Many people confuse reflexology with massage, Reiki, or acupuncture, but there are essential differences between these therapies.  Massage therapists manipulate larger areas of soft tissue in the body while reflexologists apply pressure to specific points on the feet, hands, and ears.  Unlike either massage or reflexology, Reiki does not involve any physical manipulation or pressure, but instead uses light touch to work with the subtle vibrational field thought to surround the body. Finally, while acupuncture and acupressure, like reflexology, use reflex points on the body to influence other parts of the body, the points are not the same and acupuncture uses points over the entire body.

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Their website seems to conflate reflexology with acupuncture and acupressure. There are five tabs at the top of the home page: (1) Store, which links to a single Amazon.com page selling a reflexology foot massager, (2) Acupressure Points and (3) Reflexology Treatment, both of which have multiple articles on acupuncture and acupressure, (4) Reflexology Machines – foot massagers and acupressure mats, and (5) Courses. Notable by its absence is a tab for scientific studies showing that any of this stuff works.
Like having your feet worked on? The therapist uses finger pressure and techniques such as kneading and rubbing to promote relaxation and healing in the body. Reflexology is based on "reflex areas" on the hands and feet, whose energy is believed to be connected to organs and other body parts. By applying pressure to the reflex points, the reflexologist can balance your nervous system and stimulate endorphins, the body's natural pleasure response, which reduces stress and discomfort.
Oils: The base oil should be a vegetable oil, cold pressed, unrefined, and free of additives. These oils contain such nutrients as vitamins and minerals in addition to fatty acids. They do not clog the pores as mineral oils often do. Essential (aromatic) oils may be added to provide additional relaxation or other therapeutic effects. Massage oil should be warmed in the therapist's hands before it is applied to the client's skin.

The recently increased demand for evidence-based practice challenges the researchers to provide a relevant but holistic assessment of reflexology. Despite the recent vast use of reflexology, minimal attention has been given to the ethical issues related to the research on reflexology. In the view of public health and safety, we argue that the research on reflexology should adhere to the same ethical requirements for all clinical research.

Each treatment is designed to provide restoration for your body and mind, and also make you look and feel the best you can. Massage can reduce stress and muscle tension, improve circulation, eliminate stiffness and soreness, boost the immune system, reduce pain and even help control one’s blood pressure. Couples who strive to practice a healthy lifestyle can enjoy these benefits and more together.

RCTs have a vital role in the assessment of efficacy in reflexology. However, they only address the effect of reflexology in which other pertinent issues are unexplored such as the mechanism of reflexology, psyche, and the experience of participants receiving reflexology. Nursing research has long used qualitative research to explore various health care phenomena. Similarly, qualitative approach can provide further understanding about the patient's perception and belief towards reflexology.4, 36 Qualitative research also assists in understanding the impact of the context and the process of reflexology intervention. A greater understanding of reflexology intervention has the potential to enhance the delivery of health care. Thus, it is argued that qualitative explorative methods combined with RCTs could potentially reveal the contributing factors of reflexology effect.


I am a science writer and a former Registered Massage Therapist with a decade of experience treating tough pain cases. I was the Assistant Editor of ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I’ve written hundreds of articles and several books, and I’m known for readable but heavily referenced analysis, with a touch of sass. I am a runner and ultimate player. • more about me • more about PainScience.com
As we age, our nerve endings become less sensitive in many parts of our body, particularly in our extremities. That being said, reflexology has been connected with stimulating more than 7,000 different nerve endings in a single session, thereby increasing their function and reactivity. Opening and cleaning out neural pathways can help improve functionality and flexibility in many areas around the body. Neural pathways are like muscles, so it is good to work them once in a while to keep them sharp!

Reflexology is an extremely effective form of massage, relating to the 'reflex points' on the sole of the foot. These points correspond to the organs and systems in the body, and are linked to those organs through 'energy channels', 'zones' or 'meridians'. When illness or imbalance occurs, the corresponding 'energy channels' become blocked. Reflexology Massage aims to remove these blocks, thus allowing the energy to flow freely again.

