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WHAT IS A “CONTRAINDICATION?”
A contraindication is:
- ✅ an indication against a particular treatment;
- ✅ a change from the usual treatment; or
- ✅ a dictation of a different treatment.
For reflexology therapists, this means using informed professional and sound judgment in deciding if and/or when to give a reflexology session, proceeding with caution to avoid injury, or modifying your methodology or session plan before proceeding.
Understanding contraindications within the professional practice of reflexology means recognizing that reflexology operates within a larger field of integrative healthcare. In addition, this mean acknowledging where and/or when a therapist’s individual limitations may apply.
In these circumstances, it is imperative that a reflexology therapist work alongside other health professionals to consider the client from a holistic perspective, including, but not limited to:
- ✅ referring a client to another reflexology colleague with either more experience or more advanced reflexology training working with that client group; and/or
- ✅ referring a client to another healthcare professional.
Each client is unique. Each client’s session is unique. Reflexology therapists need to account for their client’s safety every time they proceed to work with them. Thus, even with the identification of contraindication(s), session plans will vary between and across clients.
PROFESSIONAL GUIDE FOR REFLEXOLOGY THERAPISTS TO ENSURE THEIR CLIENTS’ (AND THEIR OWN) SAFETY.
A. When to ensure that a reflexology therapist is working within the framework, support, and/or awareness of a primary healthcare provider
The following are circumstances where reflexology therapists should make sure that the client has checked in with their primary healthcare provider before proceeding.
- A client who has recently suffered a cardiovascular incident, including stroke, or intervention.
- Gangrene on the body part being worked on.
- Swelling or inflammation on the body part being worked on.
- Clients with herpes simplex virus-2, shingles, or actively being treated for cancer.
- Client is undergoing any treatment or medical program where detoxing of the body could affect that treatment or program – for example: active chemotherapy, IVF, antidepressants, etc.
- Unknown skin rash or condition.
- Pain in the body of unknown origin.
- Infectious conditions (body part dependent).
- Acute injury (i.e., broken bones, lacerations, or damaged tissue) on the body party being worked on.
- Extraordinary sensitivity to local pressure, or extraordinary inflammation of reflex zones or points.
- If a client is undergoing a specific treatment with another healthcare provider.
B. When a reflexology therapist could refer to another reflexology therapist with more experience or advanced reflexology training working with a specific client group
The following is a non-exhaustive list of relative contraindications. Depending on a therapist’s training or lack there of, this may be an absolute contraindication.
- Any of forementioned contraindications in part A
- Clients who are pregnant or undergoing IVF
- Palliative clients
- Clients with diabetes
- Clients with Alzheimer’s or dementia
- Clients on the autism spectrum and/or highly sensitive clients
- Clients with mental health issues
- Babies and/or children
C. Additional Contraindications for Specific Modalities or Protocols
Specific reflexology modalities or protocols could have additional contraindications. Reflexology therapists should refer to the contraindication considerations in their training.
If a reflexology therapist is unsure, wary, or uncomfortable, they should not proceed. If a client is unsure, wary, or uncomfortable, a therapist should not proceed with the session. In these circumstances, a reflexology therapist should determine what is needed for their client or themselves to feel confident and comfortable enough to proceed. Then, when possible, they should make that happen or wait for that to be true.
Additionally, there are other situations that may cause a therapist to not work on a client, that do not directly pertain to a contraindication of “reflexology” per se. For example: a client arrives demonstrating cold and/or flu symptoms, vomiting, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or does not have the appropriate permission to be worked on, etc.
Reflexology Therapists should always stay within their scope of professional practice (Reference: RAC’s Scope of Practice). If a client situation requests that a reflexology therapist move beyond reflexology’s scope of practice, a therapist should consult and/or refer.