Q: What is reflexology and how does it work?
A: The answer depends on what you think it can do.
There are over 7200 nerve endings in each foot which have extensive interconnections, through the spinal cord and brain, with all areas of the body. Reflexologists are taught that by stimulating these nerve endings, messages are sent along the body’s nerve pathways to its various organs, systems and tissues. In this way, a therapist stimulates and communicates with the nerve network (autonomic nervous system) of the body, creating an involuntary or reflexive response. The body responds by producing endorphins, the body’s natural pain killer.
Reflexology does not diagnose or treat specific conditions, but rather encourages the body’ into a state of balance or homeostasis. Am I affecting a distant organ or system when I press on its corresponding reflex point? Likely not. Does the body feel great after a session of reflexology? Almost always but this is primarily due to the nervous system switching from Sympathetic to Parasympathetic as the body relaxes.
Even the little bit of speculation above is just that, speculation, because there is very little research supporting reflexology. As such, as an RMT, I offer this service only as an adjunct to a traditional massage session and not as a stand-alone treatment. So why do I offer it? Well, I took the training as a young RMT and found that many of my clients really enjoy it. It’s techniques provide a vocabulary I find very useful and effective for those who request more extensive work on their feet but my goals and intentions always remain within the scope of massage therapy.