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Ground-Breaking Science of Reflexology from an M.D. 

by Linda Chollar

Dr. J. Manzanares, M.D. from Barcelona, Spain is a rare gift to the field of reflexology and medicine. He is the first researcher to scientifically validate the central nervous system structures involved in the process of foot reflexology.  As a physician/scientist, he has researched reflexology for the past 28 years with more than 70,000 clinical cases. His contribution and advancement to the science of reflexology is unprecendented.  Now his research findings and clinical techniques are being taught to health care professionals as he travels to the U.S.    

Licensed in medicine and surgery by the Autonomous University of Barcelona in 1982,  Dr. Manzanares has taught his reflexology methods to physicians in Europe. He says his first contact with reflexology occurred the year before he entered medical school in 1975. As is the case with many people who become passionate about reflexology, he had a personal experience that was the catalyst for his involvement and pursuit into reflexology research! 

His grandmother, who suffered from rheumatism, had grown worse developing a gastro-duodenal ulcer from the anti-inflammatory medications. After receiving a few sessions of reflexology, she noted a clinical improvement and dramatic decrease in the rheumatic bouts. Dr. Manzanares’ attention was aroused and he asked the reflexologist for a chart of the reflex points. He says that many of the points struck him as questionable, many undefined and seemed to contradict human anatomy. Still, he could not deny the improvement in his grandmother’s condition. 

So began his investigation into the science of reflexology. He focused his research in 3 ways: how to work reflexology from a neuro-physiolocial basis, to create a precise map of locations and to establish a protocol for each pathology.  

Dr. Manzanares defines reflexology as a reflex technique of stimulating a specific area of the foot, that produces a neuro-biochemical action which has a general or partial repercussion in the body.  He then describes the implicated anatomic structures that are involved in the reflex arch and the mechanisms that cause the beginning of the stimulus. This neuro-biochemical character of reflexology is the basis of his research and the Manzanares MethodTM of Reflexology. 


When he started this research, Dr. Manzanares studied biopsies of tissue taken from the feet of live patients. Reflexologists have long referred to sensitive areas in the feet as  ‘deposits’. The doctor says that when a reflexologist explores a foot, they can feel a swollen part that can be named, a deposit. Findings revealed these deposits were located in the hypodermis, where the subcutaneous cellular tissue is located. 

If we observe a section of the skin we can differentiate the layers being the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. This explains why the sole of the foot is so rich in reflex areas (subcutaneous tissue) compared to the other areas of the foot. This tissue layer thickness in the plantar surface is 20-30 times thicker than the subcutaneous  tissue in the dorsal area (top of the foot). 

Deposits reflect the imbalance of the organ represented in that area. He says however, this presence is not enough in itself to indicate the condition, but that it is important to find out more clinical history, physical exam and other complementary methods of exploration if needed. There are always deposits if an organ is imbalanced and the feet make no mistakes. Balance refers to an organ that does not present any anatomical or functional problems.

Organ imbalance indicated via deposits in the feet, can be found in two forms: 1. A deposit that can easily be felt in the tissue of the feet and is painful (found in subacute and chronic pathologies); 2. Deposits that are minimal, not easy to feel and not necessarily painful (found in acute pathologies). In the acute case, there has not been enough time to form a deposit that we can ‘feel’ or locate. In this case, one would reflex to find the sensitivity more than the detection of the deposit.

Another breakthough finding was what the biopsies revealed about deposit composition. Old theories in reflexology were that deposits were inorganic waste matter or calcium.  Not so, says Dr. Manzanares. Deposits are organic elements with an abundance of neuro-vascular elements. In other words, a deposit is a variation of tissues with certain percentages of nerve fibers, vascular elements and  connective tissue. There is a fundamental difference in the amount of nerve fibers found in a deposit area of tissue compared to the low % of nerve fibers found in the non-deposit biopsy. This further validates the role of the nervous system in explaining how reflexology works.

Further, the specific characteristics of the deposits are based on the corresponding organ’s imbalance and the pathology (condition or illness). He teaches the practitioner to explore the relation to imbalances based on a deposit’s size, mobility and attachment to tissue. Another first — discovery that deposits are not attached to tendons or muscles in the deeper levels. 


To validate the central nervous system’s involvement in the reflexology impulse, Dr. Manzanares conducted EEG (electroencephalogram) studies, comparing the changes in wave amplitudes with those patients receiving reflexology. In one research point, the EEG presented waves that changed from alpha to theta and delta with the application of the reflexologic techniques. This helps to explain the states of deep relaxation and well-being that people experience from reflexology treatments. 

He has established reflexology technique protocols for most conditions. Included in the protocols that he teaches is the prognosis, the reflexology techniques on corresponding reflex areas of the feet as well as the duration and frequency of application for that specific pathology.  After years of medical compilation and treatment of pathologies with relexology, Dr. Manzanares established concrete reflex point locations. He has authored numerous books, including Principles of Reflexology I and II and created the first scientific-based foot-to-body connection mapping of the feet. 


Dr. Manzanares’ reflexology course in the original Manzanares Method of Reflexology is the first-of-a-kind in science-based reflexology education taught directly by a researcher/medical doctor.  His classes are attended by reflexologists, massage therapists, bodyworkers, physical therapists, nurses and doctors. Find more at or contact his U.S. Office for Education in Los Angeles, CA at 310-318-3353.


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