Some of my friends have mentioned consulting a reflexologist about their health problems. I tend to lump reflexology in with acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki, magnet therapy and many other “alternative health” practices. The self-reported benefits of some of these treatments seem impressive to the uncritical mind – but what do we find when we delve a little deeper?

Reflexology, also known as Zone Therapy, was invented by William H Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose and throat doctor, in the early 20th century. His idea was that the human body is divided into ten vertical zones, each of which is represented by a part of the foot on the opposite side of the body.

This all ties back to the Eastern ideas of Qi or Chi – a life force or energy which supposedly flows along detectable meridians in the human body. By manipulating this Qi, therapists claim to be able to:

  • stimulate lymph nodes, kidney and colon reflexes, thereby “cleansing the body of toxins” (I thought your liver and kidneys did that all by themselves)
  • “balance and harmonise” the body (What??? That doesn’t even make sense!)
  • enhance bodily function by increasing oxygen levels and nutrient supply to every cell (deep breathing when you fall asleep during your foot massage?)
  • unblock nerve impulses and stimulate lethargic blood supply which prevent your Qi from reaching unhealthy or diseased organs.
  • aid healing after surgery (using the same mysterious Qi energy)
  • reduce tension (as would ANY foot massage)

By pressing on parts of the foot, the highly-trained reflexologist can detect areas of resistance which apparently indicate disease in the organ or part of the body represented by that spot on the foot. (Hands apparently also have zones connected in the same way ……. as do ears.)

Therapy involves massage at that point, which is believed to repair the diseased organ and generally improve the patient’s health (see the list of outlandish claims above). Several sessions of high-pressure massage may be needed to cure the problem, and thereafter maintenance sessions to prevent further disease. (This is really funny if you think about it. The reflexologist diagnoses a disease which does not yet exist in your body, treats it with nice foot massages at great expense to you because Medical Aids sensibly refuse to pay for reflexology treatments, and then claims a “hit” because you DIDN’T get sick with whatever they were treating you for!)

Okay, that all sounds very nice, comforting in a way. Here’s a therapy that can treat or cure your diseased organs without surgical intervention or even drugs. No nasty trips to the doctor, no lengthy and expensive stays in hospital, no years of chronic medication…. Hell no! Just pop off to the reflexologist for a foot massage and you’ll be fine!

Just a couple of small problems……….

Reflexology is not a legal medical profession – in South Africa for instance, two years of study at a spa training college or cosmetic and massage academy, covering the following subjects – anatomy and physiology, pathology, theoretical and practical reflexology, business practices, patient care, nutrition, HIV policy and first aid – will give you a DIPLOMA in Reflexology.

You can then register as a member of the Allied Health Professionals Council, pay your annual fees, and go out and pretend to be a medically qualified to diagnose and treat people with serious health problems.

The fact that they might DIE because they came to you for a foot massage instead of consulting a REAL doctor shouldn’t concern you too much, should it? Apparently ethics are not a huge part of the training course….

Neither is consistency.

Reflexologists can’t agree on exactly WHICH part of the foot/hand/ear is supposed to be magically connected to WHICH part of the body! You can check this out for yourself – just Google Reflexology Images, and you will find pages of charts of the zones – hands, feet and ears – and if you care to look closely you will see that although they obviously started out with Dr Fitzgerald’s original charts, some Poetic License has crept in over the years.

Compare the massage spots with the first diagram above - notice anything?

This one is for when you have an enlarged heart....

Isn’t it weird how the heart bit jumps around, getting bigger and smaller….? And the ascending colon becomes the descending colon? Some charts coyly don’t mention certain “private parts” – I guess those therapists didn’t learn about STDs in Cosmetics School….

The other major problem with Reflexology is that there is no scientific basis for its theories. There are no detectable meridians, there is no detectable Qi or Life Force, there is no evidence that this non-existent Qi is connected to parts of the hand or foot or ear and can be manipulated to treat specific illnesses. It’s just not biologically plausible. We have perfectly adequate explanations for the cause of most diseases, and scientific researchers are working on the rest. You don’t need to invoke magic to explain illness – germs, unhealthy eating habits, genetic inheritance, unhealthy environment, accidents, etc can explain most of what goes wrong in the human body.

There are SO MANY published results of clinical trials which have tested reflexology properly (random, double-blinded, peer-reviewed) and found it to be useful only for relaxation, and some pain relief, as well as having a placebo effect. Here are just a few links:

You will notice that I have not included any links to “trials” which consist mainly of anecdotal evidence and which do not provide proper data to back up their conclusions – the internet positively teems with such information, all of it useless from a scientific and medical point of view.

Once again, I ask the question, What’s the Harm in seeing a reflexologist?

If you have any bone or joint condition in your feet or lower legs, it can be exacerbated by forceful massage as applied by the reflexologist. These are not doctors – they have a two or three-year diploma with debatable credentials – yes, they will ask you about your medical history and try to take reasonable care to not kill you outright. You hope.

If you allow a reflexologist to treat you for a serious condition you might delay consulting a medical doctor who can treat you with the medicine or surgery you really need. The condition could get a lot worse before you end up seeking proper medical care, by which time it might be too late…. cancer is the obvious example where early diagnosis and aggressive medical treatment is essential.

You just can’t afford to mess around with cancer….Β  How many people do you know who were diagnosed, tried chemotherapy, thought it wasn’t helping, went to an “alternative” practitioner, and then DIED??? Yes, it’s often fatal anyway, but you have a better chance of survival and a better quality of life if you get REAL MEDICAL CARE!

Modern reflexology tries to downplay the woo – if you look at a lot of their websites they emphasise the relaxation and massage side of it. Well, if it’s just a massage, why call yourself a reflexologist? Why rely on Zones and Qi and all the rest of the nonsense to back you up? Why pretend that it’s a valid medical intervention when it clearly isn’t?

