- Complementary Health Practices
What is reflexology?
Reflexology is a type of foot massage that is used to stimulate the natural healing powers of the body. Reflexologists believe that the feet are mirrors of the human body, and that applying pressure to certain regions on the foot releases blocked energy in the corresponding body part. This enables the energy to flow freely throughout the body, allowing it to heal itself, and ensure wellbeing.
What is the history of reflexology?
Reflexology was first recorded on ancient Egyptian tomb paintings dated over 4,000 years ago. Foot massage has also been an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years as well.
In 1915, an American doctor named William H. Fitzgerald discovered that certain parts of the body seem to correspond with other parts. He established a therapy called "zone therapy," which he used to alleviate pain and produce numbness by applying pressure to certain points on the hands, mouth, and feet.
Fitzgerald’s theory was adopted by a physiotherapist named Eunice Ingham in the 1930s. Ingham believed that all parts of the body could be stimulated through pressure points on the feet, and she introduced the Ingham Reflex Method of Compression Massage. Ingham’s students introduced her methods around the world, and today reflexology is popular in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
What are the beliefs behind reflexology?
Reflexologists believe that applying pressure to certain points on the feet breaks up energy blockages around corresponding parts of the body. Illness is viewed as an inability for energy to flow throughout the body, and reflexology is meant to loosen the blockages and allow the body's own energy to heal itself. From a physiological perspective, this is done by sending signals to certain areas of the spinal column and affecting the nervous system. This allows for deep relaxation, better circulation and increased energy.
The foot is divided into areas that correspond with different parts of the body. The foot is seen as a mirror of the body, with the tips of the toes corresponding with the brain, and the fleshy part of the heel corresponding with the pelvic area.
The reflex points on the left foot correspond to organs and systems on the left side of the body, and points on the right foot correspond to those areas on the right side of the body. For instance, there is a greater area that corresponds with the heart on the left foot than on the right because more of the heart is located on the left side of the body than on the right.
Increased sensitivity in certain areas of the foot, or skin abnormalities such as bunions, calluses or corns indicates an energy blockage in the corresponding body part.
What are the benefits of reflexology?
Reflexology can be used for stress-related disorders, high blood pressure, insomnia, asthma, pain relief and menstrual problems. It is very useful as a relaxation technique, and is a good tool for promoting general wellness and wellbeing.
What happens in a reflexology session?
The reflexologist will meet with a client to discuss how they are feeling. If a patient comes with a certain issue to be worked through, the provider will ask questions related to lifestyle and health problems before examining the feet. Next, they will ask the client to take off their shoes and socks and relax in a comfortable chair or couch while they massage the feet, looking for signs of pain or tenderness.
The treatment will last anywhere between 45 and 60 minutes. Depending on one's needs and desires, a client may see the reflexologist on a weekly basis for as long as necessary. The practitioner will also encourage one to practice on their own, and will show the client the techniques necessary to do so.
Can I do reflexology on my own?
Yes, reflexology can be done on your own. Massaging the feet is a good way to relax after a long day, and there are many books and internet sites devoted to reflexology that have illustrated foot charts to show you where the different reflex points lie.
Simple techniques to try at home:
- Massage the inside edge of the feet to relieve pressure and promote relaxation in the spine.
- Using your thumb, begin at the base of each toe and press down in an upward motion to relive sinus pressure.
- To relieve anxiety, massage the inner, soft part of foot near the arch.
Where can I find a reflexologist?
Reflexologists can be found through the Reflexology Association of America.
Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies by Anne Woodham and Dr. David Peters.
Alternative Healing: The Complete A-Z Guide to more than 150 Alternative Therapies by Mark Kastner, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., and Hugh Burroughs. Henry Holt and Company: 1996.
The Consumer's Guide to Alternative Healthcare by Craig Clayton and Virginia McCullough. Adams Publishing, MA; 1995.
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