What is Foot Reflexology and how does it work?

Recently, a patient asked me about foot reflexology. Here is some basic information on the subject as explained in “TUINA - A Handbook for Students and Practitioners" by Yan Lu, L.Ac. and Joyce E. Shields, L.Ac., Christina Walker Smith, L.Ac., M.Ed.. Heilongjiang Science and Technology Press:

Foot Reflexology is an applied pressure therapy that involves stimulating reflex points that are located on the foot.  These foot reflex points correspond to specific areas of the body and when used singly or in combination, produce therapeutic benefit.

The history of Foot Reflexology is lost in antiquity; however, there is substantial information to suggest its use as long ago as 5,000 years in China, Egypt, and India.  In modern times Foot Reflexology was explored and promoted through the research of Sir Henry Head of London in the 1890’s.  Later in the 1920’s, an American doctor, William Fitzgerald incorporated Foot Reflexology into his “Zone Therapy”, a theory in which the body and its organs and tissues are divided in to five zones, all five of which are represented on the feet.

In the Chinese system of Foot Reflexology there are four basic theoretical approaches used to explain the benefits of the system.


Substances such as uric acid are retained in the feet where they settle due to the effects of gravity which will cause obstruction of circulation and make the heart work harder.  This results in malnourishment of the tissues and organs.  After a long period, the function of the organs will decrease and discomfort will be felt.  After massage of the foot, the temperature of the foot will increase.  The blood will flow faster, from 12 mm per second to 25 mm per second.  At the same time, the deposits can be broken apart, and along with increased blood circulation, can be expelled from the body through the urinary system and other dispelling organs.  After massage of the feet for 3 to 5 days, the urine will be turbid and have a strong odor.  The patient will feel comfortable and energetic.  This illustrates how Foot Reflexology can increase blood circulation, reduce heart burden, and increase metabolism.


When certain organs are not functioning well, there will appear abnormal changes in certain areas of the feet, such as an “air bubble” feeling, cord, granule, or nodule feeling.  Stimulating these areas can cause pain.  By nerve response, a series of nerve and humoral regulations will occur which stimulates potential energy, increases immunity and anti-disease effect.  This can also stop the original pathogenic response.

If there exists a pathogenic area of excitement in the brain, stimulation of the feet can form another area of excitement.  As the time of massage increases, the newly formed area of excitement will also increase and inhibit the pathogenic area of excitement and even make it disappear.  This illustrates how Foot Reflexology can treat disease.


There are six regular foot channels, Yin Wei Mai, Yin Qiao Mai, Yang Qiao Mai, and Yang Wei Mai, that start and at the feet.  There is a theory that if the channels and collaterals are clear, there is no pain.  If there is a blockage, there is pain and discomfort.  Massaging the feet will open the channels and collaterals and remove the stagnation.


The foot is a microcosm of the body and contains all the information for the entire body.  With the two feet side by side and viewing the plantar surfaces, an image of the human body can be superimposed, sitting with the soles of the feet together, knees, flexed, arms relaxed across the thighs, and looking straight ahead.  Some believe that the feet contain more information than the ear or the hand because they are larger.  

I am trained in the practice of Foot Reflexology Treatments through my Master's-equivalent education in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. My three years of training in Chinese Tuina massage includes Foot Reflexology and Pediatric Tuina.

Get in touch with me today if you think you’d like to give Foot Reflexology a try!

                                        —Julie M. Goss, L.Ac.

© studiodowney 2012