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Reflexology for Orthopedic Conditions

Patty has advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology, with 35 years of work in allergy and other autoimmune treatment.

Reflexology for foot injuries

Reflexology for foot injuries

What Is Reflexology?

Several years ago, I received a free trial treatment of reflexology after the cast removal from a compound fracture that was accompanied by a sprain and strain to the ankle. It was difficult to walk, and I was pleasantly surprised by the huge amount of flexibility I recovered with just one session of reflexology. In fact, I was able to walk again without a mobility aid.

The reflexology treatment worked so well that I needed no further treatments of any kind. I continued to walk farther each day, and the ankle continued to heal well.

It is reasonable to think that reflexology, a type of massage and trigger point therapy that works in the same manner as acupressure, might work very well in cases of joint damage and muscle stiffness.

The question of efficacy enters when considering the treatment effects experienced in other physical conditions besides broken bones and stiff joints. Numerous studies have shown various and opposing results, but the Mayo Clinic has written that reflexology may have some benefits. In my experience, it certainly does!

Reflexology massage shoes that many of my friends and I have used with good results.

Reflexology massage shoes that many of my friends and I have used with good results.

Finding the Facts

Anyone that wants to try it should not be discouraged by others who may feel that reflexology is "quackery." It is a form of massage, and the research literature shows great positive effects in massage treatments.

If the application of this complimentary alternative treatment can lower healthcare costs and the use of both prescription and over-use of pain medications, then reflexology proves itself effective.

Some individuals suspect alternative therapies to be a part of a system that is in direct opposition to their faith and religious beliefs. Persons with related concerns are best advised to interview alternative health practitioners and decide for themselves before submitting to any treatment, allopathic or alternative, for that matter.

Patients should not be discouraged from pursuing alternative and complementary medicine, but neither should they be forced to accept any treatment against their informed wishes.

Is It Different Than Massage?

Nursing instructors have informed me that nursing students were once taught massage therapy as part of their LPN and RN training programs, but no more. I feel that it should be continued.

Massage provides such a number of benefits, that perhaps massage should be reinstalled as part of the nursing curriculum nationwide. In fact, an enlightening conference presentation from a massage patient in 2005 at the Columbus, Ohio Annual Health Fair showed how daily foot and leg massage helped her after suffering two broken ankles in a fall. She was in her late 40s and was expected to require several weeks or months to recover fully, but she recovered much more quickly.

Several women from her church visited her daily to provide company and to massage both of her feet, ankles, and legs. Within about four weeks, this patient was fully recovered and back to work without mobility aides. This is but one example, but it presents a good testimony for massage in a case of bilateral ankle breaks.

The massage that is known as "Medical Massage," "Swedish Massage," or "Deep Tissue Massage," is accepted as useful and effective for a number of conditions throughout the U.S. Reflexology, at least in its mechanics, is a similar type of deep tissue massage that includes trigger-point therapy, which I have used successfully. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity of receiving additional training through workshops in Swedish massage by a long-time area professional.

Professional Organizations

Who Invented Reflexology?

I have heard lecturers point to the introduction of reflexology techniques in the early 20th century and later in a New Age Movement. However, the British Reflexology Association (BRA), founded in 1985, states that reflexology was first introduced by the ancient Chinese and Egyptians.

This is unsurprising since Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC), Traditional Korean Medicine (TKM), and ancient Egyptian medical systems incorporated some of the same techniques.

BRA also states that what we may call Modern Reflexology began as the work of Ms. Eunice Ingham, an American that called it Zone Therapy, but which had actually begun even earlier in the Roaring Twenties by her countryman, William Fitzgerald, MD, who is often credited for the whole system. In the UK, the work was further developed in the 1960s by Ms. Doreen Bayly. Thus, many men and women developed reflexology.

Other personalities in other countries no doubt have added their expertise to refine the system. In fact, it is also known as Thai Foot Massage. It has also been traced to Japan, Africa, and a small number of Native North American nations.

How Does It Work?

Reflex areas on the soles of the feet are felt to be connected to other body parts and systems. Stimulating those reflex areas with pressure (acupressure) and massage creates positive results. Various charts for the hands and feet, their reflex areas, and what body systems they may affect are available online and in textbooks for accredited courses.

Deep tissue massage for sports injuries

Deep tissue massage for sports injuries

Additional Uses

Reflexology, which applies to the hands as well as to the feet, is said to affect a number of health conditions in a positive way, although conflicting evidence has arisen. It may be a matter of individual differences, certain treatments working for certain individuals.

