Q: What is reflexology and how does it work?
A: The answer depends on separating fact from fiction.
Fact: 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.
Fiction: 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 in distant organs and tissues when their corresponding pressure points are pressed. This ultimately promotes a state of balance or homeostasis in the entire body and distant pathologies normalize. Sounds great right?
Fact: Reflexology does not diagnose or treat specific conditions. 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 and the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killer, which occurs with any form of bodywork.
Fact: There is very little research supporting reflexology and what does exist doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. Reflexology feels great but it doesn’t do what most practitioners claim it does. 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 patients 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 remain within the scope of massage therapy and are always grounded in evidence-informed practice.