Reflexology: Taking a new look

If you have dismissed reflexology in the past it might well be time for you to reconsider.

If you think about it, it isn't surprising that many people have dismissed reflexology in their minds. After all, there just isn't any obvious reason why an intelligent person would be willing to believe that a simple massage of the feet would have any kind of important therapeutic benefit. Sure, we can all agree that it might be pleasurable -- even very relaxing -- but, that is about it, right? There is absolutely no precedent or intelligent basis for the basic premise of reflexology that areas of the feet correspond to other parts of the body, and. that stimulation of these areas of the feet therapeutically relaxes the corresponding parts of the body.

However, advocates make far reaching claims about reflexology: Arthritis completely cured, headaches gone away, back aches all cleared up, asthma totally relieved, sinuses cleared, PMS disappeared, ovarian cysts vanished, stomach ulcer healed. ...

And now it is beginning to look like there may be something to all of these claims.

For instance, in the December, 1993 issue of the prestigious American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a research paper presented by William Flocco and Terry Oleson PhD. showed reflexology to reduce women's P.M.S. symptoms by 46 percent for the eight weeks of weekly treatments. And this was sustained with 42 percent reduction of symptoms for eight weeks after treatment. This was not as effective as drug treatments, however reflexology had none of the side effects that drug treatments had. The conclusion was that reflexology should be considered an effective therapy for P.M.S.

This was the first scientifically accepted reflexology research study conducted in North America. However, I recently discovered that scientific research of reflexology has been conducted in other parts of the world.

For example, when compared to North America, there has been a much more receptive attitude to reflexology in Denmark, with the result that there are approximately 3,500 practising Danish reflexologists, as compared to 3,000 practising medical doctors. Some of these reflexologists are working in medical settings including hospitals, and some others are employed by large corporations for their employees. These corporations find the resultant reduced sick leave and improved productivity of their employees worthy of employing reflexologists.

Simultaneously, I learned of three Danish research studies that report positive results from reflexology treatment for persons suffering from poor blood circulation, kidney stones and constipation. Another study indicates that reflexology was beneficial for women in a number of different circumstances during their childbirth.

A research study conducted in Australia to evaluate reflexology's benefit for people suffering from pain -- arthritic pain, unexplained internal pain and tension headaches -- also reported positive results. Similarly, in Switzerland, a research study evaluated the benefits of reflexology for persons with terminal cancer, all of whom were suffering from pain. The results showed that reflexology not only relieved their pain, but also added quality to the dying person's life.

In China, a study by X.M. Wang at Beijing Medical University, entitled "Treating type II diabetes mellitus with foot reflexotherapy" concluded that foot reflexotherapy was an effective therapy for type II diabetes mellitus, and, listed a number of symptoms that were significantly reduced by reflexotherapy.

In summation, from around the world, scientific research has shown that reflexology is an effective therapy for a diverse range of health conditions: PMS., kidney stones, constipation, childbirth, arthritis, internal pain, tension headaches and the pain suffered by persons with terminal cancer, and, diabetes mellitus type II.

Reflexology therapeutically reduces stress and tension throughout the whole body. Consequently, blood and lymph circulation improves, nerve supply to the cells is improved, and the release of toxins from the body is increased. These physiological benefits facilitate improvement in the body's assimilation of nutrients, elimination of wastes, and the functioning of it's immune system. In general, reflexology facilitates optimum functioning of all the systems of the body. It is in these ways that reflexology supports the body in it's process of healing itself and maintaining optimum health.

Although the scientific research focuses on reflexology used by itself, it is also a very effective complement to other natural health therapies.

For example, reflexology can facilitate more effective chiropractic adjustments that hold for longer. It also complements massage and other physical therapies by reducing stress and tension in the internal glands and organs of the body, and, by relieving stress from parts of the body that are too painful to be directly worked on, such as whiplash. In addition, it complements nutritional and herbal therapies and colon therapy by facilitating more efficient assimilation and elimination in the digestive system.

How reflexology works no one knows. It will probably take some sophisticated research to determine that. What is becoming apparent is that it does work. One of the beautiful paradoxes of reflexology is that even though it is very potent in its effectiveness, it is also very simple and safe to administer.

Of course, until a therapy is used, it has absolutely no benefit! In most communities, reflexologists can be found listed in the Yellow Pages, or, your local natural food store is likely to know of a local practitioner. Similarly, natural food stores have reflexology books, charts and the instructional video available. The Reflexology Association of Canada has a list of reflexologists on its website at


By Christopher Shirley

Christopher Shirley is owner/director of the Pacific Institute of Reflexology in Vancouver, B.C. where he practices, teaches and promotes reflexology.

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