Could it be because you can charge a LOT more for a reflexology session under the guise of medicine than you can for a simple foot massage? Reflexology treatment can run to several sessions and of course there are those “preventative” sessions – you could be tied into those for years!


26 comments on “Reflexology

  1. Excuse me i found this post rather rude and nasty,

    I’m a student training to become a reflexoligst and just so you know we dont treat clients with cancer or any other serious problems without a gp note, infact most clietns need a gp note before we will even clean their feet,
    Everyone assumes we just go straight on in there, But we dont!!! Cancer patients CANT recive treatment, one more thing we ask about the pressure and we follow a curriculm its no made up jumbo, i think you should stop being so negative and lighten up,

    • Hello Louisa

      My post was intended to be skeptical of the basic ideas behind reflexology, as well as other alternative therapies – namely the ideas of chi, meridians and other unproven concepts. Reflexology as a simple massage treatment, a nice foot rub, is fine. But claiming that it can treat illnesses through manipulation of chi or life force of whatever you call it, is just absurd.

      I stand by my assertion that trying to treat symptoms of illness with alternative treatments instead of seeking the advice of a real doctor can result in the illness escalating to a situation where it may be too late to treat it effectively. (I did not state that reflexology was used to treat cancer, by the way – I was talking about “alternative medicine” in general at that point.)

      If I’m “rude” it’s because I feel very strongly that there is a lot of harm that can be done to people, misleading them into believing it’s a real treatment and taking their money, and I am not the only person who is saying this. This article in Quackwatch is just one of many you can find online:

      As you can see, negativity about reflexology is pretty widespread amongst real doctors and academics, for good reason.

      As a matter of interest, what made you decide to study reflexology? What type of educational institution are you attending, and how long is the course? Can you list the subjects covered? I’m interested to know whether the subjects are more medically relevant than the subjects being taught to reflexologists here in South Africa.

      • Hey, I am sorry if i Offened you, i wanted to study it as it is very interesting i can see the benifits in some cases, when the teacher practised level 3 work on me i could relat with what she was saying, things like, “i sit on my feet” and “that i carry the bag on my one side” this sounds silly but it was very interesting to here the damage im doing by sitting on my feet etc,

        I learn at a College which on a monday teaches anatomy and Physioly Therory and on a tuesday teaches Reflexolgy, However this is a 17week course and i’m on Level 2. after the level 2 which has to be passed on both anatomy and reflex i will go onto the level 3 which is also 17weeks and taught more in depth.
        In level 2 we learn the basic method to Zone therpay which is walking up and down the feet with appiled pressure, and then a basic massage to the feet which is meant to get rid of toxins, it has many different massage techniques included but all of which are non painfull and only given if the client is well.The tuesday is spilt into Morning which is usually from 9-10 doing therory there we learn how to fill out the client forms, aswell as conta indications which is illness such as cancer, angina diabets that cant be treated with out a gp note and we learn how to give after care which is like drink loads of water to avoid sickness etc etc,
        then we do practice, on each other which is done properly filling in forms then it’s lunch, after lunch we go into open salon with paying customers they only pay a silly amount which is Β£3,

        we cover
        technique, do’s and donts, expectations from governing bodies, aswell as set out coursework

  2. Hallo Cathy.
    yay! a debate! There are a couple of points in your article that are….well…inaccurate. Reflexologists who are practicing as therapeutic reflexologists (not the bit of “reflexology” you get during a spa treatment, but proper therapeutic reflexology) never claim too heal. We are also not allowed to diagnose at all. If a therapeutic reflexologist is found to have diagnosed a patient then he/she is bound to end up in front of a disciplinary hearing. A true therapeutic reflexologist is registered with the Allied Health Profession Council of SA and has to adhere to all the regulations set forth within the amended act. And part of that is not claiming to heal and not being allowed to make a diagnoses. Reflexology that incorporates meridian therapy does work on the energy highways found in your body. But this is not something that I would want to go into in this stage because I am still doing research. Now the reason I found your article is because I was doing research for my practice on which medical aids covers reflexology treatments and google picked up the words in the above article. You’ll be glad to know that there are definitely a couple of medical aids out there who pays out for a …and this is important…. a registered therapeutic reflexologist.

    Now reflexology works like this: your entire body is reflected on the two soles of your feet. a therapeutic reflexologist stimulates these reflex points by using specific grips and finger techniques. By stimulating the reflex points the body’s own healing systems are stimulated. See it as something that kickstarts your body’s healing systems. And by now means should someone not go to a doctor and just rely on the reflexologist. Reflexology is a fantastic complimentary therapy. This means that i.e. if you have cancer, you must still take your chemo and radiation, and you can get your reflexologist to come in and give you treatments to help your body cope with the terrible side effects of the medication. A registered therapeutic reflexologist is allowed to work on a cancer patient, with the doctor and of course, the patient’s consent.

    A true therapeutic reflexologist does have a diploma from only two schools that are accredited with the AHPCSA. And let me just say again that during this training you are tested on all the ethical issues a therapeutic reflexologist may face in his/her practise, which includes diagnosing, referrals to doctors (not diagnosing, but referring to a doctor), what is and what is not allowed. The AHPCSA is very strict and there is no room for movement within the system. What does bother me a bit is that the only reason I found your blog is because I was doing a search on medical aids/reflexology. Now the AHPCSa is very strict that therapeutic reflexologists (and all the other areas that they cover i.e. chiropractors….) are not at all allowed to advertise. We’re not even allowed to call our practice something. We’re only allowed to be in a phonebook – online or in print – and “advertise” on our practice walls with a little plaque stating our names and qualifications. So you see, your blog does finger us a bit in this regard, basically because the statement you make about medical aids not covering treatment is not true.