A partial list of conditions for which reflexology has been used includes:

  1. Arthritis
  2. Cancer pain
  3. Childbirth pain
  4. Circulatory system issues: angina, high blood pressure, stroke
  5. Immune responses
  6. Migraines
  7. Multiple sclerosis
  8. Sciatica and other back and joint pain
  9. Stress and anxiety
  10. Regular use enhances the circulation of blood and lymph systems, which can aid in any healing process.

Consult your healthcare professional before undertaking a regime of reflexology or other alternative health treatments—some health practitioners feel that reflexology should not be used in cases of pregnancy and diabetes, for instance.

Another thought is that since relaxation increases the body's efficient use of medications (requiring smaller amounts), then a reflexology treatment that reduces stress and tension may produce similar results. Ask your healthcare professional for his or her opinion.



  • Acupressure's Potent Points by Michael Reed Gach; 1990.
  • Complete Reflexology for Life by Barbara Kunz; 2009.
  • Foot Reflexology Therapy System by Meng Chung E.; 2009, 2013.

Seminars and Workshops

  • Acupressure Seminar provided by Industrial Commission of Ohio, Division of Workers Compensation; 1989.
  • Ongoing Professional Development training in Eastern Medicine provided by Haas Martial Arts Schools; 1998 - 2000.
  • Ongoing Professional Development training in Eastern Medicine provided by Yang Institute; 1982 - 1989.
  • Preventive Medicine Curriculum, The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine; 1994.
  • Treatment sessions for myself with reflexology; 2003.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is it OK for me to have reflexology after broken hip?

Answer: Since each case of surgery and recovery for a broken hip is different, please ask your healthcare provider your question. I will say that one session of reflexology completely released the stiffness of my ankle after surgery.

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS

Comments and Experiences

Debra Hargrove from North Carolina on February 16, 2016:

Reflexology does wonders for aches and pain. I truly believe this practice can be much more beneficial than medication. Your information is very good and I can always use more tips to add to what I am using now.

cha on August 28, 2011:

Reflexology brings relief to a huge range of conditions. Most people can benefit from a reflexology treatment and there is no minimum or maximum age limit.

Orthopedics Las Vegas

breakfastpop on July 18, 2011:

I know people who swear by this therapy.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 17, 2010:

Yes, I think I would - it's good for circulation and balance as well. han reflexology would be wonderful for arthritic fingers and lessen the condition. And, if someone is squeamish about a full-body massage, they could begin with reflexology to the feet.

Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on April 17, 2010:

Thanks Patty for the suggestions...sorry for not responding sooner...I just found your article again today...Would you use reflexology for other conditions if it seemed affordable to you?

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 13, 2010:

Enlydia - Aak your local newspaper - sometimes a weekly one will do it more readily than the daily - to do a interview with you about reflexology, or write an article and ask if you could publish it in the paper under a Guest Columnist" designation. Try the local public radio station as well.

Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on April 12, 2010:

Patty, thankyou for writing this article...I became a certified reflexologist last is awesome to have someone writing about it in here. At present I am in the process of starting up my own is a little difficult because most people don't know what a reflexologist is. I also like to include guided imagery in my thankyou for writing about it. Every bit of info sent out to the Universe helps.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2010:

Reflexology sounds wonder. This was an interesting hub. Thanks for the information.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 10, 2010:

Great, amazing information, Foot Lady!

Ms. Ingram was like the Australian nurse Sister Elizabeth Kenny that traveled everywhere helping people avoid paralysis when they contracted polio. I learned about Ms. Ingram accidentally; much more needs to be said about her.

The Foot Lady on March 10, 2010:

Hi, great article! I have been a reflexologist for 31 years and while a huge amount of the information is correct I have to make one correction. As a long time Reflexologist I have worked on countless pregnant women and most of my clientel consists of Diabetics. It is wonderful for morning sickness, back aches, sore feet and delivery...all aspects of pregnancy. Diabetics love it because of poor circulation, balancing of the pancreas and it helps in some aspects of peripheral neuropathy.

I was trained by Dwight C. Byers who is the nephew of Eunice D. Ingham and no matter what is said about the "history"..if it weren't for her no one today would have a clue about reflexology - she was the pioneer who traveled the US lecturing and teaching others who eventually took it to Europe back in the 30's, 40's and 50's. I feel she is the one who ultimately should get the credit. Again...thanks for writing this...the more information we have about Reflexology, the better.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on March 09, 2010:

I enjoyed reading this, especially with all these historical facts. I am a great believer in these methods. Thank you for sharing.

sheila b. on March 08, 2010:

This sounds like something I could use. Thank you.

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on March 08, 2010:

My feet are always killing me. I could use this.