Side effects of reflexology

Reflexology is a type of foot massage used as an alternative treatment therapy to ease the symptoms of some health conditions. Even though focus is generally placed on the feet, pressure can be applied to areas on the hands as well.

Reflexologists believe that massaging and stimulating specific reflex points and nerve endings in the feet increases circulation so that oxygen and nutrients can be distributed throughout the body. Removing waste products clears toxins from the body, thereby reenergizing an individual. While side effects appear to be minimal, there are some things to watch out for.


Side effects normally do not last for more than 24 hours, but in some cases, individuals may continue to experience mild discomfort for a few days afterward. Reflexology is generally reputed to be a safe therapeutic method, however, in some cases people have developed cold or flu-like symptoms. Practitioners refer to this as a healing crisis, as these symptoms are due to the body eliminating harmful toxins. Individuals may suffer a runny nose from sinus congestion, or cough up mucus from the lungs as the bronchial passages clear. Side effects are sometimes worse following the second treatment after pressure is reapplied to tender points.


Yawning can be a side effect of reflexology, as some people fall asleep during treatment. Others say they feel tired afterward. Both a headache and fatigue are common symptoms of anxiety, which many people experience at the onset of illness or when beginning a new treatment therapy. Some individuals develop headaches when they feel tired. Since these two side effects seem to go hand in hand, a headache usually disappears once your energy returns.

Emotional Reactions

Some people report experiencing various emotional reactions during, or following, reflexology treatments. While some individuals indicate that they feel relaxed or like laughing, others say they feel like crying. An intense state of relaxation may even cause you to feel lightheaded.

Sensitive Feet

Tenderness and increased sensitivity in the feet are frequently temporary side effects following the first reflexology session. A tingling or pins and needles sensation in your feet may also occur during treatment. The symptoms being treated may actually get worse before they begin to get better. This usually means that your body is responding. When there is no response, there may not be any improvement. If symptoms continue to worsen, or if you notice any new symptoms after a day or two, report them to your doctor and reflexologist immediately.

Uncommon Side Effects

Nausea, excessive sweating or thirst, and skin rashes are other possible side effects. Reflexologists say that nausea may be due to the effect of eliminating toxins from your body. Drink plenty of water to help to ease the discomfort. Staying well hydrated also helps remove toxins from the kidneys, bladder and liver. Another way to fight nausea is to take small bites and chew slowly when you eat. Do not eat foods that are high in fat or sugar, as these foods take longer to digest. For some people, treatments cause more frequent urination or bowel movements for a day or two afterward, as the body rids itself of toxins.


Always check with your primary care physician before scheduling reflexology therapy. Certain health conditions, including thyroid problems, epilepsy, diabetes, foot ulcers, gout or other circulatory problems of the feet, should not be treated with reflexology. In some cases, reflexology can interfere with prescribed medications. Pressure should not be applied to particular reflex points on the feet of cancer patients. The American Cancer Society warns that if the manipulation is not performed by a trained professional who is experienced in working with cancer patients, complications may result. Individuals for whom cancer has spread to the bones have an increased risk of bone fracture when physical pressure is applied to an area weakened by cancer. Women who are pregnant should not receive treatments during the first three months of pregnancy. In addition, individuals with low platelet counts should not receive reflexology treatments, as they tend to bruise more easily from the pressure.