Reflexology and acupuncture are both relaxation and therapy modalities with origins in Chinese Medicine. Both are considered very effective in combating stress and as support for a variety of health pursuits ranging from sports injury recovery to stopping smoking to PTSD relief.
The two therapies work rather differently, and many people wonder which is more effective and which is better. In this article, we will explore the differences and similarities between reflexology and acupuncture to help you decide which might be right for you. Read on to learn more.
What you need to know about reflex therapies
Both of these relaxation modalities are considered touch therapies or reflex therapies. They work using slightly differing energetic principles and very different locations of reflex points.
In acupuncture there are more than fourteen long, thin lines of energy known as meridians. These meridians run the length of your body, and there are over eight-hundred pressure points located along the lines.
Only about thirty pressure points are found in the hands, and there is just one pressure point in each outer ear and one on the sole of each foot. The practitioner works directly with these pressure points at various locations on the body.
In reflexology an entire reflex map of the body can be found in the feet, hands and outer ears. This means that each of these appendages contains pressure points corresponding with specific parts and areas of the body. The practitioner works with the pressure points in the hands, feet and/or outer ears to affect corresponding parts of the body.
Acupuncture is an ancient art
Acupuncture has been used in China to treat a wide variety of ailments for over 3000 years. Until fairly recently it was thought (by western doctors) to work through a placebo effect.
Now we know that the insertion and manipulation of very fine, flexible needles at specific pressure points relieves pain (e.g. heel pain) and supports healing by working in correspondence with the sympathetic nervous system.
While being poked with needles might sound painful, the fact is the needles are really no larger around than a hair and treatment is painless. Patients usually say that treatment is very relaxing, and most fall asleep during therapy.
Licensed acupuncturists are highly trained, and training requirements are the most stringent as compared to those required for other alternative medicine practitioners. Most qualified acupuncturists must successfully complete a three-year master’s degree program.
Reflexology does not use needles
Reflexology is another form of traditional Chinese medicine which focuses on stress relief and healing brought about by stimulating pressure points in the hands, feet and/or outer ear to stimulate the reflexes of the nervous system.
These pressure points correspond to organs and tissues throughout the body, many of which cannot be accessed through standard massage techniques. This non-invasive therapy allows the practitioner to provide beneficial effects to every part of the body without having to directly access affected areas.
Reflexology is considered a massage therapy specialty and is offered by many masseuses and masseurs. Training for this specialty is offered at massage schools and reflexology schools. It consists of successfully completing 110 credit hours, and no certification is required to practice reflexology.
How do you choose between acupuncture and reflexology?
Both acupuncture and reflexology are effective and painless, and you may very well want to give both a try. Here are a few things you may wish to consider:
- Reflexology may be a bit less expensive than acupuncture, and you can even do it on your own, for example, by using reflexology sandals.
- If you are shy, you may prefer reflexology to acupuncture as no disrobing is involved.
- If you want a longer, more relaxing, spa-like experience, you may prefer acupuncture (check our article on acupuncture mats).
- If your place of employment offers chair massage, you may be able to enjoy a reflexology treatment at work.
As with any other therapy or personal care treatment, it’s best if you can get a solid referral from your doctor or from trusted friends when choosing an acupuncturist or a reflexologist. Interview the practitioner and ask about training, experience and references. Check out his or her work environment and equipment for cleanliness and professionalism.
Doing this bit of due-diligence ensures that you will have a pleasant and successful experience.