Reflexology, or zone therapy, is the practice of massaging, squeezing, or pushing on parts of the feet, or sometimes the hands and ears, with the goal of encouraging a beneficial effect on other parts of the body, or to improve general health.

There is no consensus on how reflexology is supposed to work; a unifying theme is the idea that areas on the foot correspond to areas of the body, and that by manipulating these one can improve health through one's qi.cite book
last = Norman
first = Laura
authorlink = Laura Norman
coauthors = Thomas Cowan
title = The Reflexology Handbook, A Complete Guide
publisher = Piatkus
date = 1989
pages = 22, 23
isbn = 0-86188-912-6

Concerns have been raised by medical professionals that treating potentially serious illnesses with reflexology, which has no proven efficacy, could delay the seeking of help from proven conventional medicine.cite web
title = Reflexology
publisher = National Council Against Health Fraud
date = 1996
url =
accessdate = 2007-01-27 | format = html
] There is no clinical or scientific evidence that reflexology has any beneficial effect. [cite journal
author=Wang MY, Tsai PS, Lee PH, Chang WY, Yang CM
title=The efficacy of reflexology: systematic review
journal=J Adv Nurs

Claimed mechanisms of operation

Reflexologists posit that the body contains an energy field, invisible life force, or Qi, the blockage of which can prevent healing.cite book
last = Norman
first = Laura
authorlink = Laura Norman
coauthors = Thomas Cowan
title = The Reflexology Handbook, A Complete Guide
publisher = Piatkus
date = 1989
pages = 22, 23
isbn = 0-86188-912-6

Other reflexologists claim to be able to relieve stress and pain in other parts of the body through the manipulation of the feet.cite web | url = | title = What is Reflexology? | accessdate = 2006-11-26 | format = html ]

These hypotheses are rejected by the general medical community, citing a lack of scientific evidence and the well-tested germ theory of disease.cite web
title = Natural Standard
publisher = Harvard Medical School
date = July 7, 2005
url =
accessmonthday = January 27 | accessyear=2007


The precursor of modern reflexology was introduced to the United States in 1913 by William H. Fitzgerald, M.D. (1872-1942), an ear, nose, and throat specialist, and Dr. Edwin Bowers. Fitzgerald claimed that applying pressure had an anesthetic effect on other areas of the body.cite book | last = Norman | first = Laura | authorlink = Laura Norman | coauthors = Thomas Cowan | title = The Reflexology Handbook, A Complete Guide | publisher = Piatkus | date = 1989 | pages = 17 | isbn = 0-86188-912-6 ]

Reflexology was further developed in the 1930s and 1940s by Eunice D. Ingham (1899-1974), a nurse and physiotherapist.cite journal | last = Benjamin | first = Patricia | year = 1989 | title = Eunice D. Ingham and the development of foot reflexology in the U.S | journal = American Massage Therapy Journal] [cite web | url = | title = Presents History of Massage, Therapies & Rules | accessdate = 2007-10-12 | format = pdf ] Ingham claimed that the feet and hands were especially sensitive, and mapped the entire body into "reflexes" on the feet. It was at this time that "zone therapy" was renamed reflexology.

Modern reflexologists in the United States and the United Kingdom often learn Ingham's method first, although there are other more recently developed methods.


Common criticisms of reflexology are the lack of central regulation, accreditation and licensing, the lack of medical training provided to reflexologists, and the short duration of training programmes. Diplomas in reflexology can be attained with as little as six months of home study; [cite web | url= | title = The Open College reflexology diploma course | format = html | accessdate = 2007-11-17] and the lack of licensing and regulation allows anyone to practice as a reflexologist, with no qualifications. However, in certain European countries, such as Switzerland, require reflexologists to be medical practitioners, due to the required understanding of anatomy and physiology.

