Reflexology is based on the Chinese belief that a vital energy, called chi, flows through the body along paths known as meridians. As long as this energy flows smoothly, the body is in balance. If the flow becomes blocked for whatever reason, the body is out of balance and becomes stressed. Reflexology is a tool in which certain movements are implemented to restore the energy balance.
According to reflexology, all the organs and parts of the body are mapped on the feet and hands. The left side of the body is mapped on the left hand and foot while the right side of the body is reflected on the right hand and foot. Applying pressure to the zones of the feet and hands will result in a physical change in the body.
Kevin and Barbara Kunz, international authorities in the field of reflexology, take the basic premise a little further. According to their theory, when the body is stressed, it enters a "fight or flight" state. This brings about an adrenal surge that enables the body to respond effectively to a sudden emergency.
However, the flight will be done with the feet and the hands will be used to fight. There are nerve sensors in the feet and hands, which communicate the individual’s choice to the other parts of the body. Reflexology can manipulate the various nerve endings to interrupt the stress signals and effect relaxation thereby reducing the stress.
Practitioners of reflexology first use a series of touch techniques to assess signs of stress by judging the patient’s sensitivity to the practitioner’s touch. This allows the reflexologist to determine the areas of stress and implement the techniques that will provide relief to these areas. These techniques all involve the use of the finger, thumb and hand to apply pressure to the designated areas.
Unlike other forms of massage therapy, oils and creams are not used. The patient usually sits in a chair and removes only socks and shoes. Sessions are scheduled in time increments of thirty minutes to an hour. Both feet will be treated using pressure, stretch and movements. A reflexology treatment is usually applied to the entire foot.
Reflexology differs from ordinary foot massage in that it works through the nervous system applying the techniques to the reflex points in the hands and feet.
When the session is completed, the patient should feel relaxed. How long one can remain in this state of relaxation depends on the effectiveness of the session.
One does have to be careful in the choice of a practitioner. There are many schools available, which offer short classes that do not deliver all the information a qualified practitioner should know.
There is a Reflexology Association of America, which certifies practitioners after they have passed a comprehensive exam. They maintain a list of certified practitioners which can be accessed from their website. The association is also active in research and education.
At this time there is considerable controversy as to whether reflexology is useful in treating other forms of disease. Consequently, several research studies have been and are now being conducted.
But the benefits of reflexology is easing stress have already been documented and one can safely employ it for that purpose.