Reflexology - Stories the feet can tell

Reflexology. False claims are rampant.

Reflexology is NOT a type of massage. It is a type of hands on therapy that addresses the feet and hands and assumes that there are reflex points on the hands and feet that when worked on will change other areas of the body. It is different than just regular foot massage. There is also types of reflexology massage that are called ear reflexology, facial reflexology, maternity reflexology, craniosacral reflexology, body reflexology, deurmoneural reflexology, fertility reflexology, Praxis Vertebralis Neuro-foot Reflexology, Vertical Reflex Therapy according to the Reflexology Association of Canada.

There are three arms of reflexology associations in the U.S.:

  1. The American Reflexology Certification Board® (ARCB®, The nonprofit, independent testing agency
  2. The Reflexology Association of America (RAA;, the national membership organization
  3. The National Council for Reflexology Educators (NCRE:, the voice and resource center for reflexology educators, agreed on one definition to describe the practice

These three organizations got together to define Reflexology:

Reflexology is a protocol of manual techniques, such as thumb- and finger-walking, hook and backup and rotating-on-a-point, applied to specific reflex areas predominantly on the feet and hands. These techniques stimulate the complex neural pathways linking body systems, supporting the body’s efforts to function optimally.

The effectiveness of reflexology is recognized worldwide by various national health institutions and the public at large as a distinct complementary practice within the holistic health field.

People who provide true Reflexology sessions may or may not be licensed massage therapists depending on the legislation in each state. For instance: WA State has a separate license that is available if you just want to do reflexology and has different requirements than a licensed massage therapist.

Reflexology Certification

Certification vs Certificate of completion is once again confused by people teaching, learning and giving Reflexology sessions. A Certification is given by a certifying agency that creates an exam independent of training. Anyone trained in Reflexology can take the exam and call themselves Certified when they pass it. Many teachers/schools claim to offer a Certification program when in fact they are just certificates of completion. Learn more about the difference between Certification and certificate.

Certified Reflexologists will have at least 300 hours of training in just Reflexology. There is foot Refexology and Hand Reflexology. Most programs combine the two but you can take one or the other.

There are also many schools of thought in the Reflexology sector:

  • American Standard Method Ingram Method
  • Universal Method of Reflexology. South African, Chris Stormer Academy of Universal Health and Healing:
  • Zoku Shin Do (amz), Japanese style of reflexology
  • The Flocco Method, integration of foot, hand, and ear reflexology :
  • Gentle Touch Reflexology ™ founded by and taught by Sue Ricks:
  • Rwo Shur Reflexology, foot reflexology commonly practiced in modern Asia. The Rwo Shur method was developed in Taiwan by Father Joseph Eugster, a Swiss missionary.
  • Hot Stone Reflexology (hot stone massage and reflexology)
  • SMART Ayurvedic Reflexology, the Stathis Method of Ayurvedic Reflex Therapy (SMART)
  • Grinberg Method founded by Avi Grinberg and he started a school in 1980 in Israel. Avi Grinberg is the author of several books including Holistic Reflexology (1989) and Foot Analysis (1993). His book, Fear, Pain and Some Other Friends (1994), presents the basic concepts of the Grinberg Method and offers practical ways of incorporating them into daily life.
  • Metamorphic Technique® – Gaston Saint-Pierre, defined the Metamorphic Technique® as simply being a practice of detachment.  The practitioner does not look to address specific symptoms or problems, nor do they impose their will or seek to direct the recipient’s life in any way. The Metamorphic Technique: Principles and Practice Paperback. See also Metamorphic Association.
  • Vita Flex Therapy (nutrition and reflexology) . The Vita-Flex technique is said to be a unique among the various pressure point therapies in that it is not simply a direct pressure on a point but more like a rotation or swing through the point.
  • Chi-Reflexology (acupuncture, energy medicine, and reflexology)
  • Coordinative Reflexology (reflexology and massage) combines mental coordination with physical coordination created by by Shmuel Zaidel.

Reflexology/Foot Massage or Illegal Massage Business

One of the major problems with Reflexology and Foot massage is that there are many places that offer these sessions but they are not licensed massage therapists and it can be a cover for illegal massage businesses or Brothels doing business as massage therapists which is a big issue in the massage profession overall. Loopholes in licensing laws have allowed people to bypass licensing with many states giving exemptions for people working exculsively on the feet.

What the research says about Reflexology.

There is more research now on Reflexology that shows that it helps for various conditions. The thing is there is no research that actually shows that reflex zones exist or that points on the feet and hands are connected in anyway to the rest of the body. The claim that every organ of the body maps to a specific spot on the feet is a false claim. Reflexology most likely looks like it works because massaging the feet just feels good and the connection with the massage therapist (therapeutic relationship) along with the fact that massage calms the nervous system down maybe the reason why Reflexology works.

Reflexology Research Center – 380 Reflexology Research Abstracts provided by Bill Flocco of the Amerian Academy of Reflexology.

Reflex Association of Canada list of research studies on Reflexology.

See also: History of Reflexology

Evidence Based Medicine – Reading list on Reflexology Research

Reflexology Research Doesn’t Put Its Best Foot Forward. McGill University. While a foot massage can be relaxing, reflexologists use low-quality studies to justify fancy health claims

Systematic reviews of studies of reflexology report that we cannot conclude that reflexology works for any health condition.

It is OK to get sessions that are called Reflexology. Just know what you are getting is a great foot massage.