"Can you tell me what's wrong with my body?"
"Will you tell me if I'm going to have any serious problems?"
I get asked these types of questions all the time, so I thought I'd take a moment to talk through what reflexology can and cannot do.
First and foremost, reflexology is not a diagnostic tool. Only a medical doctor can diagnose a condition and Washington State law is very clear on this point. The amount of training a reflexologist goes through is a drop in the bucket compared to what medical doctors receive. If you have undiagnosed medical concerns, please seek medical care. If you are unsatisfied with a diagnosis you have received, consider getting a second opinion from a qualified medical doctor.
Secondly, you know your body better than anyone else. You inhabit your body all day, every day for your whole life. You know what is "normal" for you and you will be the first one to notice changes from that "normal". Meeting a client for the first time and spending one hour with their feet, I have no hope of matching the 300,000+ hours that they have spent with their own body. Trust your wisdom and seek qualified care if something doesn't feel right.
Reflexology works off the concept that the entire body is represented as a mini-map of reflex areas on the feet, hands and outer ears. By pressing on these reflex areas with a specific, pulsing technique, the connected body part is activated. I've always pictured this like a game of telephone. I press on the stomach reflex and the client's body calls out to the stomach. Hello Stomach, how are you? Then stomach replies to the client's body.
Our bodies are amazing self-regulating systems. When we relax or sleep our bodies get to work repairing the damage done during the day, knocking down foreign invaders or defective cells, and cleaning up. I think of that like the body's to-do list. So, while I am performing reflexology, the client's body is answering all the phone calls from the various organs, muscles, bones and nerves in the body and recording their responses to take action when the client rests.
Do I hear the response in the reflex area? Sometimes I feel a different texture in the tissue at the reflex area or an energetic attraction or repulsion, sort of like magnets. Sometimes the client will feel tenderness or increased sensitivity in the reflex or sensations in the related body area. There is no translation guide that says texture X means condition A in related body part. I do not see visions. I do not hear voices from beyond. I do not know what the future holds.
When I feel a difference in texture in the tissue at a reflex area, I stay and work on the reflex area until it changes or returns to a "normal" texture. Or I may work some other reflex areas then return to the different texture later. Ultimately, after years of work and deep thinking on this subject, I realize that it doesn't matter if I understand what the differences means. What is important is that the client's body understands, and I believe that the reflexology system is a primal, ingrained system of self-regulation that doesn't require language or higher thinking to act upon.
Also, one of my teachers always says "it's also just a foot". Not every tissue change or tenderness is due to the related body part speaking through the reflex system; sometimes it is simply due to the shoes you wear or the toys you stepped on at home, etc. So when I find a tissue difference (whether it's due to a potential issue at the related body part or not), I address it.
If you want to know which reflex areas where tender or where I noted a different texture, we can talk about the reflex areas. But I will not discuss the meaning of an active reflex area, diagnosis conditions or predict the future.
Reflexology is not a miracle cure. It's not going to cure cancer or solve the mystery of a rare disease. But I do believe that taking time for deep relaxation, self-care, increasing circulation and activating the body's self-regulating system at regular intervals is important to overall health.
It's a dangerous and illegal practice for reflexologists to diagnosis illness, so if you ever see someone doing it, walk out of the office right away.