Reflexology is a popular alternative therapy. It promotes relaxation, improves circulation, reduces pain, soothes tired feet, and encourages overall healing. The therapist works primarily on your feet. The theory behind reflexology is that there are “reflex points” in the feet, hands and ears that relate to specific organs and glands in the body. Practitioners believe that stimulating those reflex points promotes health in that organ via the body’s energetic pathways.
When done by a skilled practitioner, reflexology is a deeply relaxing treatment with benefits that can be felt throughout the body. Reflexology can be a good treatment choice for people who want to keep their clothes on during a massage. It is also a good choice if you are pressed for time and don’t want to get oil on your body or in your hair.
Reflexology was first developed in the United States in the early 20th century, and was called “zonal therapy”in its earliest incarnations. It is based on the theory that the body is divided into ten zones running longitudinally from head to toe — five on each side of the body. Practitioners believe that pressure on reflex points on the foot or hand will affect body organs in the same zone.
In recent years, reflexologists have begun to incorporate the acupressure techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine (T.C.M.) into their work. Although reflexology is based on the theory of “zones” instead of T.C.M.’s theory of “meridians” or energy pathways, both treatments are based on the principle that working on specific points can bring about a therapeutic effect in other parts of the body.
How Does Reflexology Work?
The underlying theory behind reflexology is that there are “reflex” areas on the feet and hands that correspond to specific organs, glands, and other parts of the body. For example:
- the tips of the toes reflect the head
- the heart and chest are around the ball of the foot
- the liver, pancreas and kidney are in the arch of the foot
- low back and intestines are towards the heel
It is believed that certain areas on the feet and hands are linked to other areas and organs of the body. This concept was furthered by physiotherapist Eunice Ingham into the modern practice of reflexology. Practitioners believe that applying pressure to these reflex areas can promote health in the corresponding organs through energetic pathways. Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, an ear, nose, and throat doctor, introduced this concept of “zone therapy” in 1915. American physiotherapist Eunice Ingram further developed this zone theory in the 1930’s into what is now knows as reflexology. A scientific explanation is that the pressure may send signals that balance the nervous system or release chemicals such as endorphins that reduce pain and stress.
What will I feel?
- Most people find reflexology for the most part to be very relaxing.
- Reflexology shouldn’t be painful. If you feel discomfort, be sure to tell the reflexologist. He or she should work within your comfort zone.
- Some areas may be tender or sore, and the reflexologist may spend extra time on these points. The soreness should decrease with pressure.
Why do you need reflexology?
- Stress and stress-related conditions
- Tension headaches
- Digestive disorders
- Hormonal imbalances
- Sports injuries
- Menstrual disorders, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Digestive problems, such as constipation
- Back pain
- Pain reduction
- Amelioration of symptoms for health concerns
- Rejuvenation of tired feet
- Improvement in blood flow
- Impact on physiological measures (e. g. blood pressure and cholesterol; measurements by ECG, EEG, and fMRI)
- Beneficial for post-operative recovery and pain reduction
- Enhancement of medical care (e. g. cancer, phantom limb pain, and hemodialysis patients)
- Adjunct to mental health care (e. g. depression, anxiety, Post traumatic stress disorder)
- Complement to cancer care (pain, nausea, vomiting, anxiety)
- Easier birthing / delivery / post-partum recovery