    Now, if you look around a bit further on the internet, on universities libraries as well as sites that (haha) site dissertations you’ll find just as many blind trails, tests and research for the reflexology treatment (again, by a registered therapeutic reflexologist) as you’ll find against reflexology treatments. You can basically say the same thing about…well….almost any treatment out there. Now when I say any treatment I mean anything from western medication to acupuncture. You can only properly have an opinion if you do research on both sides of the debate and then make up your mind. And research consists of more than just siting links, it means looking closely at the results on both sides, going out there and talking to the researchers, patients, therapists and doctors, reading the studies and then….deciding for yourself.

    Now the above point ties in for me with the comments you have made throughout your blog about energy work. Look I totally agree with you on certain things….like the astrologer that is your bestest estest friend. This is what I call the purple smoke brigade. As with most things in life you can never draw one straight line through any kind of modality. I would recommend going out there and trying out some of the modalities. See if it works for you. It might, it might not. Even with western medicine (who is in it’s infant stages because up to as short ago as 100 years we where still bleeding people out for something like a cold) somethings might work, and it might not work. You might see proof, or you might not see proof. Go and put yourself out there and experience these things. Then, and only then will I take your word for it. Get out from behind your computer, stop the pasting of links that you already have made up your mind not to believe even if the god, allah, budda, l.ron. hubbard or vishnu tells you it’s true, and go out and at least try some things.. There are wonderful associations out there in SA specifically protecting the consumers rights, try out a couple of people and modalities recommended by them and you might be surprized at what you learn.

    • Hi Ronel

      Thank-you for taking the time to comment. However, as there is absolutely NO scientific evidence that the zones on your feet correspond to organs in your body, and absolutely NO scientific evidence that manipulating your feet will help those organs to heal, I feel quite certain I would not benefit in any way from reflexology.

      It may be an effective placebo, in some instances, and very relaxing, I’m sure – but without better evidence than anecdotes I remain highly skeptical.

  3. hahahaha i’m so happy you responded so soon! thanks. ok, now I would like to know from you; how do you know there is absolutely NO scientific evidence? What do you need from a study to call it scientific? what is your personal criteria for something to have NO scientific evidence? Zone therapy is ooooold ooooold school. lots of improvements have been made since the early 1900’s when it was being re-discovered by the western medicine world. It’s like saying that a frontal lobotomy is still applicable in this day and age where we have wonderful medicine to help psychiatric patients with.

    As I’ve said, reflexology does not, i repeat, not heal your organs. It just doesn’t. it stimulates the body’s (sorry, being afrikaans the apostrophe use still sometimes confuses me) own healing systems. So that the body can start to get better. So let’s say I stimulate your reflexes, you will have some side effects after a treatment. you might urinate a lot and the color might be a bit darker, you might be very sleepy/tired for a while, you might feel a bit nauseous. the reason for this is because your body’s healing systems have been kickstarted and all the toxins are going out of your body. Now keep in mind that you can’t just go for one treatment, it’s like physio therapy….you can’t just go for one treatment. After a little while you’ll have no side effects, and treatments will taper off. As with all good things it’s better to keep the motor in a good running condition that to get a whole new engine. so it would make sense to go for treatments on a regular basis to keep the engine serviced. If you have a wonderfully healthy system you’ll have less “detox – like” symptoms after initial treatments.

    Reflexology is a holistic treatment, it works on the body, mind and soul. This ties in with what you say here above with the placebo effect. What does a placebo do? does it make you feel better? yes! what does feeling better make you feel? well…better! you’re happier, you’re healthier, you have more energy. We as a western society used to believe that the body is just the body. that the mind and spirit has nothing to do with something physically manifesting in your body. say for instance you have lots of worries, making you feel anxious. sooner or later you’ll end up having a tummy ache, or head ache. so this means that your emotional (mind) does have an effect on your body. the samte goes for the spiritual side. but i don’t want to go into the spiritual side just now. I’m basically trying to refer to an Einsteinian theory of holistic therapy rather than a Gestalt Theory – it’s not the sum of the parts that is greater than the whole. it’s all the parts together that makes the whole.

    In South Africa to be able to keep to the strict regulations to be able to register as a therapeutic reflexologist with the AHPCSA and get a practice number you’ll have to pass the following subjects:
    anatomy, patient care, AHPCSA ammended act, theory on therapeutical practical, therapeutical practical, mapping, physiology, pathophysiology, pathology, business and practice management, ethics and jurisprudence, first aid (level 3), nutrition, research methodology, lifestyle and listening skills and a couple of other subjects.

    You are always welcome to ask as many questions as you want and I’ll see if I can get you an answer.

    • Scientific evidence would be properly conducted, double blinded, independent testing of the claims of reflexology. Such tests have been conducted, and they found no evidence that reflexology “kickstarts” the body’s own healing systems, or that it helps the body “cleanse itself of toxins.” My links were to good, reputable scientific sources, and I am comfortable that those findings are reliable. If you have real evidence to the contary, I would be interested to read it. Not anecdotal evidence, or self-reported evidence, or raving reviews by reflexologists…. Proper scientific trials, please!

      There is NO demonstrable connection between areas on the feet and organs of the body, so the whole premise of reflexology fails before it even gets off the ground. How do you imagine massaging the feet actually does what reflexologists say it does? Where is the physical connection and how does it ACTUALLY work? Can you explain it in terms that don’t include chi, energy, meridians, life force or any other mystical, new agey terminology?

      Medical science has hundreds of years of testing and experimentation behind it, and the progress is astonishing. I have the utmost respect for the researchers and doctors who work hard to improve our knowledge every day – with REAL medical advances. Reflexology was invented less than a hundred years ago, and reflexologists can’t even agree on exactly which bits are supposed to affect which other bits – the diagrams I posted are just a few of the hundreds of conflictimg diagrams available.

      What exactly is an Einsteinian theory of holistic therapy? Einstein was a theoretical physicist, who devoted his life to science and reason. What does he have to do with reflexology? Please send me a reference to the connection between this great scientist and alternative therapies?

