Reflexology in the management of encopresis and chronic constipation

Paediatric Nursing vol 15 no 3 April 2003

Eileen Bishop RSCN, SCM, Reflexologist, Paediatric Liaison Sister;
Evelyn McKinnon RSCN, Reflexologist, Community Paediatric Staff Nurse;
Evelyn Weir RSCN, SCM, BSc Health Studies, Reflexologist, Staff Nurse Paediatric Unit;
Denise W Brown Dip IHMS, Clinical Effectiveness Facilitator, Ayrshire & Arran Acute Hospitals Trust

Encopresis or faecal incontinence in children is an extremely distressing condition that is usually secondary to chronic constipation/stool withholding. Traditional management with enemas may add to the child’s distress.

This study investigated the efficacy of treating patients with encopresis and chronic constipation with reflexology.

An observational study was carried out of 50 children between three and 14 years of age who had a diagnosis of encopresis/chronic constipation.

The children received six sessions of 30-minutes of reflexology to their feet. With the help of their parents they completed questionnaires on bowel motions and soiling patterns before, during and after the treatment.

A further questionnaire was completed by parents pre and post treatment on their attitude towards reflexology.

Forty-eight of the children completed the sessions. The number of bowel motions increased and the incidence of soiling decreased. Parents were keen to try the reflexology and were satisfied with the effect of reflexology on their child’s condition.

It appears that reflexology has been an effective method of treating encopresis and constipation over a six-week period in this cohort of patients.

Observed results

After their first reflexology session, the children seemed to look forward to attending, often removing their socks on the way to the treatment area.
The nurses, who have experience of treating these patients for many years both with enemas and now with reflexology, generally found the parents to be less anxious and parent/child relationships less strained. They also felt that it was less traumatic both for the patient and themselves compared to administering an enema.
It was noted that none of the children required an enema during the study.
Anecdotally, many parents remarked on their child’s increased appetite and improved sleep pattern