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Reflexology Sources on the Web

to appear in   issue 66


Newcomers to the vast field of complementary medicine (alternative therapy, holistic healing, natural health) may be confused by the plethora of terminology used to describe healing that is not "Western medicine." The main difference, as I have come to understand it, is that the former is holistic, treating the patient and the cause rather than the symptom and the effect. However, for those of us brought up in the ritual of seeing a doctor when we're ill - and being prescribed medicine made by the leading pharmaceutical companies, it seems strange that an alternative exists.

I decided to explore "the alternative" when I became increasingly dissatisfied with the old ritual. Having studied system dynamics and causal modelling in my academic research, I sincerely believe in Newton's law of action and reaction. What effect does medicine have on our bodies? Why do I develop another ailment after taking antibiotics to relieve my cold? Why do the same problems, such as hayfever, recur year after year?

Reflexology is only one of many alternative therapies available today. Using meta-search engines I was able to quickly find sites that define it, describe the benefits, detail the history, point to useful links and organisations, and document real life case studies demonstrating the effectiveness of reflexology.

One website at <> states "Reflexology is both a science and an art. As a science, it requires the skill and knowledge of the practitioner. As an art, it requires the dedication and love of the practitioner." While one may argue about its scientific origins, there is overwhelming evidence that it was practised as early as 2,330 BC by the Egyptians. Details of pictures and carvings of this ancient practice can be found at <>. The precursor to modern reflexology began in the US in the 1920's as Zone Therapy, according to < This was brought to the UK in the 1960's by the late Doreen Bayly, as described in <>. There is some dispute over the exact origins of reflexology as we know it today. <> attributes it to Sir Henry Head of London back in the 1890's.

Definition and Benefits

Reflexology is often confused with foot massage, chiropody, chiropractice, acupressure, and acupuncture, as evident in my Internet search results. Foot massage is the massage of the foot, without reference to the rest of the body. A chiropodist treats the feet and their ailments. A chiropractor uses spinal manipulation as a method of curing disease. Acupressure is a kind of massage using fingertips applied to the points of the body used in acupuncture. Acupuncture is a system of medical treatment in which the body surface is punctured by needles at specific points to relieve pain, cure disease, or produce anaesthesia. (Ref: The Cassell Concise English Dictionary edited by Betty Kirkpatrick, copyright 1989.)

Reflexology is a non-intrusive touch therapy applied to the feet and hand. When any of the nerve pathways that exist throughout the body becomes blocked, the body experiences levels of discomfort. Reflexology may assist in reviving one's energy flow and bringing the body back into a state of balance. It is based on the principle that reflexes in the feet and hands mirror each and every gland, organ and all parts of the body.

"Reflexology - a second look" gives a good overview with plenty of body and foot diagrams at <>. Additional foot charts can be found at <>, <>, and <>. A hand chart is available at <>. Stimulating these reflexes or zones by systematic pressure and massage can identify, prevent, maintain, relieve, and even cure certain health problems.

Many reflexology websites state that reflexology is not meant to take the place of modern medicine, but rather to complement it. It can restore harmony to hormonal imbalances and cure breathing disorders and digestive problems. Reflexology can provide and has provided relief from allergies, headaches, sinus problems, asthma, backaches, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, constipation, menstrual problems, prostate problems, laryngitis, arthritis, eczema, glandular fever, and other stress-related ailments. For case studies, see the collection of articles at <>.

Organisations and Choice of Practitioner

Britain has several associations for reflexologists. The British Reflexology Association at <> and the International Institute of Reflexology UK at <> surprisingly offer very little information. The Association of Reflexologists lists other organisations (contact numbers, mailing addresses) by country at <> and equivalently in alphabetical order at <>. My Swiss reflexologist informs me that the Association of Reflexologists in the UK does not recognise reflexology diplomas from other countries. Thus being a member of a reflexology association does not necessarily guarantee good practice. Two web pages list practitioners by area in the UK at <> and <> making it convenient for the web surfer to locate a practitioner. Since the client-therapist is very important, you may have to try a few before becoming comfortable. As with choosing your doctor, you should rely on your own common sense and intuition.

Anyone from any walk of life can get trained as a reflexologist - usually twelve weekends over one year for most courses in the UK. If so, how can you tell if your reflexologist is a good one? Personally, if he/she can identify what is wrong with me without prior knowledge, I would be impressed. If he/she can then relieve me of my pain, then I'm even more impressed. Most people after the typical one-hour treatment tend to feel tired and need to rest. The body is getting rid of toxins while the homeostasis is getting "re-tuned." My Swiss reflexologist firmly believes that one should start with the kidney, ureter tubes, and bladder area. After apprenticing with her teacher of 30 years experience, she contrasts this against the UK, where reflexologists tend to start with the brain. She warns that anyone in the first trimester of pregnancy should not get reflexology treatment as it can produce miscarriage. Having said that, it is a wonderful method to prepare for childbirth later on. She advises against treating intoxicated (by drug or alcohol) patients.

To answer the remaining questions I had about reflexology, I asked the Regional Director of the International Institute of Reflexology at <>. In the US, the American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB) is the overseeing body for standards and practice there. However, none exist for the rest of the world. The International Council of Reflexologists (ICR) does not set standards. Laws regarding reflexology in the US can be found at <>. Some questions to ask in choosing a practitioner are 1- are they certified? 2- what method do they practise? 3- how long have they been practising? 4- what kind of results have they seen?

Books and Further Study

While the web gives a good overview, I would be tempted to check out the many books written about reflexology. <> boasts the most comprehensive list (books, charts, videos) although at time of writing it says it was last updated in February 1999! Twenty five popular books are listed at <>. The magazine Reflexology World has a website that lists books and references at <>. Two other websites I have come across suggest books at <> and <>.

To give credit to the many links that I have not explored in depth, I have organised them under different subject headings at <>.

Finally, as appreciation for my reflexologist's considerable guidance, I quote her personal beliefs verbatim: "There are many people who do not want to heal because they gain too many benefits from their illness or whatever. So many people do not care enough about themselves. I hope to help people who are serious about their health (and to me, health means more than the absence of disease; it is a balance of mental/emotional/physical/spiritual and you feel like you're thriving!). Don't start me on that one - I could write a book." Perhaps she ought to!

About the Author

Believing that the provider of information must first be a user of information, Anne Ku has written numerous Internet articles on a variety of topics. Her current interest in alternative therapies began when she met her Swiss reflexologist, whose consultation culminated in research for this article. Interested readers may reach her London-based reflexologist by visiting Anne's platform for self-expression at <> under "Heal Thyself or Heel Thyself."