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OBJECTIVES: The objectives of the study were to evaluate the possibility of reflexology being used as a non-invasive form of phantom limb pain relief and of empowering patients to maintain any positive results with self-treatment.
SETTING: Prosthetic Services Centre, Herbert Street, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England DESIGN: A same-subject, experimental pilot study, recording the intensity of phantom limb pain in weekly pain diaries over a 30-week period, which was divided into five phases: phase 1 gave a baseline of pain, whilst phase 3 was a resting phase. Phases 2, 4 and 5 provided the reflexology interventions. SAMPLE: Ten participants with unilateral lower limb amputations and phantom limb pain were selected from the database at the Prosthetic Centre.
REFLEXOLOGY INTERVENTIONS: In phase 2, six weekly reflexology treatments were given, which consisted of: full foot reflexology to the remaining foot and full hand reflexology to the hand of the amputated side of the body. In phase 4, six weekly hand reflexology teaching sessions were carried out; patients copied on their own hands what the therapist did on hers. A hand reflexology booklet gave the sequence of the treatment and was used as a reference. In phase 5, the patients self-treated for 6 weeks at home, using the reference material.
RESULTS: Over the 30-week period, there was an improvement in the perception of the presence and the intensity of the phantom limb pain, with a corresponding improvement in the duration of the pain and the affect on the person's lifestyle. The improvement was maintained when the clients self-treated.
FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONNAIRE: A follow-up questionnaire was carried out in 2007-12 months after the project had ended-to elicit whether the patients had suffered from phantom pain over the previous 12 months, whether they still had relief from phantom limb pain and whether they still self-treated.
CONCLUSIONS: The project indicated that reflexology treatment, teaching and self-treatment were effective in eradicating or reducing the intensity and duration of phantom limb pain, in this group of clients. The follow-up questionnaire revealed that there was a maintained improvement in the intensity of phantom limb pain the patients experienced and that the majority still self-treated.