Problems with reflexology

Yep, this about sums it up:



  1. #1 tim gueguen
    October 1, 2006

    It would be fascinating to know the thought processes that lead to the creation of some of these kind of things. How did someone decide that pressing on your feet could effect various parts of your body?

  2. #2 James
    October 1, 2006

    Probably a one-point correlation i.e. someone in the village has a missing big toe and jaundice and puts 2 and 2 together. Of course the correct answer was pi, not 4 but oh well.

    This particular form of woo does have one redeeming feature in that it leaves itsslef open to the Samuel Johnson rebuttal: cry out “I refute it thus!” and stub your toe on a rock.

  3. #3 sophia8
    October 1, 2006

    I’ve often wondered what reflexologists say about those people with genetic defects who are born without feet, or amputees who lose both feet?
    I mean, shouldn’t such people be dead?

  4. #4 Joe
    October 1, 2006

    In the British comedy “The Thin Blue Line” someone shows Rowan Atkinson a highly-detailed, reflexology chart. He studies briefly, then asks where the “foot” is represented. He can see wherer to rub if the liver is ailing; but there seems to be no place for foot problems.

  5. #5 Tanta
    October 1, 2006

    How did someone decide that pressing on your feet could affect various parts of your body?

    Gee, I don’t know. I get a physical exam by a real live board-certified Actual Doctor every three weeks to measure the amount of damage I suffered from the last chemo round before I undergo the next one. It always involves poking my toes, and my problem isn’t foot cancer. The GI surgeon always asks me if my shoulder hurts, too, and last I knew the transverse colon was in the abdomen, not the clavicle. I know we’re not talking about iridology here, but what’s with my gynecologist peering up from between the stirrups to ask me if my glasses still work OK? (“They’re fine,” I always say. “How are yours?”)

    Nobody took the time to explain to me what this was all about, or to make sure I understood the difference between therapy and diagnosis on the one hand and disease and side effects on the other. I know what I know about “autonomic neuropathy” and “referred pain” because I’m a highly-educated highly-motivated intellectually curious sort with a decent DSL connection and more time on my hands (in one sense) than I’d like. I’m not likely to run off to some reflexologist because they appear to do the same things that my oncologist appears to do, only way cheaper, less painful, and with a much more optimistic prognosis offered. But I suspect you doctors wouldn’t be as crabby as you often are if all your patients were like this, no?

    The snark over this is pretty funny, but I do wish doctors and other healthcare sorts would climb off the high horse for a minute and ask themselves how much they inadvertently contribute to the problem by failing to demystify their patients on a regular basis. Just handing someone some photocopied list of “things you should call your doctor about” that includes, among other things, pain in your toes, without explanation, doesn’t exactly give you the right to turn around and wonder where people get these weird ideas. Is it really so far-fetched to think that an understandably stressed-out person with no science background might conclude that doctors know when “things are serious” with an abdominal mass by checking out your feet? How long does it take before my sister-in-law’s co-worker’s accountant is e-mailing God and everybody about a friend of a friend whose ovarian cancer was diagnosed with toe-poking and treated by massaging her left shoulder at a major east coast medical research teaching hospital?

    Don’t get me wrong–I admire all you scientists and surgeons and oncologists a great deal. What seems so incredibly complex and counterintuitive and hard for me to grasp just seems so easy and obvious to you all. Therein might lie a problem.

    Sorry to be such an uppity bitch patient today, but, well, my feet hurt.

  6. #6 Julie Stahlhut
    October 1, 2006

    It’s kind of like homeopathy. If you get worse when you don’t take your medicine, it’s probably because of an overdose.

    (Glad to know that someone else here is a fan of “The Thin Blue Line”!)

  7. #7 mike stanton
    October 1, 2006

    Slightly related.
    now that body piercing is all the rage how long before some ODs on acupuncture?

  8. #8 Dr. Steve
    October 2, 2006

    I have always been amazed at the proliferation of homonculi in the alt. med. field – i.e the whole body maps out on the:

    1) feet (reflexology)
    2) ear (auricular accupuncture)
    3) eye (iridology)
    4) head (phrenology)
    5) skin (accupuncture)
    6) spine (chiropractic)

  9. #9 Joe
    October 2, 2006

    Dr. Steve,

    I share your amazement; but I think phrenology died (no?) after Mark Twain heaped ridicule on it. If I am right, we need a modern-day Twain to take on the others.

  10. #10 marcia
    October 2, 2006

    Abdominal pain has the unusual ability to travel along deep nerve pathways and emerge at sites away from the source of the problem. Pain related to gallbladder inflammation, for example, can spread to your chest and your right shoulder. Pain from a pancreas disorder may radiate up between your shoulder blades. This is often called “referred pain.”

