Caterpillar Therapy

Holistic Beauty Treatments

The difference between reflexology and massage

What is massage? What is reflexology? What’s the difference?

Here are the definitions inspired from the medical-dictionary which has as a source American Massage Therapy Association, International Institute of Reflexology, Reflexology Association of America and goes as follows:

Massage therapy is the manipulation of superficial tissues and deeper layers of muscle to enhance good function of the body, aid in the healing process, and promote relaxation and well-being. Manipulation means applying pressure which can be structured, unstructured, stationary, or moving pressure applied with hands, fingers, arms, elbow and feet.  There are over eighty different recognized massage modalities.

Reflexology is a therapeutic method that implies the stimulation of predefined pressure points, which form a reflexology map, on the feet, hands and face. These pressure points are reputed to connect directly through the nervous system and affect the bodily organs and glands. The manipulation of reflex points varies from static pressure, moving pressure and circular movements, in order to stimulate those specific points.

A simple conclusion is that massage is mainly a manipulation of muscles and reflexology is the stimulation of reflex points which form the reflexology foot/hand or face map.

Both therapies are very relaxing (when the pressure and technique is suitable for the client) however, if massage has a broader spectrum of techniques, then reflexology will follow the same reflex points map and these needs to correctly be detected in order for the therapy to work and have results.


The type of massage offered is a combination of different techniques, like Swedish massage, No Hands Massage, and deep tissue.

It means, that in regard to pressure, I am accustomed to adjust it from light to strong pressure according with the client needs and request.

When it comes to describing the technique this is a combination of pressure movements which I do with hands, forearms and at times, when necessarily, with elbow.

The Swedish massage evolved and was incorporated in the exercise and movement therapy developed by Per Henrik Ling (1800). Later on, Dr Johann Mezger (1900) developed further and categorised these methods in five foundation techniques; he then brought them to the attention of the scientific community as a form of medical treatment. These five foundations techniques (effleurage (sliding), petrissage (kneading), tappotment (rhythmic tapping), friction (cross fiber) and vibration) are still taught to this day in most massage schools. All of these techniques have exclusive emphasis on the use of hands and fingers.

The “No Hands Massage” has been developed recently by Garry Pyves (1980) and it came about when the practitioner himself injured the wrist, while giving a massage session. After 20 years of clinical testing, his one single “no hands” stroke he knew, evolved in a whole new treatment. It uses slow movements of forearms and elbows on the body, together with gentle stretches, resulting in a more efficient treatment in regard to time and a deeper connection of the client with her own being. As the developer himself writes: “The special movements of No Hands Massage provide us with opportunities to connect with and increase our innate human compassion. This is because most of the forearm techniques used involve a physical exercising and opening of the practitioners own chest area – the zone of the heart Chakra. Many of the movements are similar to Tai-Chi and Chi Kung exercises for opening the heart Chakra and the chest region.”

I also consider, from my own experience, that what the massage therapist is using in a session, as a mean of technique combined with listening, compassionate, non-invasive and non-intentional touch, can have an equal impact on the client physical body as well as mental and emotional systems.

When it comes to reflexology, I use the Ingham method that involves working the reflex points by applying thumb pressure in a steady press-hold-release sequence. It is commonly named, “the caterpillar walk” as the movements are very detailed and precise, following the reflexology map. The pressure can be adjusted and varies from light to firm. Practitioners experience that many clients benefit much more from a light touch, having on the other pole therapists trained in Orient whereby a strong pressure is encouraged for immediate results. During the session also, few areas of the foot requires careful touch and pressure, as other will have to be worked with stronger pressure as for example, the spine.

Reflexology as well as massage, can  bring about total relaxation of the whole body and sometimes an emotional release can happen; this is often transitory and is part of the client’s healing process. I believe for the efficiency of the treatment, and good results, a good communication of the client’ needs have to be voiced in order to be able to offer a tailored, unique treatment and to offer the best advice after the treatment.

Reflexology and acupressure, Janet Wright
No Hands Massage, Gerry Pyves

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This entry was posted on January 24, 2017 by in Uncategorized.