  4. Fantastic! I have to say I almost got flabbergasted at your post. but this is a debate so let’s go. Einstein was a wonderful scientist and yes he did have something in connection with energy work. I don’t have a lot of time tonight because work was crazy (i’m still in adventure tourism and studying reflexology and meridian therapy) and I only have two minutes. So I’ll send a longer reply over the weekend. So getting back to Einstein. He did some mind blowing work with quantum physics. Basically blowing Newtons basic laws out o the water with the whole theory of relativity. Wow! trying to type what’s going on in my mind over this very intense, complex topic is difficult. So what I’m thinking at the moment is: Einstein thought about quantum theory. Quantum theory in it’s basic form regards the matters of matter. particles, atoms, electrodes, smaller, smaller even smaller, quarks……and everything boils down to energy. So therefore if you believe what einstein said: everything is matter. and therefor energy. Everything is very delicately intertwined, and at the basic, basic level little bundles of pulsating, moving and wonderful energy. A very,very good book to read here is Science and the Akashic Field, but try Jarod Diamonds Guns, Germs and Steel first. And then another one is Bill Bryson’s A short history of Nearly everthing. All western, new school science telling us basically the same thing. We are all energy, everything is energy, just vibrating at different levels. Think about the levels of light when it is refracted. It makes different colors and in highs school you learn in physics that the colors are just the different way the light is refracted in a seperate/different vibrational quality. It’s all the same theory. Now tying in with this long serenade is this: humans are energy. (ok, well everything is energy). so why not be able to work with this energy?

  5. Ahhh, I was wondering how long it would take before Quantum energy was mentioned! Fortunately, I have studied and read extensively in the field of quantum physics and cosmology, so I can break the bad new to you – gently I hope πŸ™‚

    Einstein’s theorum e=mc2 revealed that it was theoretically possible to take a small amount of matter and convert it into a vast amount of pure energy.

    The energy obtained (e) is the mass x the speed of light x the speed of light.

    The speed of light in a vacuum is 360 000 km per second.

    Hence, a small amount of matter, say uranium, can be converted into a massive atom bomb which is capable of wiping out an entire city.

    Quantum Theory – the REAL quantum theory – does not allow for ordinary matter, such as a human body, to be converted into energy. It also most definitely does not say that there is energy available in the human body that can be manipulated at will. Such energy has NEVER been seen or measured.

    There is a minute amount of electrical energy in the body which allows the heart to beat and the nerves to function, along with ordinary chemical reactions. That electrical energy is also not available for manipulation. The fields are incredibly tiny. If they were not, metal would stick to you and you could not use a compass.

    Particles are indeed made of tiny bits of energy, but they are held tightly inside the atom by forces too strong for them to break without massive energy inputs. If this were not true, everything would blast itself to pieces instantly.

    Unfortunately, Ronel, you have been drawn into a completely irrational viewpoint. There is no energy field that can be used to kickstart the body to heal itself, there is no connection between the organs and the feet that can be manipulated in that way, there are no chakras, or auras. It’s all in the heads of the people who want to make money out of sick peoples’ irrational fear of scientific medicine.

    And I still maintain that there is harm in all these alternative methods, in that illnesses can get worse while an unqualified person tries to help. That person is not qualified to recognise illnesses that can be life threatening. They can easily mistake symptoms for something mild, when it could mean there is something seriously wrong.

    You are obviously a very nice person, and I have enjoyed debating with you. Sadly, you have been fed a load of complete bollocks somewhere along the line. Quantum theory has no relevance whatsoever to alternative healing as proposed by the new agers. If you have any evidence to the contrary, as I said before, I would love to see it. I have read Bryson’s book, and I have Diamond’s book on my list, but I have never heard of the other one you mentioned. It sounds like it will be trying to sell the whole energy field illusion, so I am sure I will give that one a miss – wading through nonsense is such a waste of time and dare I say it, energy!

  6. hahahaha a waste of energy! good pun. ok, I’m going to go read a bit on the diffrerent interpretations and get back to you on the quantum physics. Getting back to the words you use: manipulating energy. No one can manipulate energy. That’s not for humans. Believing that humans can manipulate energy is a misconception. aaaaaah! i’m so tired after a long day at work. so i’m going to reply on Saturday. this is such a very broad, technical discussion we’re getting into, so many different subjects, modalities, belief systems and frame of references that it’s too crazy for me to go into so late at night. Enjoy your evening and I’ll get back to you on Saturdagy. Would you mind if ‘n bring a friend to the debate?

    • I think we can safely rule quantum physics out of the conversation, Ronel. It really has NO relevance here! You say that reflexology Kick-starts the body’s own healing systems – I say that’s a ridiculous statement without any evidence to back it up. It has nothing to do with belief systems, or modalities or frames of reference – it is either a real effect or it isn’t. I say it isn’t because there is no connection between the organs of the body and zones of the foot. That idea was invented a hundred years ago by an couple of Americans who then popularised it to the extent that people now believe it’s true.

      Reflexology is nothing more than foot massage – relaxing and good for relieving stress. It does not stimulate the body to heal itself, and it does not “clean out toxins.” The liver and kidneys do that very efficiently all by themselves.

      (I used the term “manipulating energy” because you say that the body is energy “and why not be able to work with that energy?” “Working with” and “manipulating” mean the same thing to me, in this context.)

