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Reflexology for Orthopedic Conditions

Updated on January 4, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Degrees in medicine, psychology & sports. 20+ yrs research/treatment in allopathic & alternative medicines, brain studies, space medicine.


Broken Bones and Joints

Several years ago I received a free trial treatment of reflexology during the aftermath of a compound fracture with a severe additional sprain to one ankle. After four and a half months, I was finally able to say farewell to my wheelchair, but I still had some swelling that would not allow the joint to move freely.

The reflexology treatment worked so well that I needed no further treatments of any kind.

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 its effects in cases other physical and mental heath conditions. Numerous studies have shown various and opposing results, but the Mayo Clinic has written that reflexology may have some benefit.

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. | Source

Anyone that wants to try it should not be discouraged by others. It the application of this complimentary treatment alternative can lower healthcare costs the the over-use of pain medications, then reflexology proves itself even more effective.

Some individuals suspect alternative therapies to be a part of a system that is in direct opposition to their faith and religious beliefs. Any with related concerns is 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 complimentary medicine, but neither should they be forced to accept any treatment against their informed wishes.

Reflexology and Massage

At the same time, 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. Massage provides such a number of benefits, that perhaps massage should be reinstalled as part of the nursing curriculum nationwide.

An enlightening conference presentation from a massage patient in 2005 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.

Several women from her church visited her daily to provide company and to massage both of her feet, ankles and legs. Within four to five 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 extremity massage in a case of bilateral ankle break.

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.

Reflexology is Recommended to Medicaid and Medicare Patients

Some Benefits of Reflexology

Simple Explation of Foot-Body Correlations

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 founded in 1985 (link above, right), states that reflexology was first introduced by ancient Chinese and the Egyptians.

This is unsurprising and thoroughly believable, since traditional Chinese and Korean medicines and ancient Egyptian medical systems incorporated some small techniques much like homeopathy. The BRA goes on to state that what we may call Modern Reflexology began as the work of was of Ms. Eunice Ingham, an American that called it Zone Therapy, but which had actually begun 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.

Other personalities in other countries no doubt have added their expertise to refining the system to its best effects. 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 Ameican Nations. Personally, I am thankful to all of the cultures and individuals that developed the system of reflexology, because all of their combined millennial of efforts worked to eliminate my final problem of the obstinate ankle as I described above.

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 a positive results. Various charts for the hands and feet, their reflex areas, and what body systems they may affect are available online. My experience is that reflexology worked for me in the case of the skeletal and muscular systems.

Additional Uses of Reflexology

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; also pain of childbirth.
  3. Circulatory system: angina, high blood pressure, stroke
  4. Immune response
  5. Migraines
  6. Multiple sclerosis
  7. Sciatica and other back and joint pain
  8. Stress and anxiety
  9. Regular use enhances circulation of blood and lymph systems, which can aide in any healing process. (One treatment did it for my ankle, and then I kept exercizing.)

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 will be likely to produce similar results.




  • 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.

© 2010 Patty Inglish

Comments and Experiences

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    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

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

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 7 years ago

      This sounds like something I could use. Thank you.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

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

    • profile image

      The Foot Lady 7 years ago

      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.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      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.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

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

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 7 years ago from trailer in the country

      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.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      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 profile image

      Enlydia Listener 7 years ago from trailer in the country

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      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.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 5 years ago

      I know people who swear by this therapy.

    • profile image

      cha 5 years ago

      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

    • DebraHargrove profile image

      Debra Hargrove 15 months ago from North Carolina

      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.

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