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Consequences of the Massage Regulation of Reflexology

Kunz, Kevin and Kunz, Barbara, Reflexions, Vol. 19., No. 1, Winter/Spring, 1998, p. 5

Concerned reflexologists may have found the poster picture for their long campaign against massage regulation of reflexology. The picture would show the reflexologist at a Connecticut spa using knuckles to provide reflexology services as noted in a recent magazine article.

Such a picture would illustrate the reflexologists' complaint -- massage regulation of reflexology such as Connecticut's exposes consumers to substandard and even dangerous practices. Reflexology service using knuckles is outside of the professional standard in the US. The practice raises safety concerns for both client and practitioner. In addition, the reflexologists at the Connecticut spa were reported to use knuckles because they lacked the strength to provide a single professional session. Is this fair to the consumer? Is the consumer given value for his or her dollar when provided services by an untrained, inexperienced practitioner?

Consider the consumer's viewpoint of such issues. One client complained to us that it was impossible to get a massage without being approached about whatever new therapy the practitioner had "learned last weekend." This woman wanted a massage and all that goes with it. To her, hearing about and being a guinea pig for some other practice meant she was spending her massage dollar for a practitioner to learn some other skill.

Another possible poster candidate comes from a recent e-mail correspondent. He wrote because his wife was upset to be informed that she had a heart problem during a reflexology session provided by a Texas massage therapist. The dictum of do not prescribe, diagnose or treat for a specific condition has been a long-time part of the reflexology profession. Texas regulations, which now require massage licensing but no education of reflexologists, illustrate the lack of regard to consumer safety and existing professional standards of the practice.

Reflexologists who have worked to build a reputation for results and safety with reflexology express concern that the effects of hard-fought battles and long-held traditions will be dissipated by unknowing newcomers. Professional service providers acting outside the professional standard raise the spectre of disgruntled customers failing to find results and turning away from reflexology services in the future.

Talk to reflexologists, however, and you find out what really makes them indignant about massage regulation -- the lack of education mandated by the state or city to practice their profession. After all, most reflexologists have spent years building the skills necessary to achieve results by taking classes and practicing with family, friends, and self-help. It is illogical to them that the state would give professional authority to service providers who, possibly, have never tried the service let alone taken a class or become experienced in it. Formerly, reflexologists succeeded in business through their skills, practiced in the free market. Now, state regulation has stepped in to mandate that licensed individuals, who are not necessarily skilled, are the ones who have the right to succeed in reflexology business.

Finally, reflexologists are concerned that the state is mandating who provides services in their health belief system. Without massage regulation, the consumer has the choice of receiving reflexology services from individuals who share a health belief system. Under massage regulation, the state mandates that its citizens allow the infringement on the individuals' rights to practice and to provide a health belief system. Reflexologists from other countries who hear these stories always say the same thing at this point, "America, land of the free?" The irony is not lost on them that America's freedoms of speech, religion, and other inalienable rights do not extend to health.

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ŠKunz and Kunz 2003
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