  7. Nope, i can’t leave out Einstein and quantum physics out of the argument. Because they are part of everything. But after I’ve spent yesterday and today doing some reading I can safely say that nothing that I quote, write, or link would convince you otherwize. Because to be able to get the connection you’ll have to go and do some research on human spiritual growth. Hahahaha I have to laugh at your statements here above. You know, I do believe in science. I grew up in a scientific, academic family, and married into an even crazier scientific family. Now when I say scientific here, I mean the science that you reference: pure, unadulterated western science. And even the use of the word western here is not correct because I define Western as European and USA. As I’ve learnt over the years you can never say never with science. I am absolutely comfortable with both worlds, the pure scientific world as well as the old school pre-“science” world. Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way I have to say that there is a huge gap in your argument. I quote: “That idea was invented a hundred years ago by an couple of Americans who then popularised it to the extent that people now believe it’s true.” I went to read all the links that you pasted at the top of the page and I now understand why you’ll have the opinions that you have. Most of your links have incorrect info in them. Let’s start with the quote I pasted just now………Americans did not invent Reflexology. Reflexology is an ancient treatment form and has roots in the societies of the ancient Egyptians and Chinese. Americans does have a massive amount of marketing material available on the subject that they have abused us with over the years. But that doesn’t mean that their beliefs are true. I’ve had the misfortune to be exposed to some American belief systems and methodology on Reflexology and I must say that it just re-affirmed to me that I really, really, really hate Americans. Ok, it’s not just their stuff on Reflexology that makes me hate them. It’s Oprah too.

    I see what you mean with “energy, and not manipulating energy”. I’ll get back to this now. But I need to give you some background before you’ll be able to understand that statement.

    I started out as a firm scientific believer. I even went to varsity for 5 years studying a BSc. Then I went on a mission a long time ago that opened up my eyes to the fact that nope, the world is not flat, and nope, it’s not two dimensional either. I then went into a frenzy of research in the school of life- trying out as many new things as possible (that didn’t scare me too much). Talking to people that could make me grow spiritually and intellectually and then finally, making up my own mind as to what I wanted to believe about life, the universe and everything (thanks douglas adams for that lovely tune). Please also keep in mind that a person never stops growing and I’m still learning new stuff everyday. This debate with you has forced me to go and look up things that you’ve talked about and therefore I’ve learned something from you.

    Now you have a background of the way I think and a super short intro of what I’ve done with my brain. Getting back to energy, and not manipulating energy. Yes, everything is energy. The physical human body is also energy- regardless of whether it can be transferred or stored. You can WORK with the energy. Adding more, reading it etc. But manipulating it is not something a human can do. Humans, and it doesn’t matter if they tell you they can, can not manipulate Chi or life force energy. You never have control over the energy – so I can’t say :” energy, please go to the doctor of quakwatch’s shoulder and shave off a bit of his shoulder bone”. But you can give energy to his body to help with the getting better part. So you see: you can work with it, but you can’t tell it what to do.

    My whole point that I’m trying to make with this discussion is this: Nothing in this life is certain. You can’t read something and take it as the gospel without getting all the information – positive and negative – you can possibly get on it and then…very importantly…..make your own opinion on it. In a way you have made your own opinions on these matters that you write about. But just subscribing to one single astrologer’s (who I can bet you R10.00 is probably not a registered, licensed Astrologer from SA) web feed, does not a researched make on the subject. Nothing is static. Everything grows. Humans especially because we are designed to learn. To be able to make a decision you need to have more background info and a hypothesis. There are so many grey areas out there. Treatments for humans across the board very rarely has a “real effect, or it doesn’t”. Only some things in this life is black or white. These things are irrelevant to our entire discussion.

    I would love for you to go out there. Put yourself in a situation where you’re experiencing something new, even if you’re not comfortable with it. I’m not just talking about reflexology here. I’m talking about anything that you might be negative about without having the physical experiences to back up the statement.

    And that my friend. Is that.

    • Hi Ronel

      I don’t need to experience reflexology to know it’s a load of bollocks. Nothing you wrote convinces me that it is possible to kickstart the body’s own healing systems by massaging the feet. There is no energy field in the human body that can be worked with / influenced / whatever you want to call it. It doesn’t EXIST. I don’t want to go and experience anything like it, because I am a rational person and I have no wish to debase myself by getting involved with things that are clearly false and pseudoscientific. Astrologers know they are lying, as do psychics. There is no way the planets can have any influence on anybody’s life or luck. There is no way anyone can see into your future. It’s all just a money making scam, and a very good one judging by the number of people who are taken in by it.
      I guess the debate stops here. You have not given me the evidence I was asking for, and I have no intention of delving into pseudoscience.

      As for the reference to the origins of reflexology: I am aware that massage of various parts of the body was used in ancient times as a healing methodology. However, the specific practice of Reflexology (and the name itself) with its 10 vertical zones and specific areas that supposedly have an effect on specific organs, most definitely was invented in the early 1900’s by an American Ear, Nose & Throat specialist, and then popularised by one of his colleagues.

      I am not a scholar in this subject, and I don’t pretend to be. My purpose with my blog is to point out the harm that can be done by accepting pseudoscientific ideas as fact, blindly believing in it even though there is no evidence that they have any effect beyond placebo.

      I have managed to steer several people away from astrology and psychics, so I feel I am helping, even if only in a small way πŸ™‚

  8. Cool! I understand your point of view. I just don’t agree with it. This is a wonderful debate that can go on forever because we can’t expect to prove/disprove any points in 6 blog replies. I do agree with your point in the harm that can be done by ignoring medical practitioners and opting for the metaphysical instead. When my mom had problems with her back she went to see the doctor and got reiki from me. this is the key that people seem to forget and don’t understand. You can take the medicine and see a therapist/practitioner. why not do both? There are a lot of misconceptions out there about alternative medicinal practices. I’m not talking about you going and getting a reflexology treatment, I’m talking about going out and broadening you mind. Try it. It’s awesome.


    • Of course, your mind shouldn’t be so broad that your brains fall out!

      I don’t need to personally experience alternative therapies to know they are at best just a placebo – plenty of research has been done, and no evidence of efficacy beyond placebo has ever been demonstrated… That’s all I need to know.

      I have FAR more interesting and exciting things to think about and learn about!

