Reflexology versus Acupressure

Oct 11, 2008Updated 8 months ago

Chinese Reflexology Association's foot chart
Acupressure and Reflexology both have ancient histories stemming from cultures that used body touch as forms of healing. A lot of people assume they are the same with the only difference that Reflexology is exclusive to the extremities, but this is a great misunderstanding.

What is Acupressure?

Acupressure goes by several names: Shiatsu, Anma, Anmo, Tuina, AMMA Therapy®, Nuad Bo ‘Rarn or Traditional Thai Bodywork. These all fall into the category of Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT) and are primarily based on Traditional Chinese Medicine theories.

Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that the body’s energy, or qi, runs through channels, or meridians, almost the entire length of the body. These meridians have twelve main organs associated with them and eight extra, or helper, meridians. They represent:

  • Lung meridian
  • Pericardium meridian
  • Heart meridian
  • Large intestine meridian
  • Triple warmer meridian (not an actual organ)
  • Small intestine meridian
  • Kidney meridian
  • Spleen meridian
  • Liver meridian
  • Stomach meridian
  • Bladder meridian
  • Gall bladder meridian
Along these meridians lie points that can be stimulated with acupuncture needles in an acupuncture session, or will be given pressure in an acupressure session. Depending on the style of acupressure and the training of the practitioner stimulation may be applied using any of the following techniques:

  • Thumb pressure
  • Finger pressure
  • Pressure using a foot (Thai bodywork)
  • Pressure using an arm or elbow
  • Scraping tools made of stone or bone (a technique called guasha)
  • Heat through an herb called mugwort (moxibustion)
  • Glass or plastic cups containing vacuum pressure (cupping)
An acupressure session might involve stretching the body, holding points, stimulating points, and therapeutic massaging of the points or meridian channels. A practitioner in the United States will have 500 hours of training and be certified through the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA).

What is Reflexology?

In significant comparison to acupressure, Reflexology is employed on the feet, hands and ears instead of the whole body. Reflexology believes that micro maps of the human body reflect each gland, internal organ and body part on these extremities. Like acupressure, Reflexology has multiple forms:

  • Ayurvedic Reflexology
  • Foot Hand Ear Reflexology
  • Taiwanese Reflexology
  • Gentle Touch Reflexology™
  • Vertical Reflex Therapy (VRT)
  • Zone Therapy
  • Auricular Reflexology (or Ear Reflexology)
  • Meridian Reflexology
  • Chi Reflexology
  • And others
Reflexology is not exclusive to Asia – forms of foot therapy for healing existed in ancient cultures such as the Native Americans, the ancient Egyptians, Middle and South American cultures, Europeans and Indians.

Theories of how Reflexology works includes Russian Zone Theory – where the body is divided into ten, wide bands that run from head to toe, front to back and cover all aspects of the body within that zone. Another theory is the Central Nervous System theory that connects these maps to the related parts, organs and glands.

The actual application of techniques in Reflexology includes specific finger and thumb pressure worked over the entirety of the map (the hands, feet or ears). Some practitioners utilize tools such as a wooden dowel in Taiwanese Reflexology, or a stone wand in Meridian Reflexology.

Reflexology practitioners in the United States receive 110 classroom hours and 90 clinical hours prior to certification through the American Reflexology Certification Board.