Pain is the most common reason for physician consultation in North America and it is a major symptom in many medical conditions. As uncomfortable and inconvenient as pain is, it does serve a purpose. Pain may be viewed as a method that your body uses to warn you that something is wrong. Also, no doubt you have experienced how natural it is to protect the part of the body that is painful – this is good in the sense that you will protect it from further injury. Similarly, after experiencing pain you will be motivated to avoid the pain inducing situation in the future. However, some pain can be debilitating and in that sense destructive. Simply removing pain can mislead you into believing that everything is alright when, in truth, the source of the pain still needs to be addressed. Reflexology, by relieving stress and tension, can ease pain naturally – sometimes when even the strongest pain killers do not work, as in the advanced stages of cancer for example. Relief of stress and tension by reflexology may also facilitate healing to take place in the painful area.

Pain can take many different forms from migraine headaches, to arthritis, to cancer, to injury to soft tissue (including surgery), to bone fractures, to sciatica, to unexplainable pain with fibromyalgia, etc.  No matter what kind of pain we are talking about, the simple presence of pain has a negative effect on the quality of our life and our ability to function – which makes the reduction of pain desirable. 



Dr. William Fitzgerald, a medical nose and throat specialist, is often called the father of reflexology as a result of his development in the U.S.A. of reflexology’s predecessor Zone Therapy from 1915 to the 1930’s. The main thrust of his promotion of Zone Therapy to his medical colleagues was to present it as an effective method of anesthesia and analgesia at a time when the medical profession had no safe and effective method of anesthesia. For surgeons this was a critical issue. Dr. Fitzgerald and his medical colleagues promoted Zone Therapy to their colleagues primarily for pain relief and anesthesia. 


More recently it is recognized that reflexology primarily reduces stress and tension, and that the benefits of reflexology, including its remarkable ability to ease and relieve pain, evolve from the profound relaxation that it provides to the body. Pain can be intensified by our natural inclination to tense against it. Unfortunately, this tension that we create can intensify the pain, which can create a negative spiral effect. Reflexology’s ability to reduce tension in the area of the pain can reverse this negative spiral and produce significant relief. 

When reviewing a number of research studies that evaluate the effectiveness of reflexology in addressing a wide variety of pains in different parts of the body it was found that reflexology produced positive results 75 – 80% of the time. At present, it is not predictable as to when reflexology will be effective and when not. Its effectiveness depends on how a person responds to it. This is also true of every other therapy. A person’s response to a therapy is very individual. Hence, there is rarely a guarantee that any therapy, including reflexology, will work. 

When pain is acute, as in whiplash for example, there is a very natural tendency to tense as the site of the pain – the neck is approached. A remarkable advantage of reflexology is that it is applied without approaching the site of the pain, and will not create this reaction. Reflexology will reduce acute pain to a point where another therapist may directly approach the site of the pain without invoking the tendency to tense. Thereafter, the combined benefits of the other therapy and reflexology can be enjoyed.

The exquisite beauty of reflexology is how easy it is to learn. Once learned you will have it as a tool to help yourself or those close to you. It may be learned by people who simply want to be more self-sufficient and therefore less dependent on health care professionals, or, it may be learned by professional health practitioners who wish to expand the service that they offer. As a therapy, used with common sense, it is completely safe. It is a harmless, pleasant therapy that produces for the recipient a sublime relaxation. In this sense it is a wonderful gift to be shared among friends and family members – often facilitating a deeper sense of connectedness. It also has profound health benefits. These benefits all stem from its ability to effectively reduce stress and tension. Stress and tension are frequently the source and a major contributor to the maintenance and proliferation of disease.


Issel, Christine “Reflexology: Art, Science & History” New Frontier Publishing, Sacramento, CA  1993

Headaches and Reflexology Treatment.         By National Board of Health Council, Denmark, 1995.

“Reflexology in the management of low back pain: A pilot randomized controlled trial.” F. Quinn, C.M. Hughes, G.D. Baxter, Health & Rehabilitation Sciences Inst., University of Ulster.2007

Dong, Y. “A Preliminary Approach to Foot Reflexology in Treatment of Sciatica.” 1994 China Reflexology Symposium Report, Beijing: China Reflexology Association, pages 35-38.

Degan M, Vanin F, Bevilacqua M, Genova V, Mazzucco M, Negrisolo A, “The Effectiveness of Foot Reflexotherapy on Chronic Pain Associated with a Herniated Disc.” Prof Inferm. 2000 Apr -  Jun: 53(2): 80-7

“Reflexology and Pain Reduction” Unpublished report available through the FDZ Research Committee, Denmark.

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