Relflexology has no health benefits
Posted: Sep 29, 2022
Reflexology is made up pseudoscience that has no health benefits. Despite that it is still very popular and widely used and promoted as having health benefits. All the scientific evidence says that it doesn’t. There is no registration or licensing of reflexology practitioners, so there are no restrictions on the claims that they can make. The theory behind reflexology is that all the different organ systems in the body can be mapped to a region or zone on the foot. For example, the pituitary gland is mapped to the area under the big toe and the lungs are mapped to the area under the ball of the foot. Every organ has its zone on the foot. The theory claims that if there is disorder in any of these organ systems then a reflexologist can detect that disease by palpating the zone on the foot. The theory further claims that by massaging or stimulating these zones on the foot you can help treat the disease in that particular organ system. It is not known how it was that particular organ systems were ever mapped to these areas on the foot in the first place, except that someone must have just made it up. There is no known way that any of these organ systems can be physiologically or anatomically linked to the zones of the foot. There is simply no pathway or anything that could be remotely close to being a pathway that links them together.
Every single meta-analysis and systematic review of the research that only includes the well done studies on reflexology have shown that it has no health benefits. Its does not help. Stimulation of the zone on the foot linked to a particular organ system does not lead to any changes or improvement in that organ system. In general, studies done on reflexology are badly done with inadequate control groups and the lack of blinding of the participants, etc. However, there are a number of studies that do apparently show that "reflexology" can be helpful and result in physiological changes that those who promote reflexology like to point out and use as evidence that reflexology does work. However, when you look into these studies the authors seem to often call a generic foot massage, reflexology, which its not. Reflexology is stimulation of particular points with massage to help specific organ systems. A full foot massage is something different. Almost everyone likes a good foot massage and almost everyone who gets one will be more relaxed and less stressed after a good foot massage. This can have physiological benefits. For example, a few studies have shown that "reflexology" can lower blood pressure, but that is nothing more than a foot massage making the person more relaxed. Other studies have shown good responses to foot massage for things like the nausea in those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, but this is because of the relaxing effects of the foot massage and is not due to the stimulation on the foot of the body system that the cancer is in.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.