Defining Reflexology

[Transcript from the first presentation of our proposal]

What is defining reflexology?

Welcome to the first step! In May 2018 in Portugal the European Federation of Associations and Schools RiEN held its bi-annual conference with the title “What is Reflexology? In Greek: Τι είναι η ρεφλεξολογία ;“.
In this context, Efrosini Marda Stravelakis,proposed a definition of reflexology that the people present found close to perfect. They asked us to get the ball rolling for European Reflexologists to adopt a definition. In this page you will see 2 things:

  • Our definition of reflexology, and our position as it was presented in Portugal and
  • A form for you to express your opinion on what reflexology is!

Please be understanding in our need to keep this a RiEN matter. We limit participation to the discussion to reflexologists affiliated with RiEN.

Our Opinion on

Defining Reflexology

Defining Reflexology τι είναι η ρεφλεξολογία rien Κέντρο Ρεφλεξολογίας και Έρευνας σχολή ρεφλεξολογίας πτυχίο

Defining Reflexology – The Definition of Reflexology

This is a tough issue, we, all reflexologists around the world, have worked with it for decades. We still are a bit ways away to a common agreed definition. I am here today to propose such a definition. My understanding of what we have to gain through having a European definition comes in 4 arguments. We have to  “WIN” on all 4 areas to have a good definition.

First is how bring together all reflexologists!

Second is how we talk to lawmakers in our countries and in the EU. We need to support the strongest position we can get, without changing reflexology, to something that it is not.

Third is to respect and attract the public to reflexology.

And finally we need to find the best balance on how to address the medical world and the scientific community in general.

This might sound a bit less hard when we go to it, one at a time. But first let’s look at how our defining reflexology is.

Κέντρο Ρεφλεξολογίας και Έρευνας σχολή ρεφλεξολογίας πτυχίο
Κέντρο Ρεφλεξολογίας και Έρευνας σχολή πτυχίο

We have heard many words defining what reflexology is. An art, a science, a treatment, a medicine, a practice… and many other words that do not translate well. I have chosen the word method because it can include all the other words and not oppose any of them.

It is not my favorite word, but it is a word that almost all of us can get behind.

Then comes the question of reflexology and where it is applied. I personally do believe that just hands and feet are enough for the definition. And It is where 99% of the research is done, it is where we all start with, and too many of us work just there.

But it is not a uniting way to talk about reflexology. We NEED the word “mainly” to include all reflexologists in our definition. And without reflexologists united behind the common definition,  it will not be a real definition.

More things can be said about this, but I wish to have time at the end for some discussion.

Almost as important as unity is the use of the definition in legal circles.

We need to find our place in the legal world because we all live in societies that laws define our lives to a big extend. Even if this is not what we want, we have to acknowledge the reality

So we need a specific definition, a definition that helps an unknowing lawmaker to understand what we are about. This is why so many things must be included in the definition.

We need the word COMPLEMENTARY so that we can signal that we are not here to replace established professions, we are not here to threaten anyone. Also it is a word used in Brussels since the Lanoye report in the early 90’s.

Κέντρο Ρεφλεξολογίας και Έρευνας σχολή πτυχίο

I propose defining reflexology with the words SPECIFIC MANIPULATIONS  because it includes all the techniques we use, relaxing techniques , specific and non specific pressures and it includes newer and future reflexology ideas like the stand up techniques that Mrs Vithoulkas and her team taught us in Greece.

I propose the word CORRESPOND with great responsibility. It is word that will not link us to the medical profession more than it has to. Although “reflex” is the most commonly used word, I propose correspond because reflexes in English, Greek and many other languages is linked only to neurons that transmit electrical and chemical impulses. It is too specific for us, and it will limit us legally if we use it in the “OFFICIAL definition”

And I use the verb HELP the body, instead of any other word that might be too medical like HEAL the body or too unfeeling, like promote harmony.

We are trying to show people who we are, not just what we do. Not just the definition of reflexology, but also the definition of what a reflexologist is.

Defining Reflexology τι είναι η ρεφλεξολογία Κέντρο Ρεφλεξολογίας και Έρευνας σχολή ρεφλεξολογίας πτυχίο

And we must show them that reflexology is for them. It is what people are looking for. Our definition must not eject the public’s understanding. The definition must be addressed to them too!

So we use the words NATURAL and HOLISTIC, because those are the most looked into words on Google when someone is looking for a reflexologist. It is how the public sees us. And it is the truth!

For almost the same reason we use the words CARE OF THE BODY. It reminds the public of what they “should” be doing to themselves, and it connects us, to that “should”. It also softens the first sentence after that ugly and unusable word “complementary”. And it is the truth!

And we use the expression HELP THE BODY TO ACHIEVE HARMONY for the same reason. It is non-specific enough, so that scientific minded people can accept it, and at the same time it is enough to show the value we add to society.

Defining Reflexology Κέντρο Ρεφλεξολογίας και Έρευνας σχολή πτυχίο

Too many people today have a reflexologist through the recommendation of their doctor or pharmacist of other medical professional. And too many of us are bad-mouthed by other scientists.

This is in small part our fault.

We use big scientific sounding words to describe what reflexology is, and while it might not be exactly wrong, it sounds wrong to the medical profession.

To limit this problem we chose the word METHOD in defining reflexology, the verbs CARE and HELP to describe what reflexologists do, and the word HARMONY, to describe the results of reflexology.

All these choices are absolutely true, both in everyday speech and in scientific methodology.

These words have the added benefit of not being used by the established medical professionals, and at the same time they are used in medical research in tools like the sf36 and the MYMOP protocols that the RiEN-ICF 10 year plan is focused on.


Let us all together read again the definition proposed, and as we read it let us remember how each word is carefully chosen to benefit reflexology and reflexologists.

Reflexology is a
natural, holistic, (understandable by the public)
complementary (clear for the lawmakers)
Method (uniting for Reflexologists)
for the care of the body. (what the public needs from us)

Through specific manipulations, (including all methods)
mainly, on the hands and feet, (not excluding anyone)
on points that correspond to areas of organs, (easy for lawmakers to accept)
we help the body to achieve harmony. (good for legal scientific and marketing reasons)

I believe that all of us can adopt a definition that is like this one, even this one as it is. I believe that if we build on our successes, if we respect others, if we help lawmakers to help us, if we love reflexology and reflexologists we can unite behind a definition that is well thought out  and reasoned such as this one.

(This has been a direct transcript of the presentation Efrosini Marda Stravelakis ” Defining Reflexology ” made in the 2018 Paneuropean RiEN Conference in Portugal)



Your Opinion on

Defining Reflexology

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