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Medically reviewed by Kerry Boyle DAC, MS, LAC, DIPL AC, CYT — By Daley Quinn and Sarah Bence — Updated on April 3, 2023

Chinese Foot Reflexology is an ancient practice that has been around for centuries. It involves applying pressure to specific points on the foot, promoting relaxation, and relieving stress, among other benefits. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), these points correspond to various body areas and have multiple benefits. Brian Goodwin, an aesthetician, herbalist, and international educator at Éminence Organic Skin Care, explains that foot reflexology is a holistic practice performed on the feet. The concept behind it is that meridian points on the feet correspond to various organs in the body.

Research shows that foot reflexology can improve quality of life by reducing stress and bringing balance to the body, energy, and mind. Reflexology has been around for a long time and can be traced back to 4000 B.C. According to Dustin Martinez, a Los Angeles-based chiropractic physician, the current name of reflexology was given in the early 1900s in the United States.

One of the significant benefits of foot reflexology is relaxation, stress relief, and stress management. Martinez explains that foot reflexology helps increase blood flow throughout the body, lowering blood pressure and decreasing stress and anxiety. Feeling relaxed and less anxious is critical to reducing stress. The 2015 study mentioned above notes that foot reflexology may reduce stress and induce general relaxation. Additionally, foot reflexology may be a way to interrupt the pattern of repetitive lifestyle stress by helping the body's systems return to their natural state.

Foot reflexology is also effective in reducing chronic pain. In a 2019 study, foot reflexology significantly reduced pain and anxiety among children with chronic pain. A 2018 survey study of military members with chronic pain found that after a one-foot reflexology session, pain scores were reduced by 43% among males and 41% among females.

According to Martinez, a reflexologist, stimulating a point connected to the stomach can improve digestion by increasing blood flow to the stomach. Reflexology can also help relax tight muscles caused by staring at screens all day, relieving eye strain. Additionally, reflexology can promote restful sleep by improving circulation and energy flow. In a study on patients who underwent kidney transplantation surgery, those who received foot reflexology had significantly improved sleep quality.

While limited scientific evidence is available to prove foot reflexology's effectiveness, it is often used as a complementary treatment alongside other therapies. Although a small study found some improvement in mobility and foot ulcers among people with diabetes who received 12-foot reflexology sessions, more research is needed to draw any conclusions. Therefore, it's essential to consult a doctor before starting any new therapy. According to Claire Barnwell, a member of The Association of Reflexologists, reflexology can provide relaxation and supportive touch in an empathetic environment.

Foot reflexology may be a relaxing way to give your feet some attention, but research is still required to confirm its specific health benefits. While most people experience a sense of well-being and relaxation after a session, side effects can occur, which are usually transitory and considered part of the healing process. However, foot reflexology is not suitable for everyone. It may cause more harm than good for people with certain health conditions, such as circulatory issues, gout, blood clots, diabetic symptoms, and painful skin conditions, among others. Therefore, it's always wise to consult your doctor before starting any new treatment. If you're pregnant, you should also consult your doctor beforehand, as there are concerns about foot reflexology and stimulating labor.


Foot reflexology differs from a classic massage in that it is therapeutic with sustained pressure on specific reflex points rather than broad strokes. While a massage is more beneficial for overall relaxation and muscle aches, reflexology may be able to target particular concerns with focused points on the feet. Some people may experience immediate relief, especially when it comes to pain and anxiety, but each case is individual, and there is no universal timeline for improvement.

Feeling slightly sore after a reflexology session is typical, but you should be fine if you find the right practitioner who listens to your body and can apply the proper technique. The treatment works best when the pressure level feels appropriate and comfortable. Most people notice benefits after their first reflexology session, but everyone is unique and heals in their timing. In general, reflexology best complements natural healing already taking place.

While you may feel the effects of reflexology after just one treatment, it's recommended to continue using it alongside other doctor-recommended therapies for best results. Although reflexology has been used for centuries to treat many ailments, scientific evidence still fails to confirm it as a medical treatment for health conditions. Therefore, talking with your doctor before trying reflexology is essential, especially if you have circulatory issues, gout, or blood clots.

Daley Quinn is a beauty and wellness journalist and content strategist living in Boston. She has worked as a beauty editor at a national magazine. She has published work on sites including Allure, Well + Good, Byrdie, Fashionista, The Cut, WWD, Women's Health Mag, HelloGiggles, Shape, Elite Daily, and more.

NOTE: YaYa Foot Spa® is providing our guests with this article as general information. The YaYa Foot Spa® experience is strictly for relaxation purposes. Our treatment provides no medical or diagnostic benefit. Only a licensed healthcare professional should be consulted for treatments unrelated to relaxation.

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