    Toes are poked because neuropathy from chemotherapy is noticed peripherally.

    Docs don’t have time to educate every patient. They just don’t. They have plenty of reading material for that and good nurses with knowledge.

  11. #11 Kevin Kunz
    October 3, 2006

    I don’t think it was anyone person that came up with this idea. It is more likely that it is an archestructure built into our nervous system. I have met any number of people who if they had a headache for example would rub their feet. Something they learned on their own. Never knew it as reflexology.

    Information sharing is something we are all quite aware of for computer networks. Yet we don’t give it a thought in human kind. Yet survival depends on information sharing to use our bodily resources effectively. Movement intelligence is an important component of everything we do. The real time fast computational skills of the body are amazing. And very specific.

    But this adaptation comes at a cost. If you have been injured and/or under a lot of stress the body will focus survival rather than repair or well being. What you see with feet and hands is a lot of adaptation. . We call them “stress cues”.

    I think of it as a map of the information fed forward to ensure survival. It is this level of tone which is reflected in the feet And yes they are very specific. Our response to stress is not only general but very, very specific.

    Is it diagnostic? Not yet. An Israeli study found reflexologist are pretty good at what system is effected by the allostatic load. Other studies have found that reflexologist are not all that good at specific disorders. However using reflexological principles there is new technology that apparently could bridge the gap. We will have to see what the research says.

    It is interesting that we Westerners do not view the feet as a part of the nervous system. It is as though the feet do not contribute to the allostatic load at all.

    Yet when applying relative simple techniques of pressure, stretch and movement the proprioceptors will reset themselves in a global way throughout the body, kind of like rebooting your computer. (If you have ever had your feet or hands worked on you know it effects cortisol levels. Many people fall asleep in response.)

  12. #12 Marlene Hudson
    January 20, 2007

    As an educator of Reflexology I have respect for the opinions of Medical Doctors seeking concrete data and philosophy supporting this modality. I further concur that the first dilemma arises from a great disparity of teaching institutions as well as how this practice is presented, leading to further disparity in practitioners.
    Just for sake of clarity please understand the principle as well as the premise for the effectiveness of reflexology is rooted in the fact that we are working on ‘REFLEXES”. (the same thing doctors check on the knee aka knee-jerk reflex) To understand reflexology one needs to understand the nervous system. In exciting the end of the nerve pathway a signal is elicited and is sent one of two ways; 1. directly 1. indirectly meaning signals travel the nerve pathway to the area or to the brain to then send another signal back to the body. We can not see a nerve signal communicate only the effect of it or the lack therof. Stress-relate disorders aka reflex conditions aka psycho-somatic prove real in long term stress coming up as inflammatory responses. That is not to say stress is the sole etiology of relex conditions but will prove effective in reversing symptomology. Furthermore psycho-somatic disorders following allopathic approaches do little to find the “best course of treatment/do no harm” Most relex, stress related disorders are in fact psycho-somatic meaning literally caused by the mind manifested in the body. The limbic portion of the reflex system encompases this communication network in the body and the skilled Reflexologist helps your patients understand possible emotional underlying causes or patterns enabling these conditions. Pleaase refrain from ridicule at our profession. I work very closely with what doctors are doing with my clients and work within my scope of practice. I teach my students to refrain from doctor bashing. It is my intention to improve the standards particularly in the USA. Thank you for listening. Interested in attending any of my seminars/lectures/workshops it is my good pleasure to explain the missing pieces. Feel free to contact me at Good day! PS In the event of amputated feet we would work on the hands and/or the stump.

  13. #13 Marlene Hudson
    January 20, 2007

    I became a reflexologist because it cured my foot-drop, which is caused by acute sciatica. Please note this was after a spinal tap and doctors were not able to find cause of paralysis!(however iodine allergy was discovered, which nearly took my life)
    Total impingement on the nerve of tibialis anterior was the cause, reflexology was the cure. 1985 and no recurrance.
    Doctors not knowing the effectiveness of reflexology is unfortunate as relief to neural issues is rather elusive to medical treatment as we know.

  14. #14 Marlene Hudson
    February 4, 2007

    RE: Dr. Steve’s comment of 10/02/06 regarding amazament of the proliferation of alternative modalities.
    Society rests in a similar amazement of allopathic medicine in the proliferation of care; Cardiologist for the heart, Opthalmologists for eyes, Podiatrist for the feet, Otolaryngologists for head, ear and throat, Orthopedic Surgeons for bones/joints, Neurologists for neural disorders, Oncologists for Cancer (whch of course sub-divides depending on body part involved).
    Shall we compare Philosophy? I can guarantee we ‘Do No Harm”

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