Reflexology is a form of healing that focuses on application of pressure to the feet, the hands and the ears. These parts are targeted because it is believed that these parts are linked to certain organs in the body. Reflexologists use their hands to apply the pressure and they may also use items like rubber balls, rubber hands and pieces of smoothed out wood. They are usually guided by a chart and depending on the kind of healing that is needed, they choose where to apply the pressure. It is painful and non-invasive. It is considered an alternative form of treatment and is classified together with therapies such as chiropractic and massage.
Believers in reflexology say that it can cure a wide range of conditions. They use it to treat depression, stress, headaches, digestive problems, arthritis, sports injuries, back pain, menstrual problems and even hormonal imbalances. Although major medical bodies do not support this form of healing, there are many people all around the world that believe in it. Despite the lack of support for this therapy though, many doctors prescribe it as a form of palliative care for cancer patients because they have witnessed its effects.
A treatment lasts between 45 minutes and one hour. Your reflexologist will first talk with you about your health, your lifestyle and the particular problem that you want addressed. You will be asked to remove your shoes and socks and then sit yourself comfortably in a reclining chair. Sometimes you may be asked to lie on a massage table. The refloxologist then studies your feet to find sensitive spots. They then warm up the feet by rubbing them very fast using their hands. When they are sufficiently warm, the reflexologist then uses a chart to apply pressure to different spots on the feet. They will ask you whether the pressure is comfortable during the process. In some cases, especially when skin is so dry that rubbing would cause pain, they use massage oil.
Where are the reflexology points and areas?
We already mentioned that reflexology uses feet, hands and ears to heal corresponding areas but let’s look at it in greater detail because reflexologists world over have been unable to agree on the same parts of the feet. Despite this, they have been able to agree on some general points. One is that the left foot corresponds to the entire left side of the body and all major organs on the left. They also agree that the right foot corresponds to the right side of the body and all the organs there. By applying pressure to the correct points, they are able to restore balance to certain areas and organs in the body. The tips of the toes correspond to the head, the ball of the foot corresponds to heart and the chest, the arch of the foot corresponds to the liver, the pancreas and the heel corresponds to the intestines and lower back. This means, for example, if the problem is in the left side of the stomach, the reflexologist will put pressure on left side of the heel.
How does reflexology relate to other therapies?
In comparison, reflexology works very much like both acupuncture and acupressure. All three therapies aim to restore balance in the body by stimulating various points in the body. There is one difference though; reflexology uses specific reflex points and acupressure and acupuncture do not always use these points. That said, all three therapies have great benefits on the body. One common misconception is that reflexology is like a massage. That isn’t true; the movements and pressure that are used during reflexology are very different from those used in massage. Also, compared to reflexology, massages treat fewer conditions. Another difference is that massages target muscle groups while reflexology targets the nervous system. Lastly, during a massage all clothes are taken off while only shoes and socks are taken off during reflexology sessions.
Where did reflexology come from?
Like many therapies of this kind, reflexology’s roots cannot really be traced very accurately. The longest it can be tracked back to is 2330 BC where a pictograph in the tomb of Ankhamor can be seen. It shows 2 feet with markings on specific parts. It was most likely passed down orally from generation to generation as there are really no texts that have been found dating that far back on the subject. It was later traced to India on the feet of Buddha and in China as well where we find the oldest written text on the subject in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine where it appears under the heading “Examining Foot Method”.
It arrived in Europe through Marco Polo who translated a Chinese massage book in the 12th century. Later, in 1582, two doctors Adamus and A’tatis reintroduced reflexology with an additional element called zone therapy.
The United States only got reflexology in the 20th century through Dr. William H. Fitzgerald who added 10 vertical zones. Dr. Shelby Riley added to this work by producing a very detailed map of all the zones. He is also to be credited with adding the ears to the therapy which until this time did not appear anywhere. Eunice Ingam is the one to be credited with the maps as we use them today. She is the physiotherapist who introduced the therapy to the non-medical treatments community.