Reflexology may aid constipated kids

Constipation is a common complaint in children, accounting for approximately 3% of paediatric outpatient visits and 25% of visits to paediatric gastroenterologists.

Children suffering from chronic constipation not only endure physical discomfort and complications, but also suffer emotional and behavioural problems. This can have an impact on the quality of life of the child and family.

Treatment of chronic constipation requires more than the prescription of laxatives and ultimately needs a more holistic approach. It is here that reflexology has an important role to play.

Reflexology is a holistic healing technique that aims to treat the individual as an entity, incorporating body, mind and spirit. Reflexologists do not isolate disease and treat symptomatically, nor do they work specifically on a problem organ or system, but on the whole person with the object of inducing a state of balance and harmony.

The art of reflexology must not be confused with basic foot massage or body massage in general. It is a specific pressure technique that works on specific reflex points on the feet, based on the premise that reflex areas on the feet correspond with all body parts.

One of the most important benefits of reflexology is its efficacy in relieving stress. The increased state of relaxation facilitated by reflexology allows all body systems – including the excretory systems – to function efficiently.

Exciting new research
Very promising results regarding the treatment of constipation have been achieved in several case studies over the past three years.

This inspired a doctor from Tygerberg Children’s Hospital, together with a reflexologist, to submit a research proposal to the Committee for Human Research (Stellenbosch University).

Approval to study the effect of reflexology on children suffering from functional chronic constipation was obtained in May 2007 and this randomised clinical trial with a sample size of 40 children (between the ages of 2 and 12 years) is currently underway.

How the study will work
Patients will be randomised into an experimental group and a control group. The primary goal is to assess the effect of therapeutic reflexology on children suffering from chronic constipation.

Data will be collected by means of a ‘before and after’ questionnaire, thus comparing the degree of constipation before and after treatment.

Additional advice and information on lifestyle changes will be given to both groups. Any changes made by the patients will be monitored through the completion of weekly diaries to establish the possible effect that lifestyle and diet may have on the patient’s chronic constipation.

If deemed necessary, patients from the experimental group as well as the control group will be referred back to the doctor to receive standard medication. This will enable a comparison between the two groups and the proportion of children referred back for medication.

After four weeks, or a total of 10 reflexology treatments for the experimental group, the doctors will reassess all participants and complete the same questionnaire that was completed before the treatment started. All relevant data will then be processed and statistically analysed.

Treatment holds no risks
This research study is not only unique, but is of great importance to possibly reconfirm the place of reflexology as a complementary therapy that can be used in conjuncture with hitherto conventional medicine.

An important aspect of reflexology as a treatment is the fact that it holds no known risks for the participants. The actual treatment is very pleasant and relaxing compared to traditional medical investigations and treatments such as rectal examinations and barium enemas.

Compounded stress in the whole family is common and contributes to constipation. Such family stress can influence negatively the development of the child and have an impact on the emotional development of the child with possible long-term complications.

Reflexology is very effective in relieving the stress of the patient and the caregiver, and is conducive to a more relaxed atmosphere within the family relationship.

Part of any treatment programme for chronic constipation includes counselling and educating the parents and the child to assist them in modifying their diet, lifestyle and behaviour.

For more information about this study, send an e-mail to or leave a message with your contact information. Erika: 072 460 2362.

- (Health24, October 2007)

Read more:
What is therapeutic reflexology?

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