Could Reflexology Remedy Your Symptoms?

Could the key to good health be all in your feet? According to patients and practitioners of reflexology, the remedy for many symptoms, illnesses and conditions is one touch away. Could reflexology help you? 

Reflexology is an ancient healing practice of applying pressure with the thumbs and fingers to dozens of specific points mapped out in the feet, hands or ears that correspond with other body parts. For example, the ball of the foot corresponds to the heart whereas the arch and heel correspond to the lower back. The left foot corresponds to body functions on the left side of the body and the right foot to the right side of the body. Applying pressure to these specific points releases stress, which aids in healing and disease prevention. Reflexology is not intended to diagnose or cure specific illnesses, but is used as a supportive therapy to promote healing. 

The Center for Spirituality and Healing and the Life Science Foundation at the University of Minnesota say there are currently two theories that may explain how reflexology works with the central nervous system to promote healing:

  • One theory says the application of pressure to specific points sends a calming message from the peripheral nerves to the central nervous system, which in turn signals the body to adjust stress and tension levels. This enhances relaxation, brings internal organs and their systems into a state of optimal functioning. It increases circulation, oxygenation and nutrition to cells and positively affects the circulatory, respiratory, endocrine, immune and neuropeptide systems in the body.
  • Another theory says reflexology produces pain relief based on the gate control theory of pain. This theory says pain is subjective and created by the brain in response to sensory, emotional and cognitive factors including mood and stress levels. Reflexology may reduce pain by reducing stress and improving mood.

Reflexologists stress they don't heal patients. Instead, they help patients heal themselves by supporting a healthy mind-body-spirit connection. What conditions are currently addressed with reflexology? Reflexology has been proven helpful for many patients with chronic and acute pain (including post-operative pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, arthritis and cancer-related pain), nausea, anxiety, headache, fibromyalgia, menstrual irregularities, endocrine and heart disorders, cancer and other conditions.

Several studies, funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health indicate that reflexology shows promise as an intervention to reduce pain and enhance relaxation, sleep, and the reduction of anxiety, depression, and other psychological symptoms. A study published in the Oncology Nursing Forum Journal says that reflexology had an immediate effect on decreasing pain and anxiety in patients with metastatic cancer. 

How can you find a reflexologist? The Reflexology Association of America offers a state-by-state list of reflexology practitioners to help you find one in your area, but you can also ask other complementary and alternative health care providers (like acupuncturists and chiropractors) for recommendations. 


The Reflexology Association of America

Professionals by State

Center for Spirituality & Healing and the Life Science Foundation.

University of Minnesota


Oncology Nursing Forum

Partner-Delivered Reflexology: Effects on Cancer Pain and Anxiety

Volume 34, Number 1 / 2007


Nancy L.N. Stephenson, PhD, RN, CS, Melvin Swanson, PhD, JoAnn Dalton, EdD, RN, FAAN, Frances J. Keefe, PhD, Martha Engelke, PhD, RN