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Reflexology: The Art and Science of It (with Video)

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Though ancient in origin, the scientific basis for reflexology is rooted in neurological studies conducted in the 19th century. In 1989 it was discovered that particular zones of the on the bottom of the feet become hypersensitive to pressure when an org


Reflexology is both a science and an art.

It is a science in that it is based on accepted physiological and neurological principles, and an art because its application and effectiveness depends on the individual skill of the practitioner.

Unlike medical doctors who typically stay detached and dispassionate about their patients, reflexologists must create a personal dynamic between themselves and those they treat.  It is a process both practitioner and those treated experience together.

Reflexology is a holistic modality of body, mind, and spirit, aimed at treating the whole person.

Reflexology does not isolate a disease and treat is symptomatically nor work specifically on one body system; its approach is intended to induce a state of total balance and intersystemic harmony.  Its basic tenet is that the body, mind, and spirit are interconnected and what affects one, affects them all.  And as a holistic therapy, reflexology aims to get to the root cause of the disease, treat it, and return the body to a state of homeostasis: a state of natural balance.

Unlike common foot massage (or body massage in general), reflexology is geared to specific reflex points located on the feet that correspond to particular body parts or systems.

 Reflexology does not involve the manipulation of the entire foot, and is not intended to bring about pleasure--though that is often the result.

Applying specific thumb and finger techniques, the feet are approached as a microcosm of the body, whereby particular points located on the feet connect directly to particular organs or body systems.  When pressure is properly applied to points on the feet, the body’s own healing mechanisms are stimulated along the channel between the point of stimulation and the associated organ.  In essence, the reflexologist acts as a mediator to activate the patient’s own natural healing mechanisms.

The initial effect of reflexology is to reduce tension and induce relaxation

As modern science will attest, many of the body’s ills are a direct result of unresolved and continued stress; stress now recognized as a major contributor to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and numerous other chronic and potentially fatal illnesses.

As in all holistic health modalities, it is understood  that ultimately it is the patient, not the practitioner, who is responsible for ones own state of health. Contrary to Western medicine wherein a patient commonly turns over all responsibility to the doctor and expects to be cured of illness, reflexology seeks to recognize that individuals create many of their ills by their lifestyle choices.  Thus, reflexology involves not just physical therapy, it leads to self-assessment as to how one can improve their overall behavior, and make better informed life decisions.

One aspect of reflexology which makes it quite distinctive and apart from Western medicine is that not only does it help alleviate known disease, it is proactive and preventative. The process often leads to the discovery of as yet unknown health issues.  With foot reflex massage, health problems can be detected early and treatment given to prevent the onset of more serious symptoms.


The Chinese discovered centuries ago that lifeforce energy (known as ch’i or qi) circulates along twelve “meridians” or channels within the body. The six main meridians which penetrate the major organs of the body are found in the feet, specifically in the toes. Massaging these points helps clear energetic blockages and encourages the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

One of the most valuable results of reflexology is in reducing stress.

By some scientific perspectives, as much as 75% of all mental, physical, and spiritual disorders can be traced to excessive stress.

Excessive stress causes a chain-reaction of muscle tension resulting in immediate pain and restriction of the body’s ability to carry essential oxygen to various parts of the body.  As a result, vital nutrients are not distributed and toxins are not carried out of the body. This condition sets the stage for any number of diseasesReflexology is unsurpassed in its ability to eliminate stress and allow the body to return to normal functioning.

The nervous system is essentially the body’s electrical system.  Without a consistent nerve supply, the organs of the body cannot function. 

Every part of the body operates by electrical impulses carried back and forth along neural pathways.  As science proves, in stressful situations these impulses become stronger and our organs and glands react--disrupting normal functioning. Reflexology operates under the principle that stimulating the reflex areas of the feet has a direct effect on the internal organs via simple systemic reflex action.  Thus, a reduction of stress allows the electrical impulses to flow naturally, allowing the organs to function in a health-promoting manner.

Just as the nervous system is the body’s electrical system, the endocrine glands are the chemical system. The body depends on the secretion of hormones by the endocrine system for every bodily function.

If any one of the seven primary endocrine glands is out of order, all hormonal functions are disrupted and the whole body is thrown off balance--and the individual suffers. By stimulating the electrical energy of the body via reflex pressure points, the chemical responses of the endocrine system are kept in balance. When the electrical impulses are free to travel naturally, and the glands secrete hormones normally, the sources of many illnesses are eliminated. A body in balance is a healthy and pain-free body.

While the application of reflexology techniques have the longest history regarding use of the feet, in more recent years a complimentary approach using points on the hands has also been developed.  This approach with be discussed in an upcoming article.


The Art of Reflexology, Inge Douglas and Suzanne Ellis





Thumb image via totalhealthclinics.com


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James R. Coffey
Posted on Jul 11, 2011
Sharla Smith
Posted on Jul 10, 2011
Ron Siojo
Posted on Nov 17, 2010

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James R. Coffey

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