I often get asked by my patients about reflexology and how acupuncture relates to reflexology. This can sometimes be a bit complicated to answer as there are a few different aspects worth discussing. First it is important to note that reflexology is a separate system from acupuncture. Since reflexologists do not use needles it is clearly not acupuncture. It also doesn’t qualify as acupressure because reflexology does not use the same system and organizing principles as acupuncture.
Reflexologists use “zones” on the hands and feet that correspond to other body parts. By applying pressure to these zones it is thought to activate the corresponding organs/body parts to improve health and address disease.
Acupuncture uses specific points on the whole body. They do have correspondences to organs and body parts but are much more specific in their actions. Some people are familiar with ear acupuncture methods in which zones on the ear correspond to other body parts/organs and can be stimulated with needles, pressure, and other methods. This last part sounds a lot like reflexology doesn’t it? So are acupuncturists using reflexology principles or are reflexologists using acupuncture principles?
The answer to that is uncertain, primarily because the history of reflexology is unclear. Is it possible that it was somehow influenced by Chinese medicine at some point? Quite possible. Is it possible that someone else also discovered some of the mechanisms that we utilize in acupuncture? Definitely.
The important thing to note is that reflexology does not have any major organizing principle other than the zone theory. Diagnosis (from my understanding) is usually achieved by deciding what zones are tender and then concluding what is wrong based on that finding. Acupuncturists, on the other hand, use a variety of diagnostic skills and techniques to determine what is wrong. When we use a zone therapy technique such as ear acupuncture we will use tenderness or other techniques to verify our findings and to locate the appropriate points to stimulate.
It is also very important to note that reflexology has no specific training criteria or licensing in the US. It is often performed by massage therapists and other people who do not have sufficient medical training. Acupuncturists, on the other hand, have at least 2,000 hours of graduate level education and a Master’s Degree along with examination and licensure requirements. We also have more diagnostic and treatment methods at our disposal.
I am not trying to dissuade people from ever seeing a reflexologist. Reflexology does have some useful things to offer. Rather I want to point out that there are clear distinctions between the methods and training of reflexology and acupuncture. If any Syracuse reflexology practitioners are reading this please feel free to contact me if you have more information. I am not trained in reflexology and am aware that I may not know all of the specifics on this topic.
Also, for anyone who may seek reflexology because they don’t use needles give me a call. There are many needleless techniques that I can use to offer you relief from many health issues.