Therapeutic Reflexology as practised in South Africa [RSA]

Therapeutic reflexology,  as a registered profession with Allied Health Professions Council [AHPCSA], falls into the sub-field –

  • Promotive Health and Developmental Services
  • Preventive Health, Curative Health and
  • Rehabilitative Health.

 [South Africa Qualifications Authority, National Diploma: Allied Health Therapies [SAQA]

Therapeutic Reflexology as a Complementary Health Care Profession

The Therapeutic Reflexology treatment is not a medical treatment, nor is it a practice of medicine. It is  a non-invasive therapy and does not claim to cure disorders, but it can be used on its own or alongside conventional medical or alternative health care in order to follow a truly complementary approach

Therapeutic Reflexology Vs Foot Massage

The registered therapeutic reflexologist follows a treatment plan and the therapy is offered as a holistic health modality. It incorporates other health aspects such as diet, lifestyle, genetics (family history) and aims at providing health and wellness.

In a Spa environment a foot massage broadly referred to as reflexology, or foot reflexology massage, is offered as a soft gentle, relaxing, pamper session.


The Diploma course for Therapeutic Reflexology is two years and includes the study of Anatomy, Physiology and Pathophysiology to qualify therapists to work very closely with all Health Professions in the Allopathic or Medical, Paramedical and Complementary fields.

Registration with the Allied Health Professions Council S.A.

To practise legally a therapist who obtains a Therapeutic Reflexology qualification is obliged to register with the AHPCSA in terms of the Allied Health Professions Act, No 63 of 1982. 

  • Therapeutic Reflexologist in your area. *** Click HERE

Practice numbers

Since February 2006 an AHPCSA registered Therapeutic Reflexologist may apply for a practice number from the Board of Healthcare Funders as it is essential in the process of reimbursement of a claim to either a medical scheme member or a service provider.

Medical Schemes

It is the responsibility of the patient to check their Medical Health Plan option for therapeutic reflexology treatment before making an appointment with a AHPCSA registered therapist.

Scope of Practice

The reflexology theory is that the body and organs are reflected on the feet, hands, ears and face. The therapeutic reflexologist uses specific hand, finger and thumb techniques including pressure techniques in order to systematically stimulate the reflex areas.

  • Therapeutic Reflexology therapists may treat or provide treatment for diagnosed disease, illness or deficiencies in humans, signs and symptoms of disease/illness in humans or prevention of disease, illness or deficiencies in humans. [Allied Health Professions Act 63 Of 1982, Sec 1.]
  • The Therapeutic Reflexologist is able to authoritatively and professionally design a treatment protocol and offer appropriate health care advice in the promotion and maintenance of the health of a patient.
  • Where deemed necessary the person will be referred to other health care professionals.

 First visit

Before  treatment starts the therapeutic reflexologist will follow the process of consultation with the patient.

  • Record the medical history; general health; exercise regime; nutrition and lifestyle.
  • Observe the shape of the feet as well as colour, texture, tone, moisture and markings on the feet and nails;
  • Before obtaining a voluntary consent to proceed with treatment, or not, the therapist will discuss the treatment plan; the expected benefits of the treatment; possible minor side effects, e.g. tiredness or headache  and options of alternative courses of action.

This visit could last about 15 minutes longer than subsequent treatments. In some cases the therapeutic reflexologist will give the patient a warm relaxing foot bath or do a biomechanical foot assessment.

Duration of follow-up treatments  

The treatment will generally last about 45 minutes. In some cases (such as the very young, the elderly or particular illnesses) shorter treatments over shorter intervals, may be given to avoid over-stimulating reflex areas.

When the effects of the treatment have been monitored, sessions can be extended to last between 45 and 60 minutes.

In certain conditions, twice-weekly treatment for a period might be beneficial.   As a preventative therapy, regular sessions once a month or every six weeks could be considered.

Treatment Techniques

The Therapeutic Reflexologist uses a protocol of specific finger and thumb pressure techniques  on the feet, lower legs, hands, arms, face and or ears to enable the therapist to identify and respond to congestion and imbalances.

During the treatment the patient may experience sensitivity in certain reflex areas for example, tightness in the chest reflexes [attributable to stress], sensitivity in the bladder reflexes [possible bladder infection], granular areas in the stomach and colon reflexes [likely constipation] etc. 

The sensitivity may vary from person to person, and from treatment to treatment.

The therapeutic reflexologist usually completes the treatment by using gentle massage techniques which will leave the patient relaxed and soothed, thus enhancing the body’s capacity to utilize its natural healing potential.

 Is therapeutic reflexology a safe treatment?