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Sports Massage can be characterized two ways: pre-activity and post-activity massage. Pre-activity uses dynamic stretching to allow the connective tissue to work through a full range of motion, thereby reducing possible injury. Post-activity massage focuses on recovering the muscle tissue that may have been impacted doing the particular sport. It involves long strokes to flush out the toxins that causes soreness in the muscles and joints. 
Continual improvement is the reason you train in the dead of winter, hammer up the hills on the bike, do track work, and train in the pouring rain. Well, that is the same reason you should get a good sports massage. After a massage you'll feel lighter, more powerful and more flexible, and all those nagging aches and pains can be addressed, helping to reduce the likelihood of injury.
Many proponents claim that foot reflexology can cleanse the body of toxins, increase circulation, assist in weight loss, and improve the health of organs throughout the body. Others have reported success in treating earaches, anemia, bedwetting, bronchitis, convulsions in an infant, hemorrhoids, hiccups, deafness, hair loss, emphysema, prostate trouble, heart disease, overactive thyroid gland, kidney stones, liver trouble, rectal prolapse, undescended testicles, intestinal paralysis, cataracts, and hydrocephalus (a condition in which an excess of fluid surrounding the brain can cause pressure that damages the brain). Some claim to "balance energy and enhance healing elsewhere in the body." [2] One practitioner has even claimed to have lengthened a leg that was an inch shorter than the other. There is no scientific support for these assertions.
In Japanese, shiatsu means "finger pressure." For shiatsu massage, the therapist uses varied, rhythmic pressure on certain precise points of the body. These points are called acupressure points, and they are believed to be important for the flow of the body's vital energy, called chi. Proponents say shiatsu massage can help relieve blockages at these acupressure points.
The recently increased demand for evidence-based practice challenges the researchers to provide a relevant but holistic assessment of reflexology. Despite the recent vast use of reflexology, minimal attention has been given to the ethical issues related to the research on reflexology. In the view of public health and safety, we argue that the research on reflexology should adhere to the same ethical requirements for all clinical research.
Referred pain basically just makes trigger point stimulation feel bigger, more important. Press on a small spot … feel it down your entire arm. Wow! Impressive! Even though it’s just a thumb on a trigger point, it feels as though that “itch” is being scratched throughout an entire region. Referred pain amplifies the good pain effect — or the bad pain effect, if the pressure is too intense!
Learn about qi and other conceptsAnother theory that may also explain how reflexology can produce pain relief is the gate control theory, or, more recently, the neuromatrix theory of pain. This theory suggests that pain is a subjective experience created by your brain. The brain does this in response to the sensory experience of pain, but it can also work independently of sensory input and create pain in response to emotional or cognitive factors. Thus things that influence the brain, such as your mood or external factors like stress can also affect your experience of pain. According to this theory, reflexology may reduce pain by reducing stress and improving mood.

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Foot Reflexology massage can be a deeply relaxing and therapeutic modality for those suffering from plantar fasciitis, ankle injuries or even everyday work and play. At Massage Envy, your massage therapist will apply traditional Swedish and sports massage techniques to the foot, calf and upper leg. This will not only help relieve toe pain, ankle pain, plantar fasciitis and common forms of arthritis, but can also decrease stress and anxiety in the entire body. In addition, a variety of stretches can be beneficial. With pain and sensitivity in the foot, heel and calf areas, be sure to communicate your pain levels with your massage therapist during your treatment. It is also a good idea to rest after receiving the reflexology massage.

My massage therapist has been doing massages for 30 years. He is really aggressive. I thought that I was going to die. The pain was so intense that I honestly feel that it was worse than having children. When the massage was complete, I felt relaxed. When I got home I felt exhausted, like I had been in a major accident. Truthfully I feel like crap. I ache from head to toe, what the heck is this? I feel absolutely horrible. I had a bath before bed and it did help somewhat. But this morning I still feel like hell …
You're going to with a foot, you're going to press down just a little and come up and press down and come up, press down and come up. Now sometimes just wave the foot a little bit towards me and that will allow you to go a little deeper. As similarly, you could do finger walking. With finger walking I generally use it on the top of the foot. We could also use it on the sides of the foot. But generally not on the bottom plantar aspect. So, with that, you're just going to be doing the same kind of thing where you come down and come back up and back down again.

As we age, our nerve endings become less sensitive in many parts of our body, particularly in our extremities. That being said, reflexology has been connected with stimulating more than 7,000 different nerve endings in a single session, thereby increasing their function and reactivity. Opening and cleaning out neural pathways can help improve functionality and flexibility in many areas around the body. Neural pathways are like muscles, so it is good to work them once in a while to keep them sharp!

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Reflexology is a therapeutic method of relieving pain by stimulating predefined pressure points on the feet and hands. This controlled pressure alleviates the source of the discomfort. In the absence of any particular malady or abnormality, reflexology may be as effective for promoting good health and for preventing illness as it may be for relieving symptoms of stress, injury, and illness.

