Peninsula Medical School in Devon, United Kingdom, and colleagues saw no statistically significant difference in ovulation and pregnancy rates between women who had genuine foot reflexology or gentle foot massage (sham reflexology).
Modern foot reflexology follows an ancient premise that strong massage of, or pressure on, parts of the foot can correct disturbances in associated body organs. However, “we found no evidence to support the concept that there are particular ‘reflex zones’ in the feet that relate to other parts of the body,” White told Reuters Health.
In their investigation of the popularly touted infertility treatment in the United Kingdom, White’s team compared ovulation and pregnancy rates among women of similar age and body weight who had fertility problems due to polycystic ovary syndrome, a common hormonal disorder that can cause irregular menstrual periods among other things.
According to a report in the journal Fertility and Sterility, over 6 weeks, 26 women received foot reflexology and 22 women received gentle foot massage. A trained reflexologist performed the eight one-hour sessions in each group. The women had no prior experience with foot reflexology and were, therefore, unaware of which treatment might enhance their fertility.
Among the 80 percent of women who completed the sessions, 11 women in the foot reflexology group had serum progesterone levels indicative of ovulation and 4 became pregnant. In the foot massage group, 10 women ovulated and 2 became pregnant.
The lack of reproductive benefit seen in this small study suggests any specific effect from foot reflexology is unlikely to be clinically significant, the researchers note.
However, “foot massage of any kind has a relaxing effect on the body, which may help a number of conditions,” White said.
His team did note an unexpected and statistically significant improvement in depression scores among women who received foot reflexology which, they suggest, warrants further exploration.
SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility, June 2009.