Imagine The Magic Of Feet – Reflexology?
They are musty from trudging, sweaty from pounding up and down the hardwood. They are sore from supporting obese weight accumulated by generations of gastric evolution. They have transported hunter-gatherer migrators from Africa to Asia to America. They have been covered with flexible, waterproof, self-sustaining wrap. They are continually growing, thicker and callused, and blistered. They have been squeezed, distorted, and crushed into leather, rubber, and plastic confines. Between their toes, they offer moist, warm, and dark sanctuary for bacteria and mold spores. How wonderful our feet are.
Feet, having just spent the day in a WWI trench, or in a Viet Nam jungle, or in a boot on Afghan plains announce their presence with unmistaken odor. They remind us, “Don’t forget us. We are here, we are vital. Without us you are nothing.” And, they are right.
Some believe feet are five-toed symposiums of health awaiting the supernatural touch of deluded healers and charlatans. They believe mystic sole maps contain the accumulated health secrets of the ages. No matter that the maps differ from each other; no matter they contradict each other; no matter they claim to show non-existent energy zones and neural-somatic channels. No matter it makes no sense, because anecdotal stories of healing by honest appearing salespeople will convince most suffering people, and therefor gullible people that reflexology should be tried. After all, what harm can a foot massage do? Feet must contain the secrets of good health. Why else would Indiana University and Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) offer a Certificate Program in Reflexology? There must be something to it. The university would not deceive us, would it?
I noticed this listing in the Health Section of The IUPUI Community Learning Program Catalog last year:
“Reflexology – Eight, two-hour classes leading to a Certificate of Proficiency in Reflexology. Expert practicing reflexologists provide “hands-on” instruction in reflexology and a thorough review of the history of this time proven healing art. Graduates will acquire the proficiency to perform examinations on real patients and dispense healing therapy. Students are required to purchase two course books, which contain detailed reflexology maps of the foot. For a complete submersion into this healing art, students will be asked to make their feet available to the hands-on examination and manipulation from classmates.”
In response to the Reflexology offering, I wrote the following letter:
Dear Administrator: Apparently you and the other course organizers of this section of Community Learning Programs are unaware of the dismal history and unfounded record of Reflexology. According to the American Medical Association, AMA, Reflexology is considered to be an alternative therapy of no medical value. Reflexology therapy is not recognized by any legitimate medical organization. It has been debunked in medical and scientific literature since its appearance. There are no favorable peer reviewed studies published anywhere.
It is true foot massage has some beneficial relaxing effects and has been used in various ancient cultures. Modern reflexology, however, is based upon the assumptions of a William Fitzgerald who in the early 20th century claimed that the human body is divided into ten vertical zones each represented by a part of the foot. Fitzgerald and his students constructed detailed maps of the soles of the feet showing which specific areas of the foot corresponded to body zones and organs, somewhat similar to acupuncture points.
Techniques: Reflexologists take a brief medical history and then manually “investigate” the foot. If they feel (imagine) a “resistance” in any one area of the sole of the foot, they diagnose a problem with the corresponding organ according to their map. Or, if a patient complains about an ache or soreness somewhere in their body the therapist can direct attention to that corresponding part of their feet. Treatment consists of high-pressure massage of the area, and is believed to repair the function of the troubled body organ, restore energy to that organ and ultimately improve the patient’s health and/or prevent illness. Whether or not treatments provide temporary relief or no relief, patients are advised to have repeated treatments over an extended period of time at added expense.
Evidence: There is none. Reflex pathways between the sole of the foot and designated organs of the body do not exist. Resistance (what ever that is) in an area of the foot is not an indicator of an organ problem. The technique is not biologically possible. Several different versions of the foot sole map exist and contradict themselves. Several different maps of the palm of the hand also exist and are used in a similar fashion. Clinical trials have shown reflexology has no diagnostic or healing value. It has been tested repeatedly and demonstrates no successful treatment. In addition, there is no evidence that reflexology prevents any disease. People with joint and bone conditions of the leg and foot may be harmed by the treatment. A greater potential harm will occur if patients forego traditional examination and treatment in favor of Reflexology therapy. Reflexology Certification is meaningless and if it is recognized by a hospital or treatment center, that facility is treating its patients deceptively and stealing their money.
Ethical and legal considerations must be considered. The fact that IUPUI has sanctioned Reflexology by including it in its catalogue without any disclaimers may make IUPUI legally responsible for claims from dissatisfied students and/or injured patients. I strongly recommend that IUPUI not list courses in Aromatherapy, Ayurvedic Treatment, Flower Treatments, Chelation Therapy, Colonic Irrigation, Craniosacral Therapy, Crystal Therapy, Cupping, Ear Candles, Magnet Therapy, Reiki Therapy, Shiatsu Therapy, Spiritual Healing, Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Chiropractic Therapy and other alternative therapy. IUPUI has no justification for sanctioning such unproven alternative medicine therapies any more than a medical or nursing school would offer or sanction any other of the above bogus alternative medicine therapies.
If it is too late to remove Reflexology from the IUPUI catalogue, please consider adding a disclaimer; something to the effect that Reflexology is considered an unscientific, non medical therapy having no proven medical health benefits, may be harmful to your health, and is not sanctioned by IUPUI. The Indiana University Legal Department should be consulted on this subject.
I suggest you ask the I.U. School of Medicine or the Department of Bioethics for their opinion as well.
Sincerely, Craig Gosling – Associate Professor and Director Emeritus, Department Of Medical Illustration, Indiana University School of Medicine.
Author’s comment: A reflexology therapist claims to heal as a result of his/her probing fingers, pressing deeply into precise points on patients’ feet. Therapists claim to feel resistance, a knot, or a blockage of energy (whatever that is). Manual pressure supposedly unblocks energy channels, squeezes poisons and toxins through cell walls, into venules and lymph channels, into veins, and into oblivion. Cheers! The energy detour is down, the roadway is repaired, energy can now flow through (nonexistent) pathways to ten imagined vertical zones, and into a diseased organ in need of magical healing.
Reflexology prayer: “Oh great placebo god, do your magic again. Heal me with your magical touch. I have faith that I will be touched with knowing fingers, pressing deeply, finding invisible energy dams blocking divine perfection. Discover the undiscoverable, uncover those thing not discoverable, make perfect what never was perfect.”
Reflexology is simply another of the placebo god’s wonders, a miracle under foot, a magical healing sole stepping across the divide between magic and medical science. Sign up now. For a small fee you can become a great healer and do what medical science cannot.
I received a reply acknowledging receipt of my letter from someone in the IUPUI Continuing Education Program, but no indication as to what they intended to do. I contacted that person again but have had no reply again. The matter continues to be unresolved, as far as I know.