  9. Funny…
    The medical board doesn’t even teach what the bodies need In order to function. Doctors learn where things are in the body, if they see a problem, diagnose it with this DRUG. These reflexologists aren’t worried about their patients dying because it doesn’t happen. I have seen hundreds of people healed by all of this. And millions dying by the minute in the hands of a medical doctor. Again, the information they are being taught in medical school will never be able to identify what is going on in this body. The blood is the last place something shows up in. And even when the doctor does identify something, does he support the failing organ? No; instead he gives it an antibiotic or drug to kill it faster.

    I was sick for years and the doctors had noooo idea. “You look good to me” yeah right… I ended up using a bio meridian and finding out that my stomach and gut are damaged and that my hormones are out of control. Instead of taking fake synthetic hormones and god only knows what a “doctor” would have given me for my stomach, I was put on WHOLE FOOD BASED SUPPLEMENTS to FEED the organs so that they then leveled out and began to produce what they needed ON THEIR OWN. Along with homemade bone broth (GAPS diet) and probiotics, lymphatic massages, reflexology and reiki, I have been DRAMATICALLY healed when I was what I would call on my death bed before hand.

    Pleeeeeease do your own studies before holding up such an argument as this one.

    • 1 – Doctors do learn EXACTLY what bodies need in order to function. They spend years and years studying exactly that. Of course they use medicines, x-rays, scans, surgery, etc to treat sick people – that’s what modern medicine is all about. The only reason reflexologists don’t kill anyone directly with their treatments is because what they do is not having any real effect on the body! It’s a nice foot/hand/ear massage – nothing more. You can’t normally kill someone by massaging their foot/hand or ear. They DO kill people by distracting them from getting real treatment when they are really ill. A quick glance at the website “What’s the Harm” provides mountains of evidence of that.

      2 – Drugs are researched and developed specifically in order to treat and heal diseases. The process is thoroughly tested and needs no justification whatsoever. Medical schools do teach doctors to identify what’s going on in the body – what do you think they’re studying while they’re there, for goodness sake! Your argument is completely senseless.

      3 – Yes, people die while being treated by medical doctors. That is normally because they are suffering from fatal trauma, an un-treatable disease, or the disease has progressed too far to be treated successfully. I don’t believe any doctor would deliberately kill his patients, but doctors are humans like the rest of us and they can make mistakes. You completely ignore the billions of people who are treated and healed by modern medicine and modern doctors.

      4 – Blood tests do indicate that a patient is suffering from certain diseases! As long as the blood sample is being tested for a specific pathogen, if that pathogen is present in sufficient quantities to be detected, it will be found – barring human error during the testing process. The statement you made is complete nonsense and demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of what is really going on.

      5 – Medical treatment (antibiotics and drugs) do support failing organs, and cure diseases. Again, you statement is sheer nonsense.

      6 – Your personal experience, that you were “on your deathbed” but the doctors said you “looked fine” does not ring true. You were obviously not on your deathbed – hormonal imbalances and stomach problems are VERY common, so any good doctor would have picked it up with enough effort.

      7 – Going on a wholefood diet, etc was obviously enough to sort you out, so I suspect your illness may have been not all that serious to begin with. However, the harm you might have done to yourself, by treating a potentially serious problem in this way, may still manifest itself down the line. If that happens I truly hope you will seek the care of a proper medical practitioner.

      8 – Reflexology and reiki have never been proved to have any useful effects besides placebo (namely you would have got better on your own anyway, because the body often does that through the natural action of its own systems and of the immune system)

      9 – I don’t need to do my own studies to know that reflexology, reiki, aura healing, astrology, psychics and all the other pseudo-scientific nonsense are not worth spending even one moment of my precious time and money on.

      10 – My argument is sound, based on reality not magical thinking, well researched and falsifiable. That means you can test my assumptions. You can’t do that with reflexology, reiki and the rest of the woo. Anecdotal evidence is not sufficient proof of the effectiveness of any treatment. Proper scientific research requires double-blinded, randomised trials. On the occasions when this has been done with respect to reflexology, reiki, etc they have failed miserably.

      11 – Meridians, auras and chi do not exist. If they don’t exist, then they cannot be “manipulated” to “heal” anything. It’s quite simple.

  10. Hi Cathy. It’s me again. Two year later and I see you’ve amended your original post. Is this because you’ve realized that maybe you didn’t have all the info? Let me just give you some more info as it seems that you’re still not 100% sure this. I am now a qualified Therapeutic Reflexologist registered with the AHPCSA and I can help you right with some of your claims in your post above.
    1. it doesn’t matter if you call it a spa training college or a cosmetic college, the fact is that they are accredited by the NQF as well as SAQUA and the AHPCSA to be able to offer Dip.TR. This means that they have gone through a very thorough process to be able to have this as a subject to offer. You would do better if you called it a school. You also forgot to mention this school: which is also one of the only 3 accredited institutions where you can study this qualification.
    2. Ethics, as well as patient rights, legal issues and scope of practice takes up a lot of time, not just as part of the subjects we where taught, but also throughout the entire course as these are very real, ongoing issues that a therapist needs to deal with every single day.
    3. To be able to register with the AHPCSA you need to write and pass a juris prudence exam, which is basically an exam on the ahpcsa act, scope of practise, human rights charter etc…so it’s safe to say that a therapist knows about these things before they register with a department in the government that …well…governs them. This means that Therapeutic Reflexology is a legal form of holistic medicine.

    As I’ve mentioned two years ago: a therapeutic reflexologist may not, by law, diagnose a patient. This is something for doctors. What we are trained to do, is refer and recommend very strongly to the patient to go and see a doctor or specialist – it is then up to the patient (as is their right) to then go and see the doctor. We can’t force someone to go, we can only recommend.

