Reflexologists claim that rubbing the soles of your feet can help you with medical conditions ranging from back pain to infertility. And it's becoming big business. There are now some 30,000 reflexologists in Britain working on about one million feet a year.
In this programme, Kathy Sykes explores reflexology. She finds out about its basic idea: that the entire body is mapped onto the sole of the foot. Reflexologists claim that by using this map it is possible to detect problems in particular parts of the body and by pressing specific areas of the foot they can improve the health of those parts, including organs such as the lungs, the liver and the kidneys.
Kathy’s journey starts with a surprise. Despite the often widely held view that reflexology’s origins lie deep in ancient Egyptian or Chinese medicine, it really began in upstate New York in the 1930s.
Kathy then travels to Florida to meet the nephew of the woman who first coined the term reflexology. She also finds out about a reflexologist in Sheffield who believes that she has used the discipline to help bring over 100 babies into the world.
But Kathy also meets mainstream scientists who are troubled by reflexology. They cannot see how its main idea actually squares with conventional science. Kathy explores the scientific evidence and the evidence for any health benefits and reaches her own conclusions.
Kathy then meets with a professor in Hull who is using reflexology not to deal with a specific disease, but to help cancer patients feel relaxed. This takes her journey off in a whole new direction exploring the power of touch and massage and whether they can help us cope with the stresses of everyday life.
First broadcast: Monday 17 Mar 2008 on BBC TWO