It is known around the world that reflexology treatment complements other treatments when dealing with conditions such as anxiety, asthma, cancer treatment, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, headaches, kidney function, PMS, and sinusitis”1.

Although reflexology treatment in cases of multiple sclerosis and Aids or terminal illness for example cancer, may not be capable of removing the causes of the illness, it does help with pain relief and makes the patient more comfortable.

Are there any contra indications?

Therapeutic Reflexology is not contra-indicated for any condition although caution is to be taken under the following circumstances:

  • Tumours and metastases
  • Deep Vein Thromboses
  • Broken/fractured bones (in the feet or ankles) while healing

Evidence-based Studies

Evidence-based Studies indicate possible benefits of reflexology treatment, in reducing pain, enhancing relaxation, and reducing psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, tension headache and other health conditions.

Reflexology is showing up in more and more hospitals in the United States. Hospital-Based Integrative Medicine Program: Reflexology at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis; the Cleveland Clinic; the St. Rita’s Medical Centre in Lima, Ohio.

 Research Project

Kevin Kunz & Barbara Kunz, co-directors of Reflexology Research Project which was launched in 1979, include among their 168 reflexology studies numerous research projects the following:

 Research on Reflexology

Research in hospitals on the international level indicates positive benefits of reflexology for various conditions. 

There are several well-designed studies, funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health that indicate reflexology’s promise as an intervention to reduce pain and enhance relaxation, sleep, and the reduction of psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.  

  • United Kingdom: 2011 Pilot study, Sally Kay: Cardiff Metropolitan University: This study has been awarded funding to carry out research into a new reflexology technique called Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD), which has been developed by Ms Sally Kay, CNHC registered reflexologist. Ms Kay conducted a pilot study as part of her dissertation research project for her BSc in Complementary Therapies at the University.
  • United States: In a pilot study started in 2005, researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) have been testing three different complementary therapies – reflexology, guided imagery and reminiscence therapy – on women who are receiving chemotherapy while in the late stages of breast cancer. They found that, of the three therapies, reflexology proved to be the most effective.. Many women turned to reflexology to help them coping  with challenges of myriad physical and emotional issues such as depression and anxiety.

In South Africa the Therapeutic Reflexologists offer their services voluntarily in various hospitals and special care centers by working on children and adults with special needs. 

On the international level recognition is given in e.g. Denmark, Finland, Australia to the efficiency of reflexologists and their effective services by setting career opportunities in hospitals, clinics and community healthcare centers. In all three counties reflexology is part of the National Health Service.

  • Reflexology is the most frequently used alternative therapy in Denmark
    • Since the early ’90s, there are various municipalities and companies in Denmark that have employed reflexologists. The Danish government-funded research found many health benefits, including a gain of energy, improved mood and improved sleep.
  • In Australia there are career opportunities for reflexologists in education, community healthcare services, social welfare and health retreats.
  • In New Zealand Reflexologists have the opportunity to work within a professional setting in a complementary or integrated medical health centres.
  • In the United Kingdom qualified Reflexologists may find formal employment in Hospitals, Hospices, Clinics, Private Health Establishments and other Health Clubs, Holiday resorts etc.

Benefit of Treatment:

  1. What do summaries of the research say? Kunz and Kunz [2008]
  2. Kunz & Kunz, Evidenced Based Reflexology Research: For Health Professionals and Researchers Paperback – June 28, 2016:
  3. Reflexology in hospitals and integrative medicine programs: Reflexology Research Project June 2010.
  4. How Can Reflexology Help My Health and Healing?
  5. A comparison the effects of reflexology and relaxation on the psychological symptoms in women with multiple sclerosis. Journal of Education and Health Promotion. (MS)

Research on Reflexology

  1. What Does the Research Say about Reflexology?
  2. Oncology Nursing FORUM: Article Health-Related Quality-of-Life Outcomes: A Reflexology Trial With Patients With Advanced-Stage Breast Cancer
  3. Reflexology Research:
  4. 380 Reflexology Research Studies Listed by Category
  5. Denmark: Research A description of reflexology practice and clientele in Denmark.

Breast Cancer:

  1. Association of Reflexologists in Somerset, England Sally Kay-Reflexology Lymphatic Drainage RLD
  2. Denmark: Complementary Therapies in Medicine Volume 3, Issue 4, October 1995, Pages 206-211
  1. Michigan State University: Patient turn to reflexology, October 7, 2005
  2. University of Minnesota:…/reflexology/how-can-reflexology-help-my-…
  1. Reflexology Shows Promise for Treating Breast Cancer Symptoms:
  2. Reflexology Benefits Breast Cancer Patients, 7 October 2005