    I really think you’re misinformed about what holistic medicine does. I prefer to say Complimentary instead of Alternative as calling a modality alternative means that you imply that a patient….to use your example…with diagnosed cancer will see a reflexologist instead of an oncologist. whereas saying Complimentary medicine you imply that a patient with diagnosed cancer will see the oncologist as well as a reflexologist.

    Please feel free to ask questions if you have any.

    • Hi Ronel, I have not amended my original post and never will, so I don’t know where you got that impression – the fact remains that reflexology is nonsense based on magical thinking. I am 100% sure of that fact.

      Your qualifications mean nothing – you are qualified in a treatment that has NO basis in reality. Doesn’t matter if you call it a college, a school, or a mud hut in the bush – it’s not a medical qualification. Beyond being a good foot-rub, reflexology is at best a placebo, obviously a waste of time and money, and at worst it deceives people into thinking they are receiving treatment so they don’t go to a real, medically and scientifically qualified doctor. Reflexology is pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo just like auras, homeopathy, acupuncture and the rest of the so-called “complimentary” treatments.

      There is NO evidence that the ideas reflexology is based on have any basis in reality. Meridians do not exist – neither do chakras, healing energy fields, etc. It’s just your imagination.

      Unfortunately, you are helping to perpetuate ignorance.

  11. Cathy I honestly can’t believe that you just typed that. Have you read what I wrote? Do you know anything about the professional educational system in South Africa? To counter your ideas about research….a quick search on a proper medical website that is actually used by medical professionals reveals that there is a huge amount of research going on in the scientific community on complimentary therapies.

    Your viewpoint of people going to reflexologists and then not going to other medical practisioners such as specialists and GP’s is wrong. I have not had one patient in 1000’s of hours of doing treatments that has only used my services alone instead of using GP’s and other medical practitioners. 100% of the time it is in conjunction with another treatment plan. I find it amazing how you assume patients are stupid. Give them some credit.

    You use the word NO a lot. can you actually prove it? without just copying and pasting a bunch of stuff from google

  12. The point, Ronel, is that it’s NOT a medical treatment! I don’t care what the education consists of – reflexology is nothing but a nice, relaxing massage. I can go to a college or school and become a qualified homeopathy practitioner – that doesn’t make homeopathy any less of a huge pile of crap. There are many, many instances of people who would rather risk their health going to a reflexologist or some other “complimentary” practitioner than spending money for proper medical care. Perhaps you haven’t come across one yet, but it does happen. Patients who do that ARE stupid.

    I don’t “copy and paste other people’s stuff” – my views are my own and are as a result of many years of research and reading, as well as the ability to think rationally and critically. It’s not up to ME to prove that reflexology works – you’re the ones making the extraordinary and unscientific claims, so it’s up to YOU to prove that it works.

    If I said I was convinced there was an invisible pink dragon living in my garage, but I had no evidence except my own imagination, and perhaps the imaginations of uncritical people I managed to convince of the stupid idea, and that it made us feel nice, and relaxed, knowing the invisible pink dragon was looking out for us – would you accept that? No, you’d ask for evidence, because I am making a silly claim so it’s up to me to prove it. I could claim the dragon had been living in that spot for 5000 years, bringing healing through his energy fields to all who accepted him as real, that we had to go through certain training to fully understand him (read BRAINWASHED!) Would you call that training anything other than what I call your training in reflexology?

    Can you provide me with ANY evidence that reflexology meridians exist, or that massaging areas on the foot or hand or wherever can REALLY heal someone of an illness? Any illness? I’m not talking about anecdotes, I’m talking about published, peer-reviewed EVIDENCE from double-blinded clinical trials.

    Wikipedia agrees with me by the way:

    Claims made by a local reflexologist on her Home page:

    “Reflexology is applying pressure with the hands to specific reflex points, this stimulates the senses and helps the body relax. By relieving blockages, reflexology helps eliminate toxins restoring the free flow of energy in the body. Reflexology improves circulation which contributes to an uninterrupted supply of nutrients and oxygen to the cells and the body is able to heal itself, bringing it back into balance.”

    The only correct statement here is the first line. The rest of it is false: rubbing does not “relieve blockages” (if your circulation was blocked, you’d have a serious medical problem that needed emergency hospitalisation), it cannot “eliminate toxins” (your liver and kidneys remove wastes from your body, and in any case the concept of “toxins” in the body has been thoroughly debunked), energy does not flow through your body(chi is non-existent, there are no meridians, chakras have NEVER been found), the body’s immune system can fight off disease on its own, the blood carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells on its own, and what exactly does “bringing the body back into balance” mean in fact?

    Why don’t you look into it more closely Ronel? Why don’t you try and find out whether there is any scientific evidence for the effectiveness of reflexology? Not anecdotes – double-blinded clinical trials. By scientists – not reflexologists.

    I don’t think you will do it, because you have too much invested in perpetuating these “complementary” ideas.

    • o cathy. if you actually read through the articles on medscape you’ll have your studies. signing off for today. I will answer your questions tomorrow.

      • I can’t access the Medscape articles without paying – and I’m certainly not going to waste my hard-earned money. I have access to plenty of free information already.

        My search for “clinical trials of reflexology yielded nothing, by the way, except to say that reflexology is relaxing and helps relieve stress. I have never denied that it is probably a very good foot massage, and I don’t consider that evidence to back up the outlandish claims that reflexologists make.

        So, before you waste your time writing reams of unconvincing reply, I’d like you to rather do the following:

        1 – Prove that the 10 “zones” that reflexology is built on actually exist
        2 – Prove that the “zones” are directly related to the bodily organs your charts say they are
        3 – Explain why different reflexologists use different charts, if 2 is true
        4 – Prove that rubbing or pressing the areas on the foot that allegedly relate to the various bodily organs has a healing effect on those organs, and by what mechanism
        5 – Explain why the “energy” fields that reflexology relies on have never been shown to exist.
        6 – Describe the “toxins” that reflexology allegedly helps clean from the body, and how it does so.

