Is Foot Reflexology Real?

Category: Massage Posted: 05 Aug 2018

Posted: 05 Aug 2018

A detailed foot reflexology map showing the various body parts and organs that are associated with particular zones on the feet. Whether reflexology is real is for you to decide.

The Internet is awash with claims for and against the principles of reflexology and whether or not it works. Reflexologists look up at the soles of your feet, whilst the rest of us look down at the top of our feet. We think everyone is looking at reflexology the wrong way around. We are essentially talking about massaging feet – surely that shouldn’t cause a huge debate? A very closely related treatment type which has its own separate article is hand reflexology.


What is reflexology?

Reflexologists believe applying pressure to certain parts of your feet can have beneficial healing effects in other parts of your body. The reflexology map above shows which body parts and organs are believed to be connected to which parts of the feet.

Got a blocked nose? Try pressing the middle of your right foot’s big toe. Suffering from a weakened libido? Get some pressure on your heels and the belief is that you could be active again in that department very soon! If all that sounds too good to be true, just consider this: we just don’t know. And nor does anyone else. As we said at the top there are quite literally thousands of theories supporting and opposing these theories.


What does science say?

There has been lots of reflexology research but no conclusive scientific evidence presented either anatomically or physiologically to verify that ‘energy lines’ connect the various parts of your body to the soles of your feet. However, there is also no scientific evidence that has disproven the theories behind reflexology. So what does this all mean? Throughout the history of the human race, we have repeatedly seen things proven that we did not previously understand or believe in. So we say, let's keep an open mind until we know for sure either way.


Reflexology and Chi (or Qi)

The belief that our bodies are a network of vital energy flows which if blocked result in pain, is entwined with the long-standing Chinese tradition of Chi, which is also used in Shiatsu, a similar treatment based on the whole body and reflex points. More recently, studies on the Neuromatrix theory of pain have asserted that indeed the brain may not only respond with a feeling of pain to physical tissue damage but also to negative emotional factors. This suggests that external factors such as stress or mood can cause your brain to respond with a feeling of pain. Reflexology and Shiatsu, or any other massage style for that matter, may be reducing the pain you feel in the parts of your body that were not even touched simply by reducing overall stress and anxiety.


A Simple Foot Massage

So to the original question, is reflexology real? Whichever way you are inclined to feel about the underlying beliefs of foot reflexology, it is hard to argue with one thing: having your feet massaged feels good!

Science is not always the answer to everything and sometimes it helps to stand back (or sit back if you’re receiving reflexology right now!) and look at the bigger picture. If something feels good, then that will most likely reduce your stress levels. And it is scientifically proven that reducing stress is good for your health. Some people love certain parts of reflexology and dislike others. For example, targeted pressure applied to the middle of the heel of each foot is popular ... look at the picture above and you’ll see maybe why that’s no surprise! On the other hand, many people find the technique of pinching the area in-between the toes, which is supposedly good for relieving tired eyes, quite uncomfortable. As always, feel free to speak up and ask your massage therapist to adapt her treatment if anything feels painful or you just don't like it.

We think that every 90 minute full-body massage should include a good foot massage, lasting around 5 - 10 minutes. Whether that means including targeted zone therapy based on the beliefs of reflexology to help alleviate issues in other parts of your body or not, is completely up to you. What it does mean is that your feet should feel more relaxed, you should feel happier and lighter and all that together will have a positive holistic effect on your wellness.