Reflexology is the practice of stimulating points on the feet, hands, or ears (termed reflex zones ), in the hopes that it will have a beneficial effect on some other parts of the body, or will improve general health. The most common form is foot reflexology. The foot reflexologist applies pressure to points on a person’s foot. The foot is believed to be divided into a number of reflex zones corresponding to all parts of the body.
According to Bill Flocco, Director of the American Academy of Reflexology in California, “Reflexology is a powerful natural health science that studies the relationship of the reflex areas in the feet, hands and the ears to the rest of the body so that these areas can be worked on with the fingers and thumbs in a manner that will lead to improved health and the maintenance of good health.”
The term reflexology is used to mean reflection rather than reflex . The idea is that in reflexology, the reflex zones found on the soles of feet, palms of the hands and ear will act as small “mirrors”, reflecting the whole body structure. It is different from acupuncture , where tiny needles (instead of hands of the reflexologists) are used to stimulate the reflex zones over the whole body. It is a hand-on treatment intended for vitality and well-being.
A person who is qualified to practice reflexology is called a reflexologist.
In reflexology, it is believed that there is a “vital energy” that is circulating between organs of the human body, which penetrates into every living cell . Whenever this energy is blocked, the zone of blockage will be affected. The reflex zones can reflect the blockage of energy in different organs. Therefore, if someone has a problem in a particular organ, when a reflexologist presses on the corresponding reflex zone or zones, the person will experience pain .
The pain is believed to originate from the deposition of crystals in the reflex zone. With proper massaging techniques, these crystalline structures could be broken down and the pain would be gone. Simultaneously, the pressure applied to the reflex zones by the reflexologist is thought to pass through the nerves to dissipate energy blocks. It is therefore believed that reflexology can help heal organ sickness.
Reflexology is not a part of modern medical science. There are no reliable scientific studies demonstrating its effectiveness as a medical treatment. The ‘crystalline structures’ rationale has no support in physiology . This is not to say that foot massage cannot be pleasurable and helpful in relieving stress.
Many people like to go for a massage session after work in order to relax themselves. Reflexology is one of the massage techniques being used for this purpose. However, reflexology is far more complicated than a typical massage session to serve people. There are different types of charts which purport to show a relationship between the foot, or hand, or ear and the rest of the body.
The ancient Indian , Chinese , and Egyptians were the first to practice it. It is presumed that reflexology originated in ancient Egypt . The earliest evidence of reflexology study was found in a 4000 year old Egyptian tomb.
The above image was ancient people who are treating their counterparts with foot massage and hand massage. In fact, this is an image found in an Egyptian tomb dating back to 2330 B.C. The translations of the hieroglyphics in the wall painting, according to the International Institute of Reflexology , are:
” Don’t hurt me . ” the patient said.
The practitioner replied, ” I shall act so you praise me .”
Therefore this provides some evidence that by that time, the ancient Egyptians had used the principle of reflexology in order to help treat people. Having said that, some scholars believe that the picture is not showing reflexology at all but is depicting a manicure or pedicure .
In 1913 , Dr William Fitzgerald noted that specific parts of the body could have an anesthetic effect on a related area. Developing this theory, he divided the body into ten equal and vertical zones, ending in the fingers and toes. He concluded that pressure on one part of the zone could affect everything else within that zone.
In the 1930s , Eunice Ingham , a therapist, further developed and refined the zone therapy into what is now known as reflexology.
How can reflexology help?
The body has the ability to heal itself. Following illness, stress, injury or disease, it is in a state of “imbalance”, and “vital energy pathways” are believed to be blocked, preventing the body from functioning effectively. Reflexology is believed to restore and maintain the body’s natural equilibrium and encourage healing.
A reflexologist uses hands only to apply gentle pressure to the reflex zones on the feet, palm of hands or the ears. For each person the application and the effect of the therapy are unique. Reflexologist believe that sensitive and trained hands can detect tiny deposits and imbalances in the feet. And by working on these points the reflexologist can release blockages and restore the free flow of energy to the whole body. Tensions are eased, and circulation and elimination is improved. This gentle therapy is believed to encourage the body to heal itself at its own pace, often counteracting a lifetime of misuse.
How reflexology works? In psychological terms, the power of suggestion serves mainly as the primary factor, and placebo also has play a role in making reflexology works. Also, reflexology enhances function of lymphatic system and restores proper chemical balance in the body. Thus, it helps to ensure better health. Apart from this, It is believed that nerve endings are unable to transmit their impulses because of crystalline deposits that build up and block their pathway. Reflexology is believed to clear these crystalline deposits.
