Coronary angiography (CA) is a procedure used to diagnose coronary artery disease. It involves the insertion of a catheter into the femoral artery, via a puncture in the groin area, and injecting a dye to assess the extent and severity of the condition.
CA requires the patient to have complete bed rest for several hours after the procedure to reduce the risk of bleeding and other complications. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this immobility can lead to low back pain in many patients, however pain medication can carry with it undesirable side-effects, including vomiting, which would affect the patient’s ability to remain still.
The findings of a randomized controlled trial that evaluated the effects of foot reflexology on back pain following CA was recently published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice (Kardan et al, 2020).
Conducted in 2018-2019, 120 patients were recruited to the study and randomly allocated to either a control group, receiving routine post-angiography care, or a reflexology group. Those in the reflexology group received an eight-minute treatment to each foot, which included a gentle two-minute warm up of the feet and ankles, including mobilisations, followed by a short routine that paid particular attention to the spinal column and solar plexus reflex points. Back pain intensity was measured using a visual analogue scale at the point of admission, immediately after the intervention, then at two hours, four hours and six hours after intervention.
The results showed that while back pain intensity significantly increased after CA in both groups, the pain intensity in the reflexology group at all post-intervention measurement time points was significantly less than in the control group.
The authors concluded that ‘foot reflexology is effective in significantly reducing back pain after coronary angiography’.