Health Guide


What is it?

Reflexology is a type of foot massage that began over 5000 years ago in China. Paintings in the tombs of ancient Egypt show men massaging the feet of others. Recently, people have found that massaging the feet can do more than just provide relaxation. According to reflexologists, massaging specific reflex points on the foot can have positive healing effects on other parts of the body.

In 1915, Dr. William Fitzgerald developed a system called "zone therapy." This system applied pressure to points on the feet to improve health problems. Eunice Ingham later devoped new massage and stimulation techniques. She also developed a map of the body's reflex points on the feet.

Reflexologists believe that the body deposits waste material in the muscles and connective tissues on the bottom of the feet. During massage, the therapist tries to break down the toxins. Once this is done, the massage will help remove the toxins from the tissues. Some therapists believe that the benefits from the treatments are a result of the deep relaxation that is achieved during and after massage.

Each area of the foot corresponds to another part of the body. The head and brain reflex points are located on the toes. The shoulders are represented in the ball of the foot. Internal organs are mostly represented in the arch. Therapists would treat liver problems by massaging the arch of the right foot since the liver is located on the right side of the body.

The first appointment may last 45 to 90 minutes while follow-up appointments may be 45 to 60 minutes. During each visit, the therapist will examine the foot and look for hard skin, corns, bunions, and infections. The location of these problems will give the therapist an idea about what areas in the body are under stress. The therapist will scan the foot by applying pressure. The patient will often tell the therapist that a certain area is very sore. The position of the sore area on the foot also reveals the associated weakened body part.

Reflexologists have successfully treated many health problems, such as headaches, menstrual and digestive problems, and asthma. Reflexology may also help skin problems, high blood pressure, insomnia, and chronic pain. It is not a stand-alone treatment and should be used with other therapies for serious health problems.

There are a few situations when you should avoid or be careful when receiving reflexology treatments. These include blood clotting or circulation problems in the lower leg, phlebitis, or leg ulcers. Those with pacemakers, kidney or gall stones, or pregnant women should make sure that the reflexologist is aware of these conditions so certain points can be avoided.

Many care givers provide reflexology, such as chiropractors, podiatrists, nurses, and massage therapists. A care giver providing reflexology does not have to be licensed although some states require licensing for massage therapists.

For more information:

  • American Reflexology Certification Board and Information Service (303) 933-6921.
  • International Institute of Reflexology (813) 343-4811.


1. Burton Goldberg Group: Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Future Medicine Publishing, Puyallup, WA; 1994.

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4. Sifton DW: The PDR Family Guide to Natural Medicines and Healing Therapies. Three Rivers Press, NY, NY; 1999.

5. Woodham A & Peters D: Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies, 1st ed. Dorling Kindersley, NY, NY; 1997:90-94.

Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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