Dr. William Fitzgerald, who introduced the reflexology treatment to the West, found that pressure on particular parts of the body would have a special effect on a related area in 1913 . For developing his theory, he divided the body into ten equal, vertical zones. Under his conclusion, the pressure on one part of a zone would affect everything else within that zone and the reflexive areas on the feet and hands have the linkage to other organs of the body within the same zone.
Some practitioners proposed that the reflex is due to the stimuli of nerve axon , where the nerve fibres are connected to the respective zones in brain.
Reflexologists apply pressure on “reflex zones” found on the feet, hands and the ears, which are said to correspond to the different parts of the body. Application is done through thumb, finger and hand technique. Reflex areas, like hand and foot, composed of 7200 nerve endings are stimulated by pressure applied. An improved instruction to every gland, single part and organ of the body could be achieved by such a health science . The body is then believed to pursue a biologically correct, strengthened and reinforced state.
The image on the right shows the reflex zones found on the sole of the feet. Actually, one may found the reflex zones organized in a way such that it represents the whole body system.
First of all, there should be a preliminary talk with the practitioner before treatment. The reflexologist then begins to work on the client’s feet, or hands if necessary, noting problem areas. There may be discomfort in some places, but it is fleeting, and also an indication of congestion or imbalance in a corresponding part of the body. For the most of the part, the sensation is pleasant and soothing. Reflexology can help relax the client and is believed to stimulate the body’s own healing mechanisms. Usually a treatment session lasts for about one hour. For some cases, a treatment can last as long as about two hours. A course of treatment varies in length depending on the need of the client body. The reflexologist will discuss this with the patient at the first session.
Case studies, not statistical conclusions, demonstrate that people treated by experts in reflexology, report a lot of reactions, including the following:
- A sense of well-being
- A sense of relaxation
- Client may sigh, breathe deeply or yawn
- Fall asleep
- Client may feel like laughing or crying
- Experience a tingling sensation in the feet or through the body
- Pin stick type feelings in the feet over congested areas
- Temperature change either hot or cold
- A sense of unease due to emotional problems
- A sense of comfort
- A sense of lethargy, nausea or tearfulness
- Cold-like symptoms such as a running nose as catarrh and sinus congestion are cleared.
- A cough as mucus is cleared from the lungs and respiratory passages
- More frequent urination
- More frequent bowel movements
- Increased sweating
- Skin rash
- Yawning and tiredness
Alleged long-term effects
Reduced stress and induced relaxation
Many people try reflexology as their first foray into the world of massage, finding the treatment more relaxing than a general body massage. During the treatment, clients are only required to relax and expose their feet to the reflexologist. Treatment components also include soft music, essence oil and soft lighting, which combine to create a drowsy effect. Clients often fall asleep and describe the experience as the most relaxing hours of their day. After the treatment, they describe themselves as having a “refresh walk”.
Approximately 75% of all illnesses are said to be related to stress. Stress can lead to headaches , neck and shoulder stiffness, as well as contracting the common cold and the more serious influenza . “Prevention is better than the cure”, it is said, and so it is not surprising to see the growing popularity of reflexology as a means of relieving stress.
Feeling of increased energy
Reflexology opens pathways to renew ourselves and boost our energy level, immediately after treatment and for several days afterwards. It could keep us free from the feeling of lacking motivation, tiredness, and inability to concentrate.
Reflexology advocates say that reflexology not only relieves symptoms, but also acts on improvements of our body as a whole. Some conditions are very much benefited from reflexology therapy. Examples are:
- Acute and chronic conditions
- Stress related conditions
- Sleep disorders
- Sports injuries
- Preventative therapy
Reflexology is a widespread practice in Asia , where foot reflexology (also known as foot massage) is quite popular. Although many people are skeptical about the concepts underlying this practice, its use is spreading, perhaps because it is being taken simply as a relaxing massage therapy. It is not the practice that reflexologists use foot reflexology only, they prefer to use a combination of foot, hand and ear reflexology to obtain a much better result.
Reflexology used on children
Advocates claim reflexology is just as effective when used on children as any adult. Some advocates go further and claim it is more effective. Advocates have also suggested that reflexology can also help child to create an awareness of self.