Reflexology for Chronic Pain

What is Reflexology?

Reflexology is a therapeutic method of relieving pain by stimulating predefined pressure points on the feet and hands. Controlled pressure on these points alleviates the source of the discomfort. Reflexology can be effective for promoting good health, preventing illness, along with relieving symptoms of stress, injury, and illness. (Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2017)

How Does Reflexology Work?

Chronic Pain ResourcesReflexologists work from maps of predefined pressure points that are located on the hands and feet. These pressure points connect directly through the nervous system and carry signals to the bodily organs and glands. The reflexologist manipulates these pressure points according to specific techniques of reflexology therapy. By means of this touching therapy, any part of the body that is the source of pain, illness, or potential debility can be strengthened through the application of pressure at the respective foot or hand location. (Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2017)


Reflexology can stimulate more than 7,000 different nerve endings in a single session, increasing function, energy, circulation, reactivity, and even metabolism throughout the body. It can open and clean out neural pathways, which are like muscles. More oxygen reaches vital organ systems making them function better which also increases metabolism and energy creation processes. Most people notice a relaxed feeling and a state of calmness throughout the body and mind from reflexology treatment.

How is Reflexology Different from a Massage?

Massage is the manipulation of soft tissue, where reflexologists apply pressure to manipulate reflex zones. Reflexologists aim is not to manipulate soft tissue. Unless they are also massage therapists they won’t work on any other area of your body beyond your feet, hands, and ears. Massage therapists may have some knowledge of reflex zones, but massage techniques typically don’t utilize reflex zones. Reflexology is its own specialty. 

Benefits of Reflexology

Reflexology can benefit people of all ages. Reflexologists will not diagnose reflexology as treating specific illnesses or as a substitute for medical treatment, but it has been shown to help with various health issues and may even treat the underlying cause. These health issues include: chronic pain in general, back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, hormone imbalances, PMS, fertility, prenatal, menopause, digestive issues, asthma, IBS, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, rheumatoid arthritis, easing side effects of chemotherapy and insomnia.


Mental Health Benefits Include: Reducing stress, reducing anxiety, improving depression, and balancing the body and soul.


Physical Health Benefits Include: Enhancing the body’s ability to heal itself – improving cold, flu, and sinus problems, diminishing pain, improving blood flow, increasing circulation and improving delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells throughout the body.


Here are some stories of people whose health improved through Reflexology.

How to Find a Reflexologist and What to Expect

Always make sure the reflexologist you use is certified by The American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB). This is the gold standard in the field of reflexology in the United States. You can find a certified reflexologist through ARCB or through your state reflexology association.


It’s recommended to try at least three visits before determining whether it’s working or not. If you have a chronic condition it will take longer to see results, depending on how long you’ve had that particular issue. It will most likely be beneficial to go in once a week starting out, but it will depend largely on your health issue. The number of sessions will also depend on the health issue, but treatments typically last four to six weeks.


The reflexologist may work on your feet, hands, or even ears depending on the health issue you face. If they are working on your feet, you will lay down and just remove your socks and shoes. They will then check over your feet for any open wounds, rashes, sores, plantar warts, bunions, or foot pain before starting. No matter what health condition the reflexologist is helping with, they will always start at the toes and work down to the base of your foot. The pressure applied is usually gentle. A reflexology therapy session can use many different techniques and may include all points on both feet, plus hands, and ears. Sessions are typically 30 to 60 minutes long. Many people experience feelings of relaxation, tingling in the body, warmth, and the feeling of energy moving throughout the body and to the painful area of the body.

Is Reflexology Safe?

Reflexology is extremely safe. Since the benefit is to normalize your body functions, it won’t cause your condition to worsen. There are virtually no side effects, however some patients may have some discomfort in the second session, because of easing of pain and tension associated with the first therapy session.

History of Reflexology

Chronic Pain ResourcesThere is evidence that reflexology has been practiced in China as far back as 4,000 B.C. According to reliefs on the walls of a Sixth Dynasty Egyptian Tomb and the tomb of Ankmahor, reflexology was practiced around the same time in Egypt. The evidence to the origin of reflexology is uncertain, but it has been helping people for thousands of years.


Thousands of physicians use reflexology across the globe. Reflexology is increasingly being used in wellness programs, cancer treatment centers, hospitals, and medical facilities throughout the US. Although there is some controversy on reflexology, thousands of traditions and reports show the success of the treatment. Reflexology is also growing in popularity in Asia and Europe as a complement to other treatments and for preventive health care. In Denmark it has resulted in reduced sick leave and absenteeism.


Learn more about the history of modern reflexology here.




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"Reflexology." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Retrieved November 08, 2017 from