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Does reflexology work?

Firstly, before we get into the subject, we will make clear that we’re not reflexologists; however, as podiatrists, we work in the same physical area as reflexology practitioners and it’s therefore a subject of interest to us.


What is reflexology?


Gravity means that, as mammals that walk upright, our feet support our entire body. Reflexology works on the premise that every part of the body is represented somewhere on our feet and hands, and that applying pressure to specific areas of these extremities will ease pain elsewhere.


person receiving reflexology treatment massages.

There’s no evidence as to exactly where the practice originated, as historical documents from India, China and Egypt all mention a similar form of therapy. The Chinese champion a number of alternative therapies that are based on the flow of energy around the body. Reflexology uses more pressure and stimulation than such as acupuncture (which involves the application of small needles to redirect the body’s energy) to improve blood flow and circulation, and it could almost be described as massage; however, practitioners will undoubtedly tell you that there’s more to reflexology than this. They suggest that the therapy can treat such conditions as asthma, diabetes, and even cancer.


Like many alternative therapies, however, reflexology is not regulated.


Does it hurt?


Just as with any manipulation of your skin and bones, if you’re feeling pain in that part of your body, i.e. your feet, you may find reflexology uncomfortable. You may also feel light-headed after a session. However, if the pain you feel in other parts of your body lifts or eases following the reflexology, you may find it worth the discomfort.


Does it work?


There have been numerous studies on the effectiveness of reflexology, with few absolute results. There are plenty of people who swear by it but, given that there’s no science to back up the technique, it’s not clear if the relief people feel afterwards is psychosomatic or actual tangible effect. Fans of reflexology are happy enough with their results to continue treatment—it doesn’t matter if outcomes are verifiable or not. It works for them…so, should it matter that there’s no scientific evidence that it works? If an individual’s stress and anxiety lessen through a course of reflexology, is that reason enough to continue? It may not treat disease in as definitive a manner as other techniques, medicines and practices, but are there enough grounds to consider reflexology as an effective complementary therapy?


woman with inflamed painful foot taking off heels.

The jury’s out. To some, that a medical practice is backed by science and is regulated does matter. And in terms of fellow medical practitioners recommending it, it does matter. Because we can’t guarantee whether reflexology will help your particular ailment, it’s unlikely that we’ll suggest it to you as part of your treatment plan. Again, that’s not to say reflexology is dangerous or to be avoided, it’s just not something we champion.


There are plenty of reasons why you may be experiencing pain in your feet; if you read through some of our other articles, they may shed light on the problem. What we’d definitely suggest is that you book an appointment with us at our Morley or Wombwell clinic. We’re fully trained by the SAME Institute (the longest running independent provider of foot health training) and we’re insured by the IOCP (Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists). We can show you the science associated with our support.


Call the Morley practice on 0113 238 0330 or Wombwell on 01226 492412.

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