Background: This report is based on the results of a randomized parallel controlled trial conducted to determine the efficacy of reflexology therapy in managing intractable epilepsy.
Methods: Subjects who failed epilepsy surgery or were not candidates for epilepsy surgery or were non-responders of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) took part in this study. The trial was completed by 77 subjects randomly assigned to 2 arms: control (AEDs) and reflexology (AEDs + reflexology therapy). The hypothesis was that hand reflexology therapy could produce results similar to those of vagus nerve stimulation, and foot reflexology therapy could maintain homeostasis in the functional status of individual body parts. Reflexology therapy was applied by family members. The follow-up period was 1.5 years. Quality of life in epilepsy patients was assessed with the QOLIE-31 instrument.
Results: In the reflexology group, the median baseline seizure frequency decreased from 9.5 (range 2-120) to 2 (range 0-110) with statistical significance (p < 0.001). In the control arm, the decrease was less than 25% with a baseline value of 16 (range 2-150). The pretherapy QOLIE-31 scores in the control group and the reflexology group were 41.05 ± 7 and 43.6 ± 8, respectively. Posttherapy data were 49.07 ± 6 and 65.4 ± 9, respectively (p < 0.002). The reflexology method allowed detection of knee pain in 85% of the reflexology group patients (p < 0.001), and 85.3% of patients derived 81% relief from it (p < 0.001). 4 reflexology group patients reported nausea/vomiting (n = 1), change in voice (n = 2), and hoarseness (n = 1).
Conclusion: Reflexology therapy together with AEDs may help reducing seizure frequency and improving quality of life in individuals with epilepsy.
Keywords: Lower limb pain, Complementary therapy, Refractory epilepsy, Reflexology, Indirect vagus nerve stimulation