Reflexology is the systematic application of pressure techniques to the feet, hands, and outer ears. Within each foot, hand, and outer ear there are zones and reflux areas that correspond to the organs and structures of the whole body. The nerve pathways in these zones and reflex areas create an electrochemical flow that communicates with the entire nervous system. Through the application of pressure using specific thumb and finger techniques, reflexology connects with the peripheral nervous system and encourages the body to relax and return to homeostasis or balance. The premise is energy flow can be restored to the pathway which is blocked, resulting in stress reduction and physiological changes in the body. Additional benefits include breaking up the lactic acid and crystal that is usually deposited in the feet and allow energy to flow efficiently, increased circulation bringing oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, and promoting normalization. When properly applied, a foot reflexology massage can leave a person feeling like they have received a whole-body massage. When comparing a foot massage to Reflexology, a foot massage is much more direct and less complex.
Derived from ancient cultures’ study of meridians, or energy channels, the practice of reflexology stimulates the complex pathways that wind throughout the body. Since many meridians connect different body systems to the feet, reflexology may be used to stimulate the digestive system, create a peaceful constitution, increase energy, promote self-healing and relieve pain.
The Reflexology Association of America defines reflexology as “an integrative health practice, that maps the reflection of the body predominately on the feet, hands and outer ears. It uses unique manual techniques to deliver pressure to neural pathways assisting the body to function optimally.”
The effectiveness of reflexology is recognized worldwide by various national health institutions, including The National Institute of Health. Risks are minimal, after a reflexology session you may experience the following: lightheadedness, tender feet, increased urination, changes in sleep quality and energy levels. There are not many contradictions with reflexology, but critical ones to be aware of are acute infection, deep vein thrombosis and open wounds.
In a Swiss study, patients who had undergone reflexology sessions showed a significant decrease in the amount of medication needed. As a complementary therapy, reflexology seems to work better with conventional treatment to treat certain diseases.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health mentions a study funded by the National Cancer Institute, women with advanced breast cancer who received reflexology treatments showed improvement in a few symptoms, such as shortness of breath, but not others, such as nausea or pain. In this study, reflexology was safe even for the most fragile patients.
There is confusion about the true origin of this powerful therapy that has helped thousands of people. The practice of Reflexology is thought to have been passed down through an oral tradition and possibly first recorded as a pictograph on the Egyptian tomb of Ankhamor 2330 BC. With the pivotal discovery of the captivating hieroglyphic mural in the pyramid located in Sakura, reflexology is considered as part of the Egyptian culture. Reflexology symbols are thought to be recorded on the feet of statues of Buddha in India and later China. Northern American tribes of Indians are known to have practiced a form of foot therapy for hundreds of years.
MORE ABOUT REFLEXOLOGY
Touch techniques unique to Reflexology
Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
Physical Therapy of the hands or feet
Auriculotherapy (via the ears)
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching
Joint manipulation of the hands and feet
Postural integration of the hands and feet
Polarity and other specific ways of touching the feet, hands, and ears
An in-depth explanation of Reflexology from the US National Library of Medicine:
There is a term in reflexology called reflex zone therapy. Reflex zone therapy is where the body is divided into ten longitudinal zones from head to toe. In reflex zone therapy, there are five zones on both sides of the body in which each zone diverges down the particular arm, and also continues straight down the body and down the particular leg to line up with a toe on the respective foot. Practitioners usually choose the suitable technique to be applied to the reflex zone therapy to gain optimized efficiency and impact. Reflexology is a complementary therapy instead of an alternative therapy to other treatments which patient already has based on reflexology maps. Complementary therapies nowadays are applied in many of palliative care or to alleviate a problem without dealing with the underlying cause in order to make patients’ emotional, physiological, and spiritual health improve and increase the value of their life. Two methods of reflexology that have been excepted internationally are Ingham method and Rwo Shur method. The first method does not use any tools in its practice and the second method utilizes the use of tools such as a wooden stick.