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Muscles have a natural reflex to resist pain. When a muscle thinks it's about to be injured, this reflex is triggered. When too much pressure is applied during a massage, the muscle or group of muscles will naturally resist force by tightening further. This is the opposite effect of what a massage is all about. Effective massages relax and release areas of tension.

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Your massage therapist will require you to fill out a health history form. Afterwards the therapist will begin by asking you general questions to establish what areas you would like worked on, if there are any conditions needing to be addressed and to determine if massage is appropriate for you. Your massage therapist may perform certain assessments and testing to evaluate your condition, and to see if you have any presenting complaints. 

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Reflexology practitioners and the professional association have advocated that reflexology is effective for general well-being maintenance and treatment of chronic diseases such as strokes, musculoskeletal disorders, and stress. Due to its soothing massage and non-drug complementary nature, reflexology is widely accepted by general public. Yet, numerous systematic reviews confirmed that strong evidence of the positive effects of reflexology postintervention are lacking despite plenty reported small-scale trial and anecdotal evidence of reflexology for some common ailments. Adequate training of practitioners and reflexology programme accreditation are to ensure correct and consistent services are provided.

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To put it bluntly, it’s not clear that massage has any musculoskeletal benefits at all. It probably does, but mostly quite temporary and highly unpredictable. There’s not nearly enough science, and therapists are hopelessly biased assessing their own efficacy. See Does Massage Therapy Work? A review of the science of massage therapy … such as it is. BACK TO TEXT

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In massage therapy, so much can be achieved while inflicting only good pain on patients that bad pain must be justified by vivid, quick, and somewhat lasting benefits — which is a high bar to clear. All health care practices must be justified by benefits. As risk and pain and expense increase, the benefits must also. There is simply no point in tolerating — and paying for — painful treatment without an obvious return on the investment.

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Swedish massage is the therapeutic massage standard for much of the Western world. Developed in the 1800s by Pehr Henrik Ling, it incorporates a variety of specific massage techniques to treat sore muscles, tension, stress, and poor circulation. Most Western massage modalities have their origins in in this form, and the majority of massage therapists in the West are trained in it before they learn any other massage techniques. Swedish massage is so ubiquitous that in Europe that it is known as classic massage.

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You've probably seen these strange contraptions at conventions, the mall, nail parlors, and maybe even your office. Chair massages have you sitting face forward in a chair so the therapist can massage mostly your neck, shoulders, and back. The good thing is you don't have to take off your clothes or have oils slathered all over you. The bad thing is you don't get a thorough whole-body massage as you do with other methods, and, since this is often done in public places, it can be very distracting and not as relaxing. Depending on the massage therapist, however, a chair massage can really get the tension out of your upper body.
Massage therapists who have received specialized training and are certified in prenatal massage know how to position and support the woman's body during the massage, modify techniques, and avoid certain areas and techniques during pregnancy. Most will have a special table that allows the woman to rest comfortably and safely during the massage. Ideally, you should seek out a practitioner who is experienced and licensed in prenatal massage.
Swedish massage is the most common massage therapy technique in the United States. (In case you were wondering, Swedish massage is called “classic massage” in Sweden.)   A Swedish massage focuses on overall relaxation, circulation, and physical and mental wellness.  Swedish massage includes gliding, kneading, tapping, stretching, and cross-friction strokes.

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The therapist then applies force using their forefinger and thumb, forcing it against the heel of the foot. There is also another way to do this therapy; some reflexologists bend their thumbs while some of them use the eraser at the end of the pencil to apply pressure on your feet. Always keep in mind that this form of therapy is just a relaxing treatment and it is not a form of medical treatment.

Swedish massage therapy can be helpful with a number of other physical challenges, such as reduction in scar tissue by physically manipulating the fibers of the tissue, allowing the scar tissue to be successfully reabsorbed into the skin. Additionally, it can aid with lymphatic drainage, where the long strokes of the therapist help move fluids successfully out of clogged areas.
Phussapa Thai Massage School also offers reflexology training course. The educational systems available for this course are basically the theory, practice, and examination. This institution has the authorization from Thai Ministry of Education. The main curriculum included in this course is the general subject of reflexology such as the history of foot massage, basic knowledge of reflexology map, safe and proper foot massage, necessary equipment, and advice after session. For the practice session, a full session of one-hour foot massage and cool down massage is taught. The examination will be in written and practice format. After the completion of whole school course, the certificate will be issued.22

