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Reflexology as a Diagnostic Tool

by Mary Martin(more info)

listed in reflexology, originally published in issue 151 - October 2008

“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”     – Aristotle

Reflexology involves a holistic perspective and a differential diagnosis. It is not possible to name a medical condition. However, it can clearly identify imbalances in the body. Many patients consult me because other methods of treatment have proved unsatisfactory. For example:

Natalie’s GP prescribed antidepressants because she was suffering from extreme fatigue. His logic was that she was depressed because she was fatigued!  It cannot be easy to get to the root of a problem in a ten-minute consultation.
Natalie consulted me about an unrelated condition. Reflex points corresponding to her adrenal glands reacted strongly. Focusing on this, she consulted a different GP. A blood sugar level test revealed hypoglycaemia.  The underlying cause was stress and irregular meals. Reflexology indicated the root of the problem and resolved it naturally.

Case History

There are four main categories by which an individual’s state of health is assessed. These are:
•    Observation
•    Asking
•    Listening
•    Palpation


Body language and general demeanour can indicate stress or physical discomfort. Condition of the skin, eyes or hair provides clues to the level of general health. Facial expressions may indicate anxiety or sadness.

Prior to working the reflexes, observation is made of the feet. This includes the bony structure, muscle tone, condition of skin and nails, temperature, etc.

Asking and Listening

A comprehensive case history is taken. It is like fitting pieces of a jigsaw together to make sense of the whole picture. Health and wellbeing is influenced by many factors – physical, psychological, emotional and environmental. This means seeing patients from a holistic perspective and treating their whole being. An environment of trust, empathy and confidentiality forms the basis of a meaningful therapeutic relationship.
Assessment includes:
•    Present state of health – signs and symptoms, duration of problems, medication or other treatments and tests;
•    Past state of health – including operations or injuries and other treatments;
•    General health – energy levels, stress levels, bowel and bladder function, sleep pattern, etc;
•    Lifestyle – occupation, recreation, usual diet, domestic pressures;
•    Environmental factors – housing problems, pollutants, commuting, excessive noise problems;
•    Familial factors.
Some factors indicate the need for referral. For example, a 60 year-old patient mentioned that she had felt extremely tired for a year. I persuaded her to see her GP. Tests revealed that she had an enlarged heart.

Several patients have been concerned about skin conditions. I suspected these were related to a side-effect of drugs. I advised them to see their GPs who confirmed this and either changed or stopped the drugs.


Energetic factors underlie the reflex areas.  Areas of the feet and hands are linked to the anatomical and physiological systems that convey information throughout the body. Each treatment is tailored to the individual and their particular circumstances. It is not a mechanical touch, applied in an unthinking way. The practitioner’s intention has an impact on the outcome.

Specific disorders are considered within a holistic context. Some reflexes may feel sharp or tender, momentarily. It requires knowledge and skill to interpret reactions during treatments and those occurring between treatments.

Case Examples


Chris (aged 26) injured his leg playing football 11 months previously. After an X-ray he was told that no bones were broken. Despite being in pain he continued working as a mechanic to support his family. After his third reflexology treatment his symptoms increased.

I advised him to have another X-ray. This revealed a shadow on his leg that turned out to be a diseased bone. He had broken his leg a year previously, despite the hospital diagnosis.

Reflexology indicated this – thus preventing a far more serious problem.

Post-operative Care

Julia (aged 25) consulted me six months after she had surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma in her left ear. Surgery caused numbness to the left side of her face and head. It also resulted in a convergent squint, double vision and co-ordination problems. She was unable to work.

During her first treatment I applied pressure to the reflex areas relating to her left cheek. Immediately she felt tingling in her cheek. I then applied pressure to her left eye reflex. Immediately I saw her eye shift to its normal position. A few more treatments, and most of the numbness had been alleviated. Her co-ordination normalized and she returned to work.


Reflexology complements orthodox methods extremely well. It can diagnose areas of imbalance in the body. It can improve homeostatic function and mobilize patients’ self-healing. Reflexology practice also recognizes the therapeutic effects of good practitioner-patient relationships. Every aspect of treatment influences outcomes.


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About Mary Martin

A qualified teacher, Mary Martin established her School of Reflexology in 1987. She founded the Association of Reflexologists in 1984 and is an Honorary Life Member. Previously she practised as a Gerson therapist. Mary belongs to a network of therapists attached to the cancer centre at Mount Vernon Hospital. She has had a busy practice in Ruislip since 1983. She may be contacted on Tel: 01895 635621;

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