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Reflexology

Therapeutic massage that uses pressure points on the feet, hands and ears to stimulate the body’s natural healing process

 

An Introduction to Reflexology

Reflexology is a therapeutic massage that uses pressure points on the feet, hands and ears to stimulate the body’s natural healing process. Its origins can be traced all the way to ancient Egypt where archaeologists found paintings of people receiving treatments on their feet. Further discoveries in China, Japan, India and Greece suggest that Reflexology, as we know it today, evolved from these traditional therapies.

The underlying principle behind Reflexology is the idea that the feet and the hands are energetically connected to other parts of the body. Applying pressure to reflex points stimulates the body to begin the healing by improving circulation, reducing stress and boosting energy.

Practitioners use foot maps to guide their work. For example, toes and the area around them correspond to the head, brain and sinuses. The ball of the foot is connected to the heart and lung area, and the kidneys are connected to the arch of the foot.

 

How does Reflexology work?

Reflexologists combine ancient knowledge from China and India with modern neuroanatomy, and there are a few different theories that try to explain how exactly Reflexology affects the body.

The theory from Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the principle of “vital force” or qi, which flows through our bodies. Qi consists of two opposing and complementary forces called yin and yang. These are constantly flowing and changing in the body. When yin and yang are in imbalance, it can cause pain and illness.

Qi flows through the meridians or pathways in our body, which can be accessed through specific points. By applying pressure to those points on the feet, hands or ear, reflexologists aim to keep the energy flowing.

Our palms and feet are areas dense with nerve endings, with 7000 nerve endings in each foot and a total of 17000 on our palms, making them highly receptive to touch. After finding a neurological connection between skin and internal organs, British scientists introduced nerve theory, furthermore suggesting that Reflexology works through the nervous system.

Outside factors like touch stimulate the nervous system, which in turn sends the message to the body to adjust the tension levels. When relaxed, the body can move naturally toward a more optimal state.

Introduced in the early 1900s, zone theory is based on a similar principle as the Chinese meridian theory. It is the origin of modern Reflexology and was introduced by Dr William Fitzgerald, often referred to as the “father of Reflexology”.

According to zone therapy, the body is divided into 10 vertical zones that can be connected to the corresponding lines on the hands and the feet. Five lines for each finger and toe on one side affect the respective part of the body. Zone therapy was further developed by adding horizontal lines to the zones of the feet and hands, creating a map that follows the anatomy of the body.

How can you benefit from Reflexology?

How can you benefit from Reflexology?

As a holistic practice, Reflexology offers many health benefits, and it can be used as a complementary therapy to allopathic treatments.

Reflexology is known to be incredibly relaxing but people have also noted experiencing the following benefits:

  • Improved mood and mental wellbeing
  • Better ability to cope with stress
  • Feeling more balanced and harmonious
  • Increased happiness and vitality
  • Balanced hormones
  • Reduced feelings of worry
  • Feeling well-rested
  • Improved gut health

It has also been used as a way to detox the body as well as a supporting therapy during pregnancy.

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Further Reading / Reflexology studies

There are many studies into Reflexology and while more are required to validate the efficacy of Reflexology, initial findings are promising. Reflexology may be suitable for the following when used in addition to standard medical treatments.

 

Pain
Evidence has shown that incorporating Reflexology into medical treatment can relieve pain caused by fibromyalgia, symptoms of multiple sclerosis, headaches, back pain and menstruation. One study concluded that Reflexology was superior to Ibuprofen in reducing painful menstrual periods. Reflexology is also one of the most popular complementary therapies for people with cancer. It helps reduce emotional and physiological pain, while at the same time increasing general health.

 

Anxiety
In a study from 2014, researchers looked at the effects of Reflexology treatment on people undergoing heart surgery. Another study looked at hospitalized cancer patients undergoing second or third chemotherapy cycles. The results in both studies showed a significant decrease in anxiety and suggested the use of Reflexology to support anxiety relief.

 

Sleep and fatigue

A study in 2016 looked at the effects of Reflexology on the quality of sleep for elderly women undergoing abdominal surgery. It concluded that there was a significant effect of Reflexology on improving the quality of sleep in elderly women undergoing surgery, and recommended that this simple technique be used in reducing the postoperative pain and improving the quality of sleep of patients.

Another study in 2019 showed that Reflexology reduced fatigue and pain and improved the quality of sleep in lymphoma patients.

How is Reflexology different from acupressure or massage?

How is Reflexology different from acupressure or massage?

As previously mentioned, qi, or vital energy, flows through meridians in our body. Qi can be accessed through specific points along the human body, with treatments like acupressure or acupuncture.

In reflexology, these points are accessed through specific points on the body to connect with particular organs or body parts elsewhere. By applying pressure to these reflex areas, a practitioner can remove energy blockages and promote health in the related body area.

While a reflexology session might feel similar to a massage, a reflexology practitioner will work on areas to promote a healing response elsewhere. A massage therapist will work with muscles and soft tissues to improve circulation, relieve tension and promote relaxation to the area that is being massaged.

 

Types of reflexology

While reflexology is most commonly performed on the feet, there are many other areas where a practitioner can apply reflexology.

The common types of reflexology are:

  • Foot reflexology
  • Hand reflexology
  • Ear reflexology is also known as auricular therapy
  • Facial reflexology
Who is Reflexology suitable for?

Who is Reflexology suitable for?

Reflexology is a non-invasive and gentle treatment suitable for most people, with no risk or negative health effects. It is, however, not recommended for people with foot injuries and pregnant women because of reports suggesting it may stimulate contractions.

If you have blood clotting issues, Reflexology could potentially cause the clot to move towards the heart and the brain. If you have any health issues it is always advised to consult with your doctor before booking an appointment.

You should let your reflexologist know if you have diabetes, epilepsy or circulatory problems.

 

What to expect from a Reflexology session?

Before the first session, a reflexologist will ask you about your health history to check if the therapy is suitable for you and explain how Reflexology works and what to expect from the treatment. The practitioner may work on the feet, hands and ears during one session or choose to focus only on one, depending on the specific issue.

During sessions, you remain fully clothed, except for the shoes and socks. The treatment will most likely be in a comfortable sitting or lying position, although there is a type of Reflexology where you will be in a vertical position.

In vertical Reflexology, practitioners apply pressure on the weight-bearing feet or hands. The effectiveness of this method is based on the idea that feet and hands in this position are more sensitized and can send stronger impulses to the body.

The reflexologist will warm up the feet and hands and start applying pressure with their fingers using different techniques. Lotion, oil and instruments like bowls and brushes may be used.

Most people feel relaxed during and after the session. In case you feel any pain or discomfort, make sure to tell your therapist. It is possible to feel soreness, nausea, sleepiness and mood swings after a session.

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Medical concerns

Holistic disciplines can assist you in your wellbeing, though they are not a substitute for medical care. This information should be used as a guide only to help you explore which holistic disciplines may assist you. We recommend researching the discipline and speaking with a practitioner before choosing to book any service.

This information is not, nor is it intended to be used as a medical diagnosis. Any information provided must be considered as guidance only, and not a substitute for obtaining a diagnosis from a medical professional. Please see the full terms and conditions of use. Always consult your doctor for any medical concerns.

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