Reflexology's claim to manipulate energy (Qi) has been called pseudoscientific, as there is no scientific evidence for the existence of life energy (Qi), 'crystalline structures,' or 'pathways' in the body. [cite web | last = Barrett | first = Stephen | authorlink = Stephen Barrett | url = | title = Reflexology: A close look | publisher = Quackwatch | accessdate = 2007-10-12 | date = 2004-09-25] According to nearly all reputable scientific studies on the subject, reflxology has no benefit other than a placebo effect.Fact|date=October 2008

Reflexology charts

A reflexology chart shows the "reflex zones" worked by reflexologists on the soles of the feet. Similar maps exist for the position of the reflexes on the hands and ears.

In this chart, the color codes represent the following organs or parts of the body:

Sinuses Spleen
Voice Liver
Pituitary gland Gall Bladder
Neck and Throat Adrenal Gland
Eyes Pancreas
Ears Kidney
Armpit Ureter
Shoulder and Arm Bladder
Lung and Breast Colon
Heart Small Intestine
Thyroid and Bronchial Coccyx
Solar Plexus Sciatic Nerve

other charts: [ Interactive Reflexology Charts]

Reflexology in the Media

An episode of (1-02 Alternative Medicine) focused on reflexology. The original airing was February 7, 2003.

The Real Hustle mentioned reflexology as part of a weight loss scam (Season 4 Episode 2).

See also

* Alternative medicine
* Acupressure
* Acupuncture
* Auriculotherapy
* Metamorphic Technique
* Pseudoscience


External links

Professional bodies and organisations
* [ Association of Reflexologists]
* [ Federation of Holistic Therapists]
* [ International Council of Reflexologists]
* [ Reflexology in Europe Network]
* [ Reflexology Organisations in Different Countries]
* [ TSARS, The South African Reflexology Association]
* [ IFR, The Israeli Forum of Reflexology]

Critical websites

Review of scientific evidence

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • reflexology — 1927, as a psychological theory, from Ger. reflexologie (1912); see REFLEX (Cf. reflex) + OLOGY (Cf. ology). As a foot massage technique, first recorded 1976 …   Etymology dictionary

  • reflexology — ► NOUN ▪ a system of massage used to relieve tension and treat illness, based on the theory that there are points on the feet, hands, and head linked to every part of the body. DERIVATIVES reflexologist noun …   English terms dictionary

  • reflexology — [rē΄fleks äl′ə jē] n. a practice involving the use of acupressure or massage of the hands or, esp., the feet to relieve pain in other parts of the body, reduce tension, etc. reflexologist n …   English World dictionary

  • reflexology — The study of reflexes. [reflex + G. logos, study] * * * re·flex·ol·o·gy .rē .flek säl ə jē n, pl gies 1) the study and interpretation of behavior in terms of simple and complex reflexes 2) massage of the feet or hands based on the belief that… …   Medical dictionary

  • reflexology — [[t]ri͟ːfleksɒ̱ləʤi[/t]] N UNCOUNT Reflexology is the practice of massaging particular areas of the body, especially the feet, in the belief that it can heal particular organs. Derived words: reflexologist plural N COUNT A reflexologist can often …   English dictionary

  • reflexology — n. a complementary therapy based on the theory that reflex points on the feet correspond with all body parts. Firm pressure is applied to the relevant reflex points using the thumb or fingers. Reflexology is said to be able to help with specific… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • Reflexology path — A Reflexology path is a path or walkway designed with the stated intent to stimulate points on the foot corresponding to reflexology beliefs. As in reflexology, this must be done barefoot for any effect. The effects are thought to be similar to a …   Wikipedia

  • reflexology — noun Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary Date: 1923 1. the study and interpretation of behavior in terms of simple and complex reflexes 2. massage of the hands or feet based on the belief that pressure applied to specific points on… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • reflexology — reflexologist, n. /ree flek sol euh jee/, n. 1. a system of massaging specific areas of the foot or sometimes the hand in order to promote healing, relieve stress, etc., in other parts of the body. 2. Med. the study of reflex movements and… …   Universalium

  • reflexology — noun a) The study and interpretation of behavior in terms of simple and complex reflexes. b) A form of complementary medicine involving the stimulation of points on the feet, hands, or ears, in the belief that it will have a beneficial effect on… …   Wiktionary

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