What is Reflexology? More Than a Foot Massage

what is reflexology

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Have you ever seen a reflexology treatment?

In many ways it appears similar to a regular foot massage. After all, the person who is giving the treatment is rubbing the foot in a very therapeutic way and the person receiving the treatment is also receiving many benefits such as relaxation and stress relief.

However, reflexology is associated with even more claims about people’s health than a simple foot massage. For example, some reflexologists claim that they can diagnose a medical condition just by examining the feet.

Before we continue, I would like to emphasize that this post is for informational purposes only. I am not a healthcare professional and this post is not meant to diagnose or treat any health conditions. Read my full medical disclaimer here.

What exactly is reflexology and why is it so tied in with claims of medical benefits?

Reflexology  is a technique where pressure is applied to the hands or feet. This is based upon the theory that certain zones on the hands and feet correspond with specific organs of the body. For example, the ball of your foot is connected to your lungs and heart. According to reflexology, manipulating these zones should have an impact on your health and the health of your organs.

The theories behind reflexology are pretty deep and are rooted in the concept of  “Qi”. According to Chinese traditional medicine, Qi is the life force that flows throughout the body and links everything together.

what is reflexology

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In this practice, sickness and disease can occur when the Qi becomes blocked and unable to flow as it should. For example, the Qi can become blocked when you are stressed out and this can make you sick. Reflexology aims to help heal a person by releasing these blockages and thus helping the Qi to flow as it should.

Who could benefit from reflexology?

Reflexology is ideal for people who are already healthy and want to improve their overall well-being. It is also great as a complementary practice for people who suffer from pain or a chronic disease and have to get regular medical treatment.

In addition to the claims of releasing Qi, reflexology also provides a wonderful opportunity to talk about health with someone outside of a traditional medical environment which can sometimes feel rushed and busy. This relationship can provide an outlet for people who are dealing with chronic conditions.

Some claims about reflexology may be too good to be true…

Sometimes, people can take the benefits of reflexology a little too far and claim that reflexology can actually heal medical conditions. The focus of reflexology on specific organ systems makes it seem more capable of healing a disease than a more generalized approach like a massage. But is there any actual truth to this claim? Can reflexology actually heal disease?

A 2009 research review looked at the effect of reflexology on several medical conditions. Some of these medical conditions included:

  • Asthma
  • Back pain
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Headache
  • Menopause
  • Multiple Sclerosis
what is reflexology

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The study did not find convincing evidence that reflexology was effective for any of these conditions. It is important to take into consideration, however, that reflexology has not been vigorously researched.

Many of the studies on reflexology are small and poorly designed so it is difficult to demonstrate any results. Basically, it would be a mistake to claim that reflexology has these benefits but it would also be a mistake to not explore it further.

More scientific research needs to be done especially since it is a relatively gentle and noninvasive treatment that could benefit a lot of people.

It is very important to understand the limitations of reflexology. When people face difficult medical conditions, alternative medicines can provide them with some hope and control. When claims are taken too far, however,  it can result in wasted money at best or an avoidance of effective medical treatments at worst.

Even if the effectiveness of reflexology is not backed by rigorous scientific study, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about its benefits. Stories abound from people who used reflexology to help them battle cancer, fight Parkinson’s, or deal with pain. Even if it doesn’t treat specific diseases it is still incredibly relaxing which can in turn help people heal.

Who should avoid reflexology

Reflexology is not for everyone. In fact, it may even be risky for for people. According to experts from the University of Minnesota , you should avoid reflexology is you have a foot injury, are in the early stages of pregnancy, have a thrombosis or embolism, or have an open wound. Thankfully, many of these conditions are quite temporary so with patience you should eventually be able to try out reflexology.

what is reflexology

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Ultimately, it is difficult to say that reflexology is any more effective than a foot massage based upon scientific evidence. However, there are plenty of people who have benefited from it based upon anecdotal evidence and it is a fairly gentle and noninvasive treatment.

If you are interested in reflexology and alternative therapies, you should consider learning about the benefits associated with a massage also. Massages have some benefits that are fairly obvious and some that are surprising so you will want to check this out.

So, what do you think about reflexology? Is it a good choice for an alternative medical therapy or is it just fluff based upon pseudoscience? Let me know in the comments down below!

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  1. I can honestly say that I didn’t understand reflexology before reading your post. I didn’t know that it was strictly with your hands and feet. It’s hard to say whether I believe or not since I haven’t tried it but if it helps with stress then how can it be bad?
    I may see what is available locally to try it out. What do you ask for when booking a treatment? Are they all the same? If not, is there something you would recommend for a first-timer?

  2. I really did not know what reflexology is. So this was all great information for me. I was also surprised to see that it is not good for some people to practice reflexology. I can see people with foot injuries, as this might make it more painful. I am curious why pregnant women should avoid this? I can see myself doing this to help with my overall health. Who do you see to have this done?

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