Reflexology, also known as zone therapy is a form of alternative medicine administered in the form of massage especially on feet and hands. It is based on an ancient healing principle that there are reflexes in these parts of the body that correspond to all the internal organs. It is believed that a great number of illnesses and health issues are stress related. Reflexology practitioners apply pressure on certain points on the feet and hands, helping the body relax, returning its natural balance and allowing it to heal itself.
Reflexology was introduced to Western medicine in 1913 when Dr William Fitzgerald, an ear, nose and throat specialist, discovered that when working with patients’ feet, it sometimes influenced the situation of other organs. Starting from this point, he drew the first reflexology map, containing ten areas of the human body corresponding to the main internal organs. Each energy zone is believed to have a direct line to one or both of our feet and hands. There are, for example, specific areas for the heart, liver, kidney, brain, sinuses and spine.
Despite all the studies, the exact mechanism is still unknown, but reflexologists believe that applying pressure and massage on the appropriate nerve sends a signal to the brain which in turn regulates the corresponding body part through the release of endorphins.
Although clinical trials had inconclusive results as to reflexology’s efficacy, this technique has gained in popularity over the last few decades, especially in countries like Denmark and Norway. Critics claim that reflexology does not have a scientific basis, that its practitioners are not well trained, arguing that the only effect it can have is a placebo one. What is important to know is that reflexology does not replace traditional treatments. It is generally used as complementary medicine to enhance results.
There are several techniques that can be applied in reflexology. They include double kneading with the thumbs, deep seeking with the thumbnails, massaging along the meridian lines, pocking, squeezing and twisting when working with feet. Generally, a foot reflexology treatments start with the left foot heel