Reflexology for Chronic Pain

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Reflexology for Chronic Pain

Reflexology, a bodywork practice where energy (qi) is shifted and balance made available, might benefit individuals experiencing chronic pain. Typically offered as a complementary therapy to previously established treatment methods and therapies, reflexology finds its roots in Eastern medicine and philosophy.

When qi, your life force energy, becomes stagnant, stuck, blocked, or off-balance, it will show itself as a physical illness or an emotional or mental imbalance. Sometimes, it arises as a blend of the three.

A reflexologist can determine how your physical body connects to your internal, emotional, and energetic state of being.

When it comes to chronic pain, an abundance of patients turns to complementary therapies, typically found in the form of Eastern medicine, as they offer added healing beyond conventional methods.


Chronic pain can include the following related symptoms which arise from conventional medications or comorbid diagnoses:

  • A noticeable sensation of discomfort or immense pain

  • Exhausted energy levels

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Fatigue

  • Inability to complete typical routine tasks

  • Sensitivity in the nervous system

  • Heightened stress levels

  • Headaches or migraines

Reflexology has been shown to benefit those experiencing anxiety, depression, fatigue, stress, and imbalanced nervous systems. As such, it would make sense that it can offer healing and pain relief to those with chronic pain.


Which patients benefit from reflexology?

So long as you are cleared to receive the treatment and have provided truthful and thorough information for your doctor and/or a reflexologist, you are ready to receive the treatment.

In some cases, reflexology might not be recommended. Or, you might not see benefits despite hearing about the tales of pain relief and immense relaxation. All pain is different, and all patients experience pain differently. So, your pain might be entirely different from someone else who saw reflexology's benefits more potently.

In some ways, reflexology might benefit those with migraines and headaches brought on by chronic pain more so than those experiencing achy bones or sore joints. It depends entirely on the person, though, as we all have different pain thresholds, and our perspectives of pain and wellness differ significantly.

How does reflexology work?

Following along the reflex points and based upon the information shared between reflexologist and client, a reflexologist will trace, pull, or massage specific points or body parts - typically, only the hands, feet, and ears. In doing so, healing is induced throughout the entire body, not only the physical but the energetic and emotional body as well.

Reflexology seems to connect directly to the nervous systems. The feet might have as many as seven thousand nerve endings alone, which then connect to the central nervous system after being stimulated during a reflexology session.

By rewiring neural pathways, shifting the energy or qi, a reflexologist can change the way you perceive or feel pain.

Scientific Support

Reflexology might benefit those individuals experiencing chronic low back pain, one of the most common complaints in the realm of chronic pain. A study from the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, with the involvement of their nurses and a research team, found that reflexology stands as a viable and reliable means of interrupting the experience of chronic low back pain.

Plus, reflexology, they found, can easily be taught to be people. So, you can share the practice with patients and let them 'take it home' with them.

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Reflexology FAQ

Reflexology is a somewhat unknown medical intervention in today’s society. Due to this general lack of knowledge, there are a significant amount of misconceptions regarding this technique. In this article, we will address a few questions commonly posed by individuals considering or currently receiving reflexology treatment.

Question #1: What The Heck Is Reflexology?

The concept of reflexology is almost entirely based on the idea that certain body parts such as the feet, hands and ears are directly connected to specific organs and seemingly unrelated anatomical regions.

Using this assumption, physical touch and various pressures are applied to these three aforementioned areas in an attempt to alleviate an ailment affecting the corresponding body part.

Question #2: What Does The Research Say About Reflexology?

Since we have already addressed that this technique is relatively obscure in the medical community, it makes sense that there is not a large body of research on the subject. As with all research questions, the information available both questions the validity as well as supports the effectiveness of reflexology.

It is fair to note that the majority of research available is deemed by critics to be of low quality. There is however several studies conducted on patients with diagnoses such as breast cancer and anxiety that support significant symptomatic relief. This is largely related to the belief that human touch in general tends to have a therapeutic effect on people in general.

Question #3: How Is Reflexology Different From Massage?

Given the fact that both of these techniques involve the application of direct pressure to the body, a common misconception is that they are basically the same thing. However, massage involves applying pressure to a region with the intention of directly relieving some form of ailment in the local area.

With massage, the areas subject to this technique can include virtually any area of the body. On the contrary, reflexology attempts to treat a different anatomical region than the area specifically manipulated. Furthermore, reflexology is limited to very specific body parts previously mentioned (feet, hands and ears).

Question #4: What Is The Intention Of Reflexology?

By applying pressure to certain body parts, practitioners of this technique seek to release built up toxins and pressure that may be present in the regions corresponding to the area being palpated. The reported benefits of this release include increased circulation, lymphatic drainage, increased nerve stimulation and relaxation of overactive muscle tissue.

Question #5: What Can I Expect During A Treatment Session?

As with any medical intervention, your first reflexology session will begin with gaining an overall idea of your medical history, areas causing you discomfort and goals you hope to accomplish regarding treatment. You will then be given ample time to ask any questions you may have regarding the specific treatment and overall purpose of the technique.

Afterwards, a normal treatment session will typically be performed for an hour or so. Due to the collection of the aforementioned health information, expect your first visit to by a little lengthier than sessions moving forward.

If you are interested in beginning a treatment protocol in this technique, there are likely questions you have that were not included in this brief discussion. As with virtually everything under the sun, a quick online search of said questions may provide additional insight.


Scheduling a meeting with an actual reflexologist is most likely the most efficacious method of securing more reliable information, if you have this option. The world of medicine is full of unique concepts and techniques that receive varying reviews from medical professionals and patients alike.

With any of these protocols, giving reflexology a try for yourself is always the best way to decide if it is right for you!

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Another study, from 2018 and ed by C. Kern, gathered 311 participants. They found that the research on reflexology remains limited, but it is an "inexpensive, reliable, teachable, and simple non-invasive treatment." (The Benefits of Reflexology for the Chronic Pain Patient in a Military Pain Clinic.) So, as more studies and information rise to the surface, reflexology might only continue to grow in its validity and popularity. Down the road, it might be as common as acupuncture.

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