Does Reflexology Work Theory Of Reflexology

Reflexology helps to relieve stress and tension, enabling the body to restore balance and heal itself. How, though, does reflexology work? Three main theories exist to explain reflexology health benefits. Lean how reflexology of the foot, hand and ear can induce relaxation and healing.

Theory of Reflexology: Central Nervous System

One popular theory of reflexology is that it works via the central nervous system. In the late 1800s, Sir Charles Sherrington and Sir Henry Head compiled research suggesting a neurological relationship between the skin and internal organs. They posited that the entire central nervous system reacts and adjusts to a stimulus.

Reflexology of the foot (or hands or ears) works because the pressure applied to the extremity sends a calming message from the peripheral nerves to the central nervous system. The central nervous system then sends signals to the body to make adjustments in tension levels. Consequently, the body relaxes all over and delivers extra oxygen and nutrients to the cells of internal organs. The end result is several reflexology health benefits, such as improved respiratory, circulatory, immune and endocrine system function.

Theory of Reflexology: Gate Control Theory

Another theory of reflexology–the gate control theory or neuromatrix theory of pain–helps to explain reflexology’s pain relief benefits. Proponents of this theory suggest that pain is controlled by the brain and is therefore subjective. Things like stress can influence a person’s mood and intensify feelings of pain. So, conversely, alleviating stress and mood with reflexology can reduce pain.

Theory of Reflexology: Vital Energy

A third theory asserts that the body contains a “vital energy,” and that if stress is not dealt with effectively, energy gets trapped or congested, leading to illness. According to this theory, reflexology fixes this blockage by restoring the natural flow of energy.

Reflexology health benefits are likely due to a combination of factors: central nervous system stimulation, pain relief through stress reduction and restoration of energy flow. No matter the method, reflexology works by stimulating the body to heal and repair itself.

Practitioners and patients alike believe that reflexology often works better than more invasive therapies and that if treatment is sought on a routine basis, it can be a powerful preventive healing tool.


Reflexology Research. (2009). What is reflexology? Retrieved March 8, 2011, from

Regents of the University of Minnesota and the Life Science Foundation. (2009). How does reflexology work? Retrieved March 8, 2011, from