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Referred pain spreads the goodness. Undoubtedly another reason that massage pain can feel good is the phenomenon of referred sensation. If you stimulate internal tissues anywhere in the body, muscle or otherwise, the brain really has trouble telling quite where the sensation is coming from. When you press hard enough on your muscles, particularly on sensitive trigger points, the pain is often experienced as though it originated from a much broader area.
Take it slow. Remember, the inner and outer charts are for people experienced with foot reflexology. Wait until you feel comfortable with the basics before trying to fully understand how to work the inner and outer charts. You may want to meet with a foot reflexology specialist or consider taking classes if you're interested in the inner and outer charts.[11]

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Pre-event sports massage is done to help prevent serious athletic injury. It helps to warm up the muscles, stretching them and making them flexible for optimal athletic performance. A pre-event massage stimulates the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles, reduces muscle tension, loosens the muscles, and produces a feeling of psychological readiness.

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Massage has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, if you need or want a massage, you can choose from about 80 massage therapy styles with a wide variety of pressures, movements, and techniques. These all involve pressing, rubbing, or manipulating muscles and other soft tissues with hands and fingers. Sometimes, even forearms, elbows, or feet are used.
Whenever athletes exercise heavily, their muscles suffer microtraumas. Small amounts of swelling occur in the muscle because of tiny tears. Post-event sports massage helps reduce the swelling caused by microtraumas; loosens tired, stiff muscles; helps maintain flexibility; promotes blood flow to the muscle to remove lactic acid and waste build-up; and reduces cramping. In addition, post-event massage helps speed the athlete's recovery time and alleviates pulls, strains, and soreness. 

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The findings by a recent study have confirmed the efficacy of reflexology by recording 31% of pain reduction among the patients with back pain. Quinn et al. reported that the pain intensity score decreased to an average extent in the experimental group.23 Poole et al. demonstrated that there was a significant difference between the control and experimental groups before and after the reflexology treatment.24
Sports Massage is a combination of massage strokes and techniques combined with flexibility and specific exercise routines geared to increase an athletes performance capabilities. The application of Sports Massage is determined by ones own specific anatomical and physiological needs. Basic musculoskelatal evaluations, orthopedic assessments, and flexibility analysis do this. By determining the athletes specific needs, the Sports Massage therapist will not only be able to provide increased strength, speed and flexibility, but also improve biomechanical efficiency and decrease the potential for injury. This is a comprehensive program with a shared responsibility between the Sports Massage Therapist and the athlete.

Bad pain. Bad pain comes with no obvious, immediate benefits. If there is anything good about it, there is no way to tell from the sensation at the time. Bad pains are usually sharp, burning, or hot. Such pain is usually caused by excessive but harmless pressure. As bad as it feels, it probably won’t hurt you — maybe a little bruising — but there’s also a good chance that it won’t be therapeutic either. The big question about bad pain is whether or not it is ever justified.
Although many assume Swedish massage comes from Sweden, Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909), a Dutch man, is often credited with formalizing the system known as Swedish massage—sometimes referred to as “classic massage” in Europe. Mezger assigned French names— effleurage, petrissage, friction, and tapotement—to the specific strokes used in Swedish massage application. In English, these movements are known as stroking, kneading, rubbing (friction), and striking.

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For instance, I tried a new young massage therapist. He introduced a pain scale right away, and asked me to use it to define an intensity I was comfortable with — a 5 out 10, say — and then actually used that scale to check with me quite a few times throughout an hour treatment. He also responded with clear adjustments to his technique when I reported that we were under or over the target I’d set. Great work! BACK TO TEXT

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A good massage therapist will never force pressure into the muscle. They will continue to apply pressure until the muscle pushes back against them. The muscle will then slowly begin to release and allow the therapist to move along it. The pressure used should not be painful, but should walk a fine line between pleasurable release of tension and a pain-blocking response from the body (tensing up).

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However, since having the feet or hands rubbed is an enjoyable and relaxing experience for most people, there is little doubt that hand and foot reflexology can promote stress relief and a sense of well being in much the same way as any other form of massage. This therapy may be an especially useful complementary treatment for neuropathy of the legs, feet and toes. It can also be useful for sore hands and feet after a workout, running or taking a long walk.
Ugly pain in massage therapy is, by my definition, never okay. Ugly pain is often caused by things that are not going to offer even minimal, delayed benefits, and may even be dangerous. It’s important to be able to spot ugly pain for what it is and completely eliminate it from any therapy you’re receiving. What kinds of handling may cause “ugly” pain?
Alhough he was a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association at the time, Pietrunti says that he ultimately decided to pursue licensure in massage therapy as well. This provided that missing link while also being “a good way to ‘bridge the gap’ and provide a better service to my clients,” he says.
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