Hamlet: “Alas, poor Yorick! …he hath borne me on his back a thousand times.”

Yorick’s skull: “If you ask me, I’m still carrying the whole scene!”

— Christopher Reeve as Hamlet, on The Muppet Show

It’s hard for me to believe that even today, there are people who can’t tell the difference between reflexology and massage.

Now there’s nothing wrong with massage and a good foot massage can be wonderful. It’s a personal preference and personally, I’ll keep looking until I find an actual reflexologist.

When I went to massage school I knew, as soon as my neck sent shooting tingles and numbness down my right arm, that at my age I was not going to last long in such a labor-intensive field.

(In a recent job analysis it was found that the average age of a reflexologist is 51 and she already has a college education. While researching massage, I found that on average a massage therapist is no longer working in the field after about 2 years, in part because of the strain on the body.)

But because of my training, I can now say with some authority that reflexology has little or nothing to do with massage and here, quite simply, is the reason why.

The focus of massage is the soft tissue of the body. When giving a massage, the focus is predominantly on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, attachments, connective tissue, etc.

Sure, when giving a massage you consider the whole body, but I guarantee that when a massage therapist is working on the gastrocnemius their focus is on the leg, the back, and not on a specific organ – like the kidneys, the colon or any other organ in the body.

But, when I work with reflexology, my focus is almost entirely aimed towards the organ systems of the body. I care less about the foot – it’s muscles and attachments – than I do about the kidneys, the liver, the large and small intestines, the heart or the thyroid, to name a few. And, although I’m not treating these organs, as a reflexologist my goal is to “energetically” support their function.

The focus of massage is on the muscles. The focus of reflexology is on the organs. Period.

If we take a look at the history of reflexology, it’s closest parallel is more likely to be with chiropractics than with massage.

Now this, I can understand. (And, no – there is no bone crunching with reflexology… ever!)

The premise of chiropractics is that the alignment of the spine has an impact on all of the organs on the body. Therefore good spine alignment is necessary for optimum health and poor alignment can impact the organs in a negative way.

Of course spinal alignment can be an aggressive procedure and in the mid 1900’s there were several well-publicized cases where people died from chiropractics.

I believe this was one of the reasons that, as recently as the 1960’s, chiropractics was outlawed (as in not legal to practice) in many states – including New York!

Another reason proved to be what I call “turf wars” between chiropractors and allopathic medicine.

They had to fight for many years and their case went through several court systems until eventually a U. S. District Court Judge decided that the American Medical Association “had engaged in a lengthy, systematic, successful and unlawful boycott, designed to eliminate the profession of chiropractic as a competitor.”

But now, instead of being called “an unscientific cult” and “the chiropractic menace”, you can become a Doctor of Chiropractics.

As for the science and medicine behind chiropractics, they have a similar anecdotal history with no absolute scientific proof, just like reflexology.

I’ve never heard of reflexology causing death but maybe in the early days, while our histories were more parallel, if it had…. we’d all be “Doctors of Reflexology” too.

I’m truly glad that our gentle, non-invasive techniques have never been proven to harm anyone… but please, don’t tell me that reflexology is massage either.