Complete Bollocks / Pseudoscience / Science Education / Teaching

Reflexology in UK Schools

Early in November last year, The Guardian ran with the following story…

Reflexology for pupils who don’t toe the line
• £90,000 to be spent on foot massages in south London
• Academic calls practice ‘based on nonsensical principles’

Anthea Lipsett and agencies, Monday 3 November 2008 17.36 GMT

Let me set out the current general consensus on reflexology in modern science.


The good old Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense, you’ll find reflexology in the upper middle, along with ear candles and cupping; a mixture of quackery and pseudoscientific bollocks.

A more formal breakdown is provided below…

Insufficient evidence has been provided by clinical trials of reflexology (in any form), to meet the following criteria:

  • in which a credible, double-blinded control has been used – being that neither the researchers nor the participants were aware of the nature of treatment or placebo being administered
  • which shows that reflexology has any more effect than a relaxing foot massage and a good chat with a sympathetic listener
  • which has been published in any legitimate, peer-reviewed, scientific journal
  • which amount to more than just one or two isolated papers and can therefore legitimately be viewed as providing a basis for widescale justification of reflexology as a “method of intervention”

In short, despite a lot of effort and investigation, reflexology has not been shown to be any more use as a medical intervention, than a foot massage and a chat with friend.

Now this has been dissected in great detail over at Dr. Steven Novella’s excellent Neurologica blog…

Where an incoherent huckster by the name of Kevin Kunz (author of a huge amount of total drivel on the subject), has been roundly put down by Dr. Novella’s readers. The good doctor not even having to engage Kunz on the subject to see him dispatched on this occasion.

The last text book I purchased for my department when I was teaching in secondary (high) school, cost £12.99. The headteacher said we could only afford twenty at that price.

£90,000.00 would have bought the children of Lambeth more than 6900 of those books, installed  computer suites, updated science laboratories, sent inner-city history and religious studies students on field trips to places such as Auschwitz. It might even have paid for an educational psychologist or two.

Just imagine what that kind of money can be used for if spent wisely. Instead, they might as well have just handed it to the first con-man (or woman) to turn up at the town hall…


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