        I won’t accept anecdotal evidence, trials performed by reflexologists or people who have a vested interest.

        I would like to see peer-reviewed, published evidence performed by real scientists to back up those claims.

  13. You can access medscape articles without paying. You just need to create a sign in account. it’s free and I’ve been using it for years without paying a cent. The reason why i want you to go in there is to read the first link that comes up. it’s about complimentary therapies combined with traditional western medicine therapies in certain illnesses. You’ll see that there is research going on with this concept…and that you’ll see that sometimes the research on CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine) says that CAM is not successful in treating a specific disorder; such as MS. But then again, there are no perfect treatments for MS anyway. Mostly the research now is focused on the product of the CAM – the result it yields. Go and read up on these links. Research into this topic is still in its infancy. I think you’ll have to go and do a deep web search for any hypothesis on the specific questions you have here.

    anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that there are huge amounts of research going on at the moment about not only reflex, but many forms of CAM. People aren’t researching the method of the CAM, but the results. The research n the Qi and meridians have been done already….that’s why you know they exist at all. I’m sure somewhere in a deep, dark lab in a basement of a facility someones trying feverishly to prove that meridians are a specific little line running in 6 pairs throughout the body. but the fact of the matter is that that would be a waste of time as meridians aren’t clearly demarcated lines runnign through the body like veins. They are drawn/illustrated that way to make it easier to understand and visualize. ok, i digress. here are some answers to your demands here above: O by the way: Research is done every year on specific topics by final year students at IARMT (one of the schools accredited by the AHPCSA. This research is submitted to the medical board for review. But since our educations are worthless I wouldn’t suggest you go and get the research papers.

    ok your answers:

    1. I”m not sure what you mean about the 10 zones….it must be zonetherapy that you’re talking about. It’s so oldschool that it’s not really used anymore. It’s what modern therapeutic reflexology is based on though. I’m thinking that it might have something to do with the different zones that the organ systems are found….say for instance the ball of the foot represents the thoracic zone and the heel of the foot the pelvic zone. But as I said, this is very old school.
    2..o i get it: by saying zones you mean reflex points. well, there has been research done about this, through years of observation and studying patients areas related (reflexes) to specific organ paths where identified. These reflex points are illustrated as little organ systems running through both feet, but again….we work on specific areas as well as organs placed on meridians etc.
    3. I’m not sure how you want me to prove that applying pressure (we don’t rub) to reflex points will make you feel anything over the internet. You’re welcome to contact the AHPCSA for information on a registered therapist in your area. Or I can refer you to someone? Some things you really just can’t prove over the internet.
    4. We don’t work with “ENERGY FIELDS or chakras” we work with meridians, organ reflexes and the 5 element system. You have a very airy fairy misconception of our profession. We work with things that have been proved to work through years and years of application and observation.
    5. Jiss this is taking a long time now. Toxins is anything found to be in your body that shouldn’t be there and is hindering the bodily systems to function properly and effectively, like for instance excess calcium. Yes, i do know that with all your studying you know that the liver and kidneys are organs playing a part in filtering toxins. but you forgot about the gall bladder, digestive system and the lymphatic system to name a few. If these organ systems are not functioning properly they can’t filter out the toxins in your body 100%.
    Reflexology helps remove toxins by helping the organs to become stronger by bringing the body back into balance (in other words the body gets a boost so to say) I’m explaining this very quickly and I know you’re going to have a problem with how I’ve just described this but I am in a hurry.

    Ok, i’m honestly out of time here.

    Now will you please answer my question:
    1. Please send me the double blind, peer reviewed, non CAM study of reflexology and debunking all the theories we apply by that you read? I would love to see it as you make it sound really interesting.

  14. Ronel, as usual, you have side-stepped my direct questions for you to provide PROOF in the form of double-blinded clinical trials of reflexology which demonstrate that it is capable of doing what it claims – clear “toxins”, “balance” the body, treat organs by massaging specific areas on the foot, etc.

    Your point 1: You may think the zones are old school, but your entire theory of where on the foot the various organs are found is BASED on the zone system invented by the guy who came up with modern reflexology. Every reflexology website I looked at has pictures of the zones, and what they are allegedly connected to, or refers to this aspect of the so-called treatment.

    Your point 2 : where is the evidence?

    Your point 3: I was asking you for evidence, not to press my foot over the internet. I want you to explain to me how YOU think pressing a spot on the foot will cure my headache or “strengthen” my liver, without resorting to mumbo-jumbo about meridians, zones, balance, energy, etc. Give me a proper scientific explanation, or if you can’t do that, send me a link to a trial which has proved that this effect exists.

    Your point 4: there is no evidence that meridians exist. Years of observation and application by whom? Reflexologists? Obviously, and they make money out of it, so they are biased as to the effects. I would like to see proper scientific trials. Please send me a specific reference to a specific trial that PROVES any of your claims that meridians exist, that organs have reflexes and the “5 element system” has any basis in reality.

    Your point 5: again, please tell me EXACTLY what toxins you are referring to, and prove to me that reflexology does a better job of clearing the body of such toxins than the body’s own organs. How does rubbing the feet make the organs “stronger”? Has this been measured? How much stronger are the organs after reflexology than before? I want to see references to specific clinical trials performed by scientists, not reflexologists, before I would even consider such an outlandish claim.

    Your last point: I made reference to trials of reflexology in my original article. None of them showed that reflexology was anything more than a nice foot-rub with a placebo effect of helping patients to relax.

    Ronel, I’m drawing this conversation to a close because you cannot provide me with any evidence to refute my original article. If you come up with such evidence, I will gladly consider opening the post for further discussion. However, as I am almost certain that will not happen, I’d like to say thanks for being prepared to engage on the subject, and I hope you seriously reconsider your career choice πŸ˜‰

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