The key difference is that foot reflexology is an acupressure treatment that stimulates specific reflex points based on a ‘mapping’ of points on the feet that relate to every organ, gland, and tissue in the body. By stimulating these points, the body can be brought back into balance, helping it to heal itself. Foot massage is a relaxing massage that does not go beyond the feel-good after effects.
In Washington and other states, a Reflexologist must be State certified with a certain number of classroom and clinical hours and pass a written exam to practice. To be a foot masseuse, there are no requirements. Foot massages are great for relieving muscle soreness in your legs and feet, but the effects are short term and usually do not address long term chronic issues.
Certified reflexologists use specific techniques of applying alternating pressure with the thumb, fingers (called thumb walking and finger walking), or the use of a reflexology stick to stimulate points. This focused pulsing pressure technique is said to soothe the nervous system, increase circulation of blood, nerve impulses, and lymph fluid, as well as ease pain. It is physically and mentally calming and can help the body be restored to homeostasis.
I also incorporate techniques from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) meridian theory which is the concept of “qi”, a life force energy that runs through our body via meridian channels relating to each organ. If tenderness or soreness appears when certain parts of your feet are being massaged, that indicates imbalances and blocked “qi” energies within the corresponding body part or organ. I may spend more time working on that particular area to unblock the meridian energy channels. You should feel the soreness fading with pressure.