what is reflexology

What Is Reflexology?

Foot reflexology is a practice of using pressure applied to specific points on the feet that correspond to certain parts of the body. By stimulating those areas; you can heal and detoxify that corresponding part of the body.

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.

History of Reflexology

Reflexology and many similar foot treatments have been used for thousands of years in places like China, Thailand, India and Egypt. It wasn’t until the early 20th century, when an American physician named William Fitzgerald suggested that the foot be “mapped” to other areas of the body to diagnose and treat medical conditions. This process was originally called zone therapy. He strategically divided the body into 10 zones, each zone representing a different organ or body system. He then proposed that constant and regular pressure on a particular area of the foot could relieve pain, tension and promote healing as “reflexed” in the targeted zone.

VIDEO: What is Foot Reflexology – Foot Massage And Benefits

In the 1930s, a nurse and physiotherapist named Eunice Ingham, further developed these maps to include specific reflex points. It was at that time that zone therapy was renamed reflexology and the name has stuck ever since. Modern reflexology charts include pictures of the feet with diagrams of corresponding internal organs or parts of the body. The right side of the body is represented in the right foot, and the left side, in the left foot. Reflexology is used by a vast array of healthcare providers today, such as massage therapists, chiropractors, podiatrists, physical therapists and even nurse practitioners.

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INFOGRAPHIC: Foot Reflexology Chart

Reflexology Benefits

Even though there hasn’t been conclusive evidence, many regular users claim numerous benefits they receive. The reflexology benefits include:

Improves Blood Circulation
Promotes Better Sleep
Helps Relax and Reduce Stress
Lessens Depression
Relieves Aches and Pains
Lowers Blood Pressure
Helps with headaches and sinuses

Reflexology Theories

There hasn’t been conclusive evidence and more studies are needed for scientists and doctors to better understand reflexology and its’ benefit on overall health.

There are have been numerous theories proposed that try to explain the benefits of reflexology. One theory states that the body contains an invisible life force(chi), or energy field, represented by meridian points in different parts of the body, that when blocked, results in sickness, pain or ill-feeling. The Chinese believe that suitable stimulation of the foot and meridian points can unblock and increase the flow of vital energy to various parts of the body, which promotes healing.

Modern doctors, who have studied the Chinese body meridian principles, put forward scientific theories that traditional treatments such as reflexology, massage, and acupuncture causes the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers produced by the body, stimulation of nerve circuits in the body, and the promotion of lymphatic flow or the dissolving of uric acid crystals leads to pain relief and curing of certain pain and illnesses. 

VIDEO: Acupressure: Acupressure for the Foot

How Reflexology Is Performed

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.

How to Find a Reflexologist

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 the American Reflexology Certification Board, which certifies practitioners after they have passed a comprehensive exam. They maintain a list of certified practitioners that can be accessed from their website. The association is also active in research and education.

How To Perform Foot Massage At Home

To begin, look at a reflexology chart and pick an area on your foot that you would like to concentrate on first. For example, if you have aches in your back, you may want to focus on applying pressure to the pads of your feet. If you are interested in general health, start from the center of each foot and work your way out. Apply a comfortable pressure to the area with either your thumb or one of your other fingers. Applying oil or lotion is not necessary. Repeat at least once a day for maximum benefits.

What are other ways to stimulate your feet?

You may not always have time or always feel like looking at a reflexology chart. If that is the case, have your partner give you a nice foot massage. If you are rushed for time, give yourself a quick foot massage without worrying about hitting pressure points. You can also take a walk barefoot in a park or on the beach. For the workplace, you can use foot massage rollers and place it under your desk. You can also schedule a foot reflexology appointment at your local spa or salon. Another option is to purchase an electric foot massager with rotating discs. 

Additonal Resources: Reflexology 101 – Healthline.com

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