Can Reflexology Treat Chronic Pain? Yes, It Can!

Research shows that yes, reflexology can treat chronic pain.  It is a natural treatment with very few side effects.  Read this article to learn about reflexology and if it is right for you.

What is Reflexology?

Reflexology is a natural practice that applies pressure through a type of massage, to specific areas of the hands and/or feet.  The foot and hand are charted into areas that correspond with parts of the body.  

Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine

Pressure applied to the related area is believed to resolve issues in that body part.  These are referred to as pressure points.  

The practitioner of reflexology sees the patient as being part of the healing process, because the body is responding to the treatment, and therefore “healing” itself.  

This is apparently a result from stimulation of the pressure points that relax the body, calm the mind and improve circulation.  

Who Can It Benefit?

Those of us who suffer from pain, including chronic pain, may benefit from reflexology.  A specific study looked at reflexology for back pain.  There is some science that supports the relief of back pain, menstrual cramps and anxiety.

Anxiety patients respond because the reflexology can have a calming effect, actually relaxing the body and mind.  So when this occurs, there can also be physical effects as well.  In fact, I wrote another article about relaxation for pain management.  It is called Relaxation Techniques for Pain.  

How Does It Work?

There seem to be a few theories as to how reflexology works.  The main concepts focus on the interconnectivity of all body parts, from the skin to the central nervous system.  

One theory believes that stimulating the skin, especially in the specific pressure points, sends calming messages to the brain and mellows out the pain responses.  Also, with the brain occupied to “listen” to the calming messages, it can’t listen to pain messages.

Can Reflexology Treat Chronic Pain?

Another theory focuses more on how it improves mood and lessens stress, which in turn reduces pain.  

And a final theory attributes the wellness to improved circulation and body energy for the body to maintain itself in a healthy state.

Personally, I would conclude that all these theories work together.  When I am calm and relaxed, I know that endorphins are flowing through my body.  This helps me manage my pain.  Furthermore, if the reflexology is improving my circulation, then that also helps with making the pain lessen.  

And let’s not downplay the comfort of gentle appropriate touching and massage to our wellbeing.  

Is There Science Behind It?  

There is not enough research relating to this practice for science to make definitive conclusions.  A study reported in the NIH does conclude that in the small study patients did report some decrease in pain.  See the report here.  

The fact that reflexology relaxes the patient is certainly a wonderful side benefit, and can be a contributing factor to helping with anxiety.  Furthermore, if you are in pain, anything that helps you relax is a nice state of mind.  Just the state of relaxing can lessen the intensity of pain.  

So, even without lots of research behind reflexology, it might be an alternative to try in your pain management journey.

Why Should You Try It?

With all the above information you now have, I think it is worth checking out.  Especially because it is natural.

Even though it is natural, you may feel some side effects such as lightheadedness, tenderness in your feet and/or hands, and being more emotional.  The treatment itself should not hurt.  Discuss with the therapist about your pain tolerance, though.  You may have sensitivity to the pressure they are applying.  

Be sure to consult with your doctor and the reflexologist about your conditions, and what you can expect.  You should only use a practitioner that is trained and certified by the American Reflexology Certification Board.  Click here for a link to their website 

And on a personal note, talk with the reflexologist to see if they are good listeners and are willing to explain things to you.   They should take a medical history of you as well, so they know your issues and concerns.  

Here’s a video that explains things very well.  

How Much Does It Cost?

Here in California, the going rate seems to be anywhere from $40.00 to $90.00.  This is because it is considered a spa treatment, and those run about the same.  

Though most insurances cover some alternative medical treatments like chiropractic, reflexology doesn’t seem to be included in them.  So check with your provider, but expect to pay out of pocket for these services.  

Warnings: Read This Before You Get Reflexology Treatments

There are certain individuals that should not be treated through reflexology.  Although it is a natural remedy, you should not be treated if you have:

  • Any foot issues such as an open wound or fungal infection
  • Any foot injuries
  • A blood clotting issue

Check with your doctor and reflexologist first if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • Gout
  • Epilepsy
  • Thyroid Problems
  • Foot ulcers
  • Are pregnant

As these conditions can respond negatively to reflexology.  

Can Reflexology Treat Chronic Pain?


This alternative treatment might be helpful to relieve chronic pain.  If nothing else, it should relax you and stimulate your body to be healthy.  

If you have tried reflexology, I’d like to hear what you have to say.  Questions and comments about this post are also welcome.


I am not a doctor.  My job is to merely research chronic pain because I am a fellow sufferer.  I have determined to turn my suffering into something positive.  It is my hope that something I write will help you.  

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4 thoughts on “Can Reflexology Treat Chronic Pain? Yes, It Can!”

  1. Hi Barbara,

    I don’t believe that there are cures for everything but there are resolved practices that can alleviate the pain. Living a calm settled life with no stress beats all, however, in the modern world, we have to deal with stress every day. There is no cure but the advice which you covered here about reflexology, could help. When I sleep on my stomach sometimes I get a huge crack released down my spine (A release of stress) It has never hurt or given me pain but it happens from time to time.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You are right that there aren’t cures for everything. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying to find alternatives that make our life a little more livable. For those of us in constant pain, any relief is appreciated. Barbara

  2. Interesting post! Never heard of reflexology so no sure about just because don’t have enough info about it. When I saw the video – looked like foot massage, gave me the feeling of relaxation already.
    I do believe pain is a symptom – our body tell us something needs attention. The problem is that conventional medicine is only used to treat illness and do bother to investigate the source. You could be feeling the pain on your back but the source may be unhealthy gut and doctors never connect the two together. I suffered I’ll health for many years and had fibromyalgia but Orthomolecular medicine along with functional nutrition i no longer live with pain or ill health


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