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Reflexology Schools and Career Guide

Feet contain one-quarter of the bones in our bodies. They can expand up to 5 to 10 percent by the end of the day. They cushion up to a million pounds of pressure during one hour of vigorous exercise.

It's little wonder that most of us appreciate a good foot rub. But according to the theory behind reflexology, a skilled foot massage can be much more than just a casual relaxation technique.

Reflexology is based, in part, on a theory developed by Dr. William Fitzgerald in the early 1920s. Dr. Fitzgerald posited that the body comprises zones of energy that run from the head to the feet. By compressing areas of the feet and hands (reflex points) that correspond to the body's glands, organs, and parts of the body, one can relax the body and promote healing. In the 1930s, physiotherapist Eunice D. Ingham translated this theory into a practice she termed "foot reflexology."

Happy Feet, Healthy Body

Considered an alternative medicine, reflexology has been subject to the same medical scrutiny and skepticism that has greeted other non-conventional therapies in the West such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and massage. But as with these other alternative medicines, there are a host of studies that point to reflexology's efficacy.

For example, research in Korea suggests that reflexology can have positive outcomes for the treatment of cancer, diabetes, fatigue, hypertension, incontinence, osteoarthritis, and more. In China, the central government considers reflexology a means of preventing and curing illnesses. In Japan and Denmark, several large corporations include reflexology as part of their employee health programs.

Few reflexologists in the U.S. would argue that reflexology should be a substitute for medical treatment in the case of a serious illness such as cancer. But taken as a complement to traditional Western medicine, reflexology is increasingly becoming accepted, and there's also a growing interest in reflexology schools and careers.

Navigating Feet and Hands: Reflexology School Programs

Reflexology schools may educate students about reflex points in the feet and hands--and sometimes the ears. Students learn how to administer pressure and massage in a way that is therapeutic and comfortable.

Many reflexology schools may offer stand-alone programs that train aspiring reflexologists and prepare them to take the American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB) national examination. Other reflexology programs may offer continuing education courses to practitioners in alternative medicine such as massage therapists. If you are interested in learning reflexology without committing to a full education, a host of campus and online reflexology school courses offer an introduction to the subject.

It's a Foot: How Much Do You Need to Know?

Even reflexologists are quick to say that anyone can learn reflexology. As with massage, however, the benefits of the therapy are generally greater when the practitioner has formal training.

Several programs are offered online, which can make training accessible to students who do not live near a reflexology school. Students who enroll in online reflexology school programs often desire the flexibility and convenience of distance education and learn techniques through video instruction and books.

For a well-rounded education, look for the following reflexology school classes:

  • Reflexology history and theory
  • Reflexology maps and techniques
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Building a business and professional ethics
  • Clinical work

Reflexology Trends

Reflexology is gaining wider acceptance as an alternative therapy. As the therapy becomes more popular, reflexology is increasingly offered through spas, beauty salons, sports clinics, and hospitals.

For practitioners, this translates to growing employment opportunities. Like massage therapists, whose employment is projected to increase 20 percent from 2010 to 2020 according to BLS, reflexologists may also enjoy more job opportunities from an increase in the number of spas and massage clinics, and from the number of people who seek alternative, holistic treatments to complement Western medicine.

Profile of a Reflexologist: Could It Be You?

Is reflexology a good career choice? In 2007, the American Reflexology Certification Board conducted a survey of reflexologists in the U.S. The results revealed that the typical reflexologist works part-time out of his or her home, charges $60 per hour-long session, and earns approximately $21,000 annually from that part-time practice. Perhaps most importantly, this typical reflexologist is "very" to "extremely" satisfied with his/her career.

Whether you are new to the world of alternative medicine, or are a massage therapist, acupuncturist, or other holistic health practitioner, reflexology school may provide you with valuable training, and a potentially rewarding career.