Foot reflexology is more effective than back massage at improving sleep quality in hemodialysis patients

Patients with kidney problems require hemodialysis, a process that helps purify their blood since their kidneys can’t function normally. However, the treatment may cause side effects, including fatigue and poor sleep quality. To address these health problems, the authors of a study examined the effectiveness of natural remedies like foot reflexology.

The researchers compared the effectiveness of foot reflexology and back massage on improving sleep quality and reducing fatigue in individuals that require hemodialysis treatments. The study was published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.

The study, which ran for four weeks, involved 105 volunteers, all of whom were registered at a private clinic for hemodialysis. During this time, the patients had foot reflexology and back massage sessions two times a week.

To collate data for the study, the scientists utilized the Visual Analogue Scale for Fatigue (VASF) and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). The PSQI is a self-rated questionnaire that evaluates sleep quality and disturbances over the span of one month. The questionnaire includes 19 individual items that generate seven “component” scores:

  1. Subjective sleep quality
  2. Sleep latency
  3. Sleep duration
  4. Habitual sleep efficiency
  5. Sleep disturbances
  6. Use of sleeping medication
  7. Daytime dysfunction

The scores of the seven components are added to determine a global score.

After analyzing the study data, the team reported “statistically significant” differences between the pretest and posttest score averages of the patients on the VASF and PSQI.

According to the research team, both foot reflexology and back massage helped improve the condition of hemodialysis patients. However, data from the study determined that foot reflexology was the most effective method for relieving fatigue and enhancing sleep quality among the participants.

What is foot reflexology?

Foot reflexology is a form of alternative medicine that cares for an often neglected body part. Like the rest of your body, your feet must be attended to, since they bear the weight of your whole body.

Foot reflexology is an ancient medicinal practice, and it follows the principle that there are reflex points on the feet that correspond to the body’s different organs and glands. During a session, a foot reflexologist will apply pressure to the reflex points on your feet to promote good health.

When applied in conjunction with a foot massage, foot reflexology can offer the following benefits:

  • It can alleviate swelling/edema. Regular foot massage during pregnancy may help minimize the effects of edema, which occurs when the feet and ankles swell due to fluid retention. Pregnant women often suffer from edema during the last trimester.
  • It can improve your mood and prevent depression. Foot reflexology targets certain points on the feet that can help alleviate depression symptoms. Massaging or applying pressure to these points for several few minutes twice or thrice a day may help boost your mood.
  • It can prevent foot problems. Massaging your feet will stimulate the muscles around them, reduce stiffness, and relieve reduces pain in the ankles or heels.
  • It can promote relaxation. A five to 10-minute foot reflexology session can help soothe and relieve your feet, especially if you’ve been active for a long time.
  • It can relieve body pains. Done properly, foot reflexology can address aches and pains like headaches, migraines, neck pain, and lower and upper backaches. (Related: Foot Reflexology Massage Relieves Stress and Back Pain.)

You can read more articles about the benefits of natural remedies like foot reflexology at

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