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Reflexologists Rally to Challenge Massage Law Regulation

Editor's Note: Despite the age of this document it shows the struggles of the reflexologists in finding their legal niche.

Barbara and Kevin Kunz

Reflexologists are being called upon to defend reflexology as a separate practice. Just as massage boards must show that reflexology is a part of massage, reflexology advocates mustdefine reflexology as a separate, unique practice.

Will reflexologists rise to the challenge of defending and defining their practices? The answer has been a resounding "Yes" as reflexologists in Tennessee and New Mexico organize to voice their opinions.

Legal Log Jam Broken

Earlier this year it appeared that no one solution existed for reflexologists to challenge massage boards seeking to regulate the practice. In January, however, a New Mexico assistant attorney general responded to a question about the regulation of reflexology from the state's Massage Board by "advising" the Board of a Texas assistant attorney general's finding: the Massage Board must find that reflexology is a part of massage in order to regulate it.

The Gold Rush is on to make money from reflexology as massage therapists around the country have discovered that it's possible to receive insurance payments if the service provided can be coded on insurance forms as "massage." A national epidemic of Massage Board take-over of reflexology and other alternative practices has resulted.

New Mexico

The New Mexico Board of Massage Therapy held a "preliminary rule hearing" on October 1 in Albuquerque to obtain public comment about whether or not modalities outside of massage are to be regulated by the state's massage law. While the Board cannot change the state's massage law, it can make an interpretation of the law. It can issue a "declaratory ruling" on how the law is interpreted.

Reiki, Feldenkrais, polarity, and reflexology practitioners made presentations about why their practices should not be included as a massage practice. Reflexologists Kevin Kunz, Barbara Kunz, Debra Pirtle, and Erma Sylvester made a presentation on behalf of reflexology practice.

The reflexologists came away from the meeting feeling assured that the Board would make a ruling exempting them from the massage law. While reflexologists were not informed about the October 1 meeting, the Board will inform reflexologists if they are to included in a future formal rule hearing.

The reflexologist were responding to a year-long effort by the Board to encompass reflexology under massage licensing. The state's massage law took effect in 1991. It passed through legislation with reflexologist's support after massage bill sponsors promised only massage was intended to be regulated. The same sponsors are today working toward the goal of including reflexology for economic reasons.

A committee established by the Board has sought to consider the issue of licensing bodyworkers aside from massage for the past year. A series of meetings beginning in May was aimed at seeking public input for definition of individual bodywork modalities. Reflexologist Kevin Kunz, and professionals from the fields of polarity, Reiki, and others provided information before the public meeting. The series of meetings was canceled and the committee was disbanded.

However, the Board as a whole decided to consider the issue considered the issue at an October 1 meeting.

The Board's "enabling legislation" comes under review during the January 1999 session of the New Mexico Legislature. Reflexologists formed "Citizens concerned about Reflexology Regulation" to organize a letter-writing campaign to state legislators. The goal was to educate legislators who are members of the committees that appropriate funds to the Board, the Senate Finance & Appropriations and the House Finance & Appropriations Committees. Reflexologists wrote members of the committees who met the final week in September met to prepare budget recommendations that will be made to the full Legislature when it is convened in January 1999.

A New Mexico Reflexology Association is forming. For information call Debra Pirtle at

505-293-3338. (FAX 505-332-1525,


In Tennessee, a licensed massage therapist has asked that the Massage Board issue a ruling about whether or not reflexology should be regulated as a form of massage. The massage therapist's complaint? The cost of her massage licensing is more than it would be if reflexologists who practice without massage licensing were licensed and paid the fee.

After the testimony of reflexologists at the September 28 Board of Massage meeting, the Board decided to delay a vote on a declaratory finding until an unspecified date. Reflexologists emerged from the meeting happy with their testimony, pleased with the delay, and confident that the ultimate resolution will include them. While Tennessee state officials have voiced a decision to regulate reflexology, they have shown an acceptance of the idea that reflexology deserves separate licensing.

The situation in Tennessee is an example of what can be accomplished by reflexologists. A year ago reflexologists were facing cease and desist orders as their livelihoods were threatened by the newly formed Massage Board. Now, reflexologists have a potential for their own licensing.

In the spring, reflexologists were put out of business as state after state imposed massage licensing requirements. While the right of a Massage Board to regulate reflexology can be brought under question, several states have declared intentions to regulate the profession. Reflexologists, thus, must be prepared to defend reflexology as a separate profession and to create legislation for its licensing.

Reflexologists are confident that reflexology can be proven to be a separate profession and that appropriate legislation can be drafted. Barbara and Kevin Kunz have created a defensenecessary to support such efforts and a legislative proposal. A lengthy discussion is available on-line at as "Proposal for Regulation of Reflexology."

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