When thinking about pampering one’s self, almost everyone will include massage and other spa treatments on the list. But have you heard of reflexology from your masseuse? What is this therapy that has been gaining a decent amount of followers? Here, we will give you answers to such questions. What is reflexology? How does it work? What are its benefits? Let us all find out.
What is reflexology?
Reflexology is the application of correct and suitable pressure to definitive points and areas on the feet and hands (some perform it on the ears as well). Reflexologists, those who perform this alternative medical practice, believe that these reflex points correspond to different body organs and systems and that pressing them creates genuine benefits for the person’s state of health. For some, reflexology is also called zone therapy.
How does reflexology work?
The fundamental theory that supports reflexology is that there are certain points called reflex areas on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands that are connected via energy to particular organs and body parts through ‘energy channels’ in the body.
By applying the appropriate amount of pressure to these reflex areas, a reflexologist is supposed to remove obstructions on the energy path/channels, and thus, promote health in the related body area that it is connected.
The history of reflexology
Have you noticed that the whole theory is somewhat related to what we know about acupuncture? That is quite understandable because reflexology was actually thought to be founded in China. The whole theory about the energy (chi or qi) that flows on different energy channels in the body is the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This point makes acupuncture and reflexology a bit similar, but instead of using specialized needles, the therapist’s hands are the ones used to apply pressure.
Another historical finding is that reflexology originated in Egypt. A pictograph on the Egyptian tomb of Ankhamor in 2330 BC suggested that this therapy, along with other medical procedures, were already being practised since then.
It is in the early 1900s that reflexology was introduced to us by Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, an American ENT doctor. He wrote manuscripts in 1917 about ten vertical zones that extended the length of the body. He found that the application of pressure to a zone that corresponded to the location of an injury could serve as relief of pain during minor surgeries. It was further developed by American physiotherapist Eunice Ingram in the 1930s into what is now known as modern reflexology.
Who are good candidates for reflexology therapy?
There are many medical conditions and physical discomforts that can be addressed by reflexology. Some patients would seek the help of a reflexologist to address stress and stress-related conditions, tension headaches, migraines, digestive disorders, arthritis, insomnia, hormonal imbalances, sports injuries, menstrual disorders, multiple sclerosis, and back pain. These physical issues are said to be alleviated by reflexology sessions in combination with their regular medication and treatment regimen.
How does reflexology work?
Here are some reflex areas that a reflexologist would apply pressure on to target their connection to corresponding body parts:
- 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
You can expect that the reflexology session will last for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the number of body parts that you consider are painful. Of course, before any treatment session, comprehensive consultation and interviews are performed so that the reflexologist can correctly determine the treatment plan that he can come up with to address your complaints. Depending on your answers to her questions, she customizes your therapy to suit your situation.
The whole session may be performed in a reclining chair or a massage table. Your reflexologist may use brisk movements and massage to initially warm your hands and feet. Finger or thumb pressure is then added and applied to the foot using reflexology techniques. She may use lotion or oil to make the pressure application smooth and soothing. She may also use instruments like balls, brushes, and dowels in order to effectively apply the correct amount of pressure to the area.
Are there side effects to reflexology?
We all have a different pain threshold, so the definition of getting side effects from reflexology depends on the patient. Most patients would find that reflexology is relaxing, while others would complain that they feel nauseous or sleepy the next day. What is very important when thinking about having reflexology or zone therapy is, to be honest about your complete medical history. If possible, consult your family doctor or GP first so you can get a recommendation if reflexology would really work for your condition.
Is reflexology for everyone?
As long as you are generally healthy, yes, reflexology is for you. Sometimes, therapists think that reflexology should not only be treated as a treatment regimen; reflexology should be considered wellness therapy. Those who are physically okay and are not experiencing any pain or discomfort can also avail of these therapeutic procedures just to increase their wellness quotient.
However, there are medical conditions that may hinder you from getting reflexology therapy. Reflexology may also not be appropriate for women who are pregnant or have just given birth, and for people with:
- Skin ulcers on the feet
- Osteoarthritis of the ankle or foot
- Blood circulation problems (deep vein thrombosis, aneurysm, clotting disorders)
- Active infections
- Kidney stones
- Certain types of cancer
Just like any traditional or alternative medicine options, reflexology is not considered a scientifically proven medical treatment for the disease. However, reflexology can be used as a relaxing therapy for your feet with whole-body benefits. It may not be advised to utilize this therapy as a sole treatment for any condition. Still, you can definitely feel the benefits of a soothing and refreshing session if you combine this with your treatment regimen. Just be sure to find a certified reflexologist and to check with your health care provider to see if it is suitable for your condition.