Reflexology is a form of foot (and occasionally hand) massage, which is not only relaxing but is also used as a therapy for a variety of medical conditions. It is based on the principle that every part of the body is reflected in a precise area of the feet; by stimulating the appropriate ‘reflex points’, toxins (uric acid and calcium crystals) are cleared away, and the energy can flow freely along the energy zones throughout the body. The massage also increases circulation, aiding the distribution of nutrients and oxygen, and removing waste products from the system. Not only the physical body, but also the emotional states of the patient may be influenced by manipulation of the feet.

There is evidence that forms of reflexology were used in China over 5,000 years ago. Although the system of energy points and channels resembles that used in several other Chinese therapies, such as acupuncture, most reflexologists maintain that they are quite separate. Modern reflexology was developed in the twentieth century, and it is now popular in the UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand, both as a private therapy and in some institutions (including pain clinics, cancer centres and special care baby-units).

The mechanism behind the theory is not understood scientifically, but randomised controlled trials have found reflexology to be beneficial in some cases.

Who may benefit from Reflexology

Conditions which may respond to reflexology include:
Gastro-intestinal disorders (including irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcers)
Ear, eye, nose, throat and sinus problems
Skin problems (including eczema and psoriasis)
Menstrual problems
Multiple Sclerosis
Parkinson's disease
Prostate problems
Wound healing
High blood pressure
Circulation problems

Children over the age of one may be treated, and conditions such as hyperactivity, bedwetting and glue-ear are considered particularly suitable.

Reflexology is also used for pain control in arthritis, migraine and other headaches, back/neck pain, and foot pain. The relaxation properties of reflexology massage are also beneficial to most people, especially stroke patients.

It may not be suitable for people with osteoporosis, phlebitis, thrombosis, epilepsy, thyroid disorder, diabetes, or those with a heart condition.


At the first consultation, the reflexologist may ask about the patient’s past and present health and lifestyle. Initially the practitioner will work on the whole foot (body), not just the part affected by a specific ailment, since this is a holistic therapy, and any underlying causes must be identified. Any pain or tenderness experienced as the reflex points are stimulated indicates the presence of crystalline deposits, and therefore an imbalance in the corresponding area of the body. These areas will be massaged gently but firmly to clear the energy channels.

Once the problem areas have been identified, reflexology of the hands or feet can be practised at home between treatment sessions.

Most sessions last 45-60 minutes. The frequency of the treatments, and length of the course depend upon the condition being treated; many people have regular treatment over long periods to maintain well-being.

Vacuflex reflexology
This is a variation of reflexology, in which all the reflex points are stimulated simultaneously as the patient wears special vaccuum boots.

Metamorphic technique/Prenatal Therapy
This technique goes one step further than reflexology, claiming that physical, emotional and mental patterns of our lives are established while we are in the womb and are mapped out on our hands and feet. The treatment does not claim to cure ailments, but rather to help the patient undergo creative and positive transformations. This is said to be particularly suitable for patients with long-standing health problems, including physical and mental disabilities.


Possible after-effects of reflexology include feeling nauseous, tired or emotional for a couple of days after treatment; a need to urinate more often may also be noticed. It is also possible that existing symptoms may worsen before improving, or else a rash, cough or mild flu-like symptoms may develop; this is known as a ‘healing crisis’, and is said to indicate that the body is beginning to eliminate toxins.

Reflexology is compatible with all other forms of therapy, though you should advise your practitioner if you are taking any medication, conventional or complementary, since the increase in excretions from the body may interfere with them. It is suggested that reflexology is particularly effective when combined with acupuncture, osteopathy or light therapy.


Association of Reflexologists
27 Old Gloucester Street
London WC1N 3XX
Tel: 0870 567 3320

British Reflexology Association
Monks Orchard
Worcester WR6 5RB
Tel: 01886 821 207

International Federation of Reflexologists
76-78 Edridge Road
Surrey CR0 1EF
Tel: 020 8645 9134

Reflexologists' Society
PO box 5422
Leicester LE2 2YG
Tel: 0870 607 3241

Kunz & Kunz - The Complete Guide to Foot Reflexology ISBN: 0722539150
Ann Gillanders - Reflexology – Theory and Practice ISBN: 0951186825

« Back