As medicine, reflexology is bunk. Just like iridology and phrenology. Of course, you knew that. But not everyone does.
Reflexology popped up recently in a shared post on Facebook (a popular venue for moving codswallop and cat photos from one user to another at the speed of light…). Coincidentally it appeared right after a post promoting a piece in the New York Review of Books called, The Age of Ignorance.
How apropos. (I’ll get to that NYRB piece in another post, along with some comments about Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows.)
As a massage, reflexology offers the same benefits for your feet as any other type of massage. It’s just not medicine.
The Skeptic’s Dictionary says:
Reflexology is based on the unsubstantiated belief that each part of each foot is a mirror site for a part of the body. The big toe, for example, is considered a reflex area for the head. As iridology maps the body with irises, reflexology maps the body with the feet, the right foot corresponding to the right side of the body and the left foot corresponding to the left side of the body. Because the whole body is represented in the feet, reflexologists consider themselves to be holistic health practitioners, not foot doctors.
They’re not doctors at all, but let’s not dwell on correspondence-course graduates handing out medical advice.
The National Council Against Health Fraud has an article on reflexology that warns,
Reflexology has almost no potential for direct harm, but its ability to mislead well-meaning people into believing that it can be used for screening for health problems, or that it has real therapeutic value could lead to serious problems…
Penn and Teller chime in on this and related quackery with their usual, acerbic wit: