Conditioned Response Reflexology (CRR)

The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art -

Leonardo Da Vinci

buddhas-feet-HI95 l

What is Reflexology?                                                               

Reflexology is a method of applying pressure on specific reflexes on the feet and hands that correspond to organs, glands and other parts of the body. 

Reflexology induces a profound state of relaxation, which promotes physical and emotional healing. Reflexology stimulates blood and lymph circulation, which increases oxygen supply to the cells of the body. Reflexology helps the process of removing waste (uric acid) deposits in the body, thus improving the digestive and immune systems. Reflexology has a direct effect on the nervous system through stimuli of nerve receptors on the feet, hands and ears. 

Remedial Reflexology is used as therapeutic treatment for a full range of stress responsible conditions related to circulatory, neurological, hormonal and reproductive, digestive problems, and immune problems such as hypertension, diabetes, muscle spasms, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and migraines. Reflexology is a "First Aid" in stress reduction and pain management.

No matter that we might still not know exactly “how” it works, research studies and anecdotal evidence give substance to the scope and efficacy of Reflexology. In addition, the effects of chronic stress on the body are long recognized and stress management might be well the first line of defense to maintain our physical and emotional wellbeing. 

What is Conditioned Response Reflexology (CRR)

Conditioned Response Reflexology (CRR) is based on "Pavlov’s theory” of combining two stimuli, eventually duplicating a similar outcome with one stimuli. CRR combines touch and distinct music during “hands-on” sessions that induce a profound state of relaxation, while excluding external stimuli. With six to eight weekly somatic sessions and thirty minutes of daily relaxation while listening to the music, eventually triggers a spontaneous relaxation response by just listening to the sound.  

Brief Historic Overview 

There are as many definitions to explain reflexology, as there are reflexologists, and the Russian psychologist V.M.  Bekterev (1857-1927) coined the word to explain his work in behavioral psychology.

In the east the history of reflexology can be traced from India, to China and then to Japan. One of the gods the Hindus worshipped was Vishnu, and one painting of his footprints has Sanskrit symbols in places where the modern day reflexologist would mark reflex points. Carvings of Buddha's footprints that were discovered in China and Japan depict similar renderings. It is speculated that merchants traveling the “silk route” that linked China with Europe introduced the knowledge of pressure points in Europe. There is evidence that pressure therapy was practiced by the working classes in the middle countries of Europe, as well as by those who catered to the diseases of Royalty and the upper classes. 

The first use of the word “reflex” with reference to motor reactions was used in 1771 by a German physiologist Johann August Unzer. During the 1880’s the Neurological Society of London was formed and Marshall Hall, an English physiologist, introduced the concept and term “reflex action”. In the late 1890’s another doctor and member of this society, Sir Henry Head conducted pioneering work on the somatosensory system and sensory nerves, proving the neurological relationship between the skin and the internal organs. 

The father of modern Reflexology is Dr. William Fitzgerald, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon from Connecticut, who promulgated "Zone Theory"after he discovered that pressure, when applied to certain points on the body could provide numbness and improve the functions of certain organs of the body. He designed a chart with longitudinal zones of the body and along with Dr. Edwin Bowers he wrote a book named “Zone therapy”. 

It was in the 1930’s that Eunice Ingham (1889-1974) further developed foot reflexology through her research while she was working at the Osteopathic Hospital in St. Petersburg. She discovered that pressure applied to a specific reflex point on the foot could help to relieve pain. She published two well-known books “Stories the feet can tell”(1938) and “Stories the feet have told”(1963) and she promoted Reflexology into the mainstream as a healing modality.

Interactive Foot

Principles and Philosophy  

Western based theories: 

Proprioception theory is based on research done in the 1890s by two English neurologists, Sir Henry Head (1861-1940) and Sir Charles Sherrington (1861-1952), who won the Noble prize for his work  “The integrative action of the nervous system”. Their research showed that there is a neurological relationship between the skin and the internal organs, and that the whole nervous system adjusts to a stimulus.

Zone theory - Reflexology, as we know it today began in the early years of the twentieth century by Dr.William Fitzgerald. (1872--1942). He developed the zone theory of the human body, and discovered that pressure applied in one part of the body could anesthetize another.

Endorphin release theory - Endorphins are the body's natural opiates or painkillers, with actions similar to that of morphine. These are stimulated by pain, and serve to reduce the amount of pain that we feel by inhibiting the activity of a neurotransmitter called substance P, which is thought to transmit pain. It is theorized that a Reflexology treatment stimulates the release of endorphins to help ease pain and to give the body the same natural elevation in mood as strong painkillers.

The Relaxation Effect According to the World Health Organization, 80% of illness is related to stress. No matter the cause, environmental, nutritional, social, family, or work related stress, the effects eventually will take a toll on the body. A skilled reflexologist is able to relieve stress and promote deep relaxation. This enables the systems and organs in the body to work much more effectively, which helps to alleviates and prevent illness.

Eastern philosophy 

Eastern philosophy believes that reflexology is similar to acupuncture and shiatsu, stimulating the flow of Chi energy along the meridians (energy pathways in the body) bringing it back into energetic balance. Chi is the circulating life energy that in Chinese philosophy is thought to be inherent in all things. In traditional Chinese medicine the balance of negative and positive forms in the body is believed to be essential for good health.


There are still mysteries about the exact workings of many holistic therapies such as reflexology and acupuncture. However, the workings of how anesthesia works is still a mystery as well, yet we know that they work. Most likely Reflexology works because of a combination of the theories mentioned above, and it may be many years before we acquire scientific evidence to this. Regardless of how and why it works, the effects are immediately noticeable and long lasting. Reflexology works and is a rescue to thousands of people. 


F. Cervero. (1985). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B. Biological Sciences. Nociception and Pain. 308(1136), 325-337.

Fitzgerald, Wm. H. and Edwin F. Bowers. (1918). Zone Therapy; or, Relieving Pain at Home. Columbus, O., I. W. Long.

H. Head, (1893) On the disturbances of sensation, with special references to the pain of visceral disease. Brain. 16:1-133; 1894, 17: 339-480; 1896, 19: 153-276.

Stephenson, N. L. N., Swanson, M., Dalton, J., Keefe, F. J., & Engelke, M. (2007). Partner-Delivered Reflexology: Effects on Cancer Pain and Anxiety. Oncology Nursing Forum, 34(1), 127-132.

Soothe The Senses