What Practitioners Say It Does

Reflexology advocates believe that this approach can increase energy flow to the organs that correspond to the reflex points, and increase the vitality of those organs. By increasing the vitality of the internal organs, practitioners believe they can improve patients' health. They claim that reflexology can reduce stress and tension, improve circulation, eliminate toxins, and bring the body into a state of balance conducive to good health. These beliefs echo the vital-force concept that dominated the earliest ideas about health, illness, and physiological function.

Reflexology is recommended by proponents as a means of alleviating the symptoms of some chronic ailments, such as headaches, asthma, and bowel problems. It does not claim to cure illnesses.

There are two linked beliefs on which reflexology is based. One is that reflex points exist on the foot, and that these reflex points can influence health in distant organ systems and parts of the body to which they are linked. The second is that the body contains an invisible life force, or subtle energy, similar to the concept of qi (chi) in Chinese medicine and acupuncture (Chapters 6 and 1), or prana in Ayurvedic or Indian medicine (Chapter 2). Reflexologists believe that, by stimulating reflex points on the foot, they can unblock and increase the flow of this energy throughout the body.

Research on reflexology in the medical literature is scant. The best research evidence available does not demonstrate that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition. None of the beliefs and concepts on which reflexology is based, such as the idea of subtle energy, has been proven. The major underlying hypothesis — that pressure applied to the foot improves health — is not documented.

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