Egyptian ChartReflexology a health care modality with a history that is over 5000 years old, and is not quit understood today as what it is and what it can do. To begin let’s look at the many definitions used to define Reflexology.

The American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB) has defined Reflexology for legislative purposes as: “Reflexology is a non-invasive, complementary modality involving thumb and finger techniques to apply alternating pressure to reflexes shown on reflex maps of the body located on the feet, hands, and outer ears.”

The Reflexology Association of America’s definition is:
“A Non-invasive complementary modality involving the use of alternating pressure applied to the reflexes within the reflex maps of the body located on the feet, hands and outer ears.”

The fact that many states have instituted Reflexology licensing regulations, a legal definition to define Reflexology and its difference from Massage is now required. In looking at a few state legislative definitions you can see a similar concept, with slight changes in wording. US MapNorth Dakota State Law

  • Reflexology is the application of specific pressure by the use of the practitioner’s hands, thumb, and fingers to reflex points in the client’s hands, feet, or ears using alternating pressure, and such techniques as thumb walking, finger walking, hook and back up, and rotation on a reflex.

Washington State

  • “Reflexology” means a health care service that is limited to applying alternating pressure with thumb and finger techniques to reflexive areas of the lower one-third of the extremities, feet, hands, and outer ears based on reflex maps. Reflexology does not include the diagnosis of or treatment for specific diseases, or joint manipulations”.

New York

  • “Reflexology is a noninvasive, integrative therapy based on the premise that there are zones and reflex areas in the feet, hands and ears which correspond to all body systems. By applying specific pressure using thumb, finger and hand techniques, these reflex points/areas are stimulated and work to revitalize and harmonize the functions of the body therapy effecting a physiological change”.


  • “Reflexology means the application of specific pressures to reflex points in the hands and feet only”.

Washington D.C.

  • “Manipulation of soft tissue limited to feet and hands is not massage”.


  • “Reflexology is the application of specific pressure by the use of the practitioner’s hands, thumb, and fingers to reflex points in the client’s hands, feet, or ears using alternating pressure, and such techniques as thumb walking, finger walking, hook and back up, and rotation on a reflex”.

North Carolina

  • “Reflexology is the application of pressure through specific techniques with the thumbs and fingers to the feet and hands to bring the body into balance thus promoting well-being”.

Dictionary With the demand for Reflexology and insurance reimbursement requests by the public, created the need for a medical definition.

International Dictionary of Medicine and Biology
The analysis of motor behavior in terms of component simple and complex reflexes. 2. The study of the neurophysiology mechanisms of reflexes in genera. 3. Therapeutic effect achieved by stimulation or irritation at a distance from the area treated.

Stedman’s Medical Dictionary
The science or study of reflexes

Webster’s Medical Desk Dictionary
The study and interpretation of behavior in terms of simple and complex reflexes. 2. Any of various systems of questionable effectiveness that are held by their promoters to restore or promote health by manipulating parts of the body and especially the hands or feet.

Random House Dictionary
A system of massaging specific areas of the foot or sometimes the hand in order to promote healing, relieve stress, etc., in other parts of the body. 2. Medically, the study of reflex movements and processes

In addition to these definitions many Reflexology schools and associations have their own Reflexology definitions.

School LettersAmerican Academy of Reflexology

  • Reflexology is the study, science and art of applying touch, with techniques that are unique to reflexology, to the feet, hands and outer ears, where theory suggests there are pressure maps that resemble a shape of the human body. By working on these reflexology body maps, people report feeling better all over their bodies.
  • International Institute of Reflexology

Reflexology is a science that deals with the principle that there are reflexes in the feet and hands which correspond to all of the glands, organs and parts of the body. Reflexology is a unique method of using the thumb and fingers on these reflex areas.

Modern Institute of Reflexology
Full Spectrum Reflexology applications within the micro reflex/meridian systems of the foot, hand, ear and other selected energy points within the body’s zones/meridians is based on: ancient historical practice; modern physio/ anatomical observation; and clinical studies. These sources have demonstrated that reflex/meridian point activation triggers the photo-bioelectric aspects of the body’s spontaneous healing/wellness processes.

The Reflexology Science Institute

  • Reflexology is an ancient healing art using a specialized version of compression touch that focuses on the feet. It is believed that reflex points in the feet reflect the entire body, and stimulating these reflexes promotes equilibrium in the corresponding body part.
  • Reflexology School of Ohio (RAO)

Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is a type of massage where pressure is applied to specific areas of the feet and hands in order to generate a beneficial effect on other parts of the body.

  • Laura Norman Method of Reflexology

Reflexology is an ancient healing technique practiced today throughout the world to accelerate natural healing and maintain optimal health. These profound results are achieved through the strategic use of firm pressure on specific points on the feet, hands and ears that correspond to organs, glands and the interconnected energy systems of the human body.

Reflexology is the art and science of working specific reflex points on the hands, feet and ears to relieve stress, improve circulation and relax the body.

As you can see no single definition will work to realistically define Reflexology. There are many specific situations that require a specific definition because of the vast concepts and approaches used in Reflexology.

What we do know is Reflexology is “NOT A MASSAGE” because massage works with the muscular system and Reflexology works with the nervous system. It is so important that when the question is asked “What is Reflexology” the answer should be it is not a massage and then share the many health and therapeutic benefits of reflexology.

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Understanding the Benefits of Reflexology

The word Reflexology tends to conjure visions of getting a foot rub or foot massage. Foot Rub-2a

“Relaxed,” “pampered” and even “stress relief” are words I’ve heard people use when describing what Reflexology therapy means to them. When someone hears I am a Reflexologist and instructor they often comment on how lucky I am to receive Reflexology whenever I want to.

While I understand these sentiments, it is so sad that many people feel they do not have the same opportunity available to receive a reflexology session.

Reflexology therapy has a long history. In this country, there have been thousands of studies on a wide variety of people – athletes, entertainers, political leaders, business and corporate executives, employees in the government and private sector, the elderly and even premature infants. Recent research from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, also found that reflexology therapy promotes a healthy immune system by causing a decrease in some immune-suppressing hormones and proteins.

The benefits of reflexology have been proven time and again. Reflexology therapy reduces stress and relieves pain through the hormones it releases (cortisol in particular), which damage the human body in so many ways. It increases circulation that helps get nutrients and oxygen by way of the nerve endings that helps to remove toxins from the muscular system.  Reflexology also decreases inflammation while improving mobility and flexibility.

I believe that if people researched the proven benefits of reflexology therapy for conditions like arthritis, hypertension, depression, back pain and many others, they would see reflexology the way I do, as a valuable healing tool in achieving optimum health and wellness that is need to stay healthy and mobile throughout the aging process. reflexology 600x730

Njideka Olatunde is founder and director of Focus on Healing Wellness Institute. Her vision is to introduce Reflexology therapy as an effective stress relief first aide tool for family wellness to prevent illness, reduce stress, relieve pain, recover from injury and maintain health.

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