Reflexology is touch therapy based on the belief that specific areas on the foot, hand and ear are reflex points that correspond with organs and body systems. When these points, primarily on the soles and sides of the feet, the palms of the hands and the inside/outside of the ear are stimulated by applying pressure with specific thumb, finger and hand techniques, tension and dysfunction in the specific organs or bodily systems are relieved. Reflexology is used in conjunction with other treatments to improve the symptoms associated with kidney function, asthma, and gastrointestinal disorders and to reduce pain and anxiety. 

Guided by maps of the feet, hands and ears, reflexologists work with reflexes within the body to promote health and wellbeing by applying alternating controlled pressure with their fingers. Each side of the body (right and left) is reflected on the foot or hand on the same side. Therefore, reflexologists will work bilaterally to balance the body systems and organs. 

Reflexology is an integrative therapy that is used by people all around the world. It is particularly popular in Europe where it has been incorporated into mainstream health care systems. Studies indicate that reflexology is used by 21.4% of the Danish population and 5.6% of the Norwegian population. Archeological findings indicate that ancient reflexology was practiced in ancient Egypt (2330 BC), China (2704 BC) and Japan (690 BC). 

The literature indicates that reflexology is a safe touch therapy that should not interfere with your other health-related treatments. However, we always recommend that you inform your healthcare provider about your decision to use reflexology and your reasons for seeking treatment. They may want to know about any additional symptoms that you are having and your response to reflexology so that they can adjust treatments accordingly. In addition, reflexology should be used cautiously in certain conditions such as lymphedema. 

If you have further questions about reflexology, we invite you to contact the LinkIN! office to speak to one of our staff.

Why should I use Reflexology?

There are increasing numbers of studies that examine the effectiveness of reflexology to treat a variety of clinical problems. Lee et al (2011) indicated that over 500 studies (published and unpublished) have been conducted to study the effect of reflexology on a variety of conditions and symptoms. The quality of studies continues to improve, with the latest systematic reviews including 44 articles found to meet quality evidence standards. 

Results indicate that reflexology can be used to:

  • relieve fatigue
  • reduce pain
  • improve sleep quality
  • decrease anxiety
  • decrease nausea and vomiting
  • improve quality of life
  • improve mood
  • improve function and mobility

Cancer survivors also report that reflexology may be helpful to manage symptoms associated with surgical procedures, chemotherapies and long-term effects of treatment. In particular, the literature suggests that reflexology can be used to address gastrointestinal issues, bladder and kidney dysfunction (including bladder spasms and urinary retention), neuropathies, chronic headaches and chronic stress responses.

How does Relexology work?

There are several theories about how reflexology might work. Some believe that pressure sensors in the feet and hands open up a pathway to the body through the nervous system through a set of "reflexes". This allows communication with the body's internal organs, releasing hormones, endorphins or other body chemicals. 

Others believe that the body's inherent energy (the qi) resides in meridians or pathways throughout the body, including the feet. Under normal circumstances, qi circulates freely but when there are disturbances in qi flow, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dysfunction can occur. Specific pressure on the points within the meridian can help to "unstick" or move the qi, re-establishing balance and wellbeing. 

A third theory proposes that pressure along the meridians is interpreted by the body as an irritation. This irritation signals the body to adjust --- or to "right" itself by using intrinsic healing abilities.

Is Reflexology right for me?

Reflexology sessions last approximately 30 minutes to an hour. You will be asked to lie down on a table or in a chair that reclines so that your feet can be conveniently reached for the treatment. The reflexologist will use pressure, stretch and movement to work with your feet. No lotion or oil will be needed and you will only have to remove your socks. Sessions rate costs are usually $60-$75, depending on whether the session lasts 30 minutes or an hour. Although the number of sessions varies, typically you will be required to come once a week for 3 to 6 weeks. 

At the end of the session, you should feel relaxed but will be able to drive home without difficulty. Reflexology treatments are safe and have few complications. However, if you have diabetes, a history of neuropathy or numbness of your feet or lymphedema (swelling in your feet), please consult with your health care provider before seeking reflexology treatments.

How do I choose a Reflexology provider/class?

Licensure requirements vary from state to state. However, reflexology businesses are required to have appropriate business licenses. In addition, reflexologists can be nationally certified. National certification assures that your therapist has specific education, knowledge and skills and practices using the most current standards and guidelines. 

To find a certified reflexologist you can contact the American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB) at is external) or by phone at (303)-933-6921. You can also call the Community Cancer Connection office at 520-626-6151 for additional assistance.

How do I talk to my healthcare provider about using Reflexology?

Inform your healthcare provider about your use of reflexology and your reason(s) for its use. When you discuss this with your provider, stress that you are not replacing your conventional care but are using reflexology to complement the treatment and to help you deal with its effects. Be specific about what you are trying to accomplish with the reflexology and keep notes that summarize your responses. 

Do not stop taking any of your medication(s). Although reflexology may help you reduce your need for the medication(s), you should do this after a discussion your health care provider and not your reflexologist. Your healthcare provider will work with you to modify medication(s) as indicated.

Have others with cancer used Reflexology?

Cancer survivors participating in reflexology have stated that:

  • "Reflexology proved to be very relaxing."
  • "The reflexology has made me feel more relaxed and eliminated a lot of tension. This has enabled me to have better quality and longer sleep which has benefited my overall condition."
  • "Reflexology made me feel like I was walking on air – partly because my feet were so much more comfortable and partly because my mind was more at ease."
  • "Reflexology helped to minimize nausea during my course of chemotherapy... I have this feeling of total relaxation. Without the reflexology, chemotherapy would have been far more unpleasant."

What is Reflexology like?

If you are interested in finding out more about receiving a Reflexology treatment, we invite you to watch our following video presentation by Deb Kortyna.

Mikayla D. Williams , BS Student , UA
Expert Reviewers: 
Mary Koithan, PhD, RN-C, CNS-BC , LinkIN! co-director; Associate Professor , UA College of Nursing
Deb Kortyna, MBA, LMT, NBCR , Owner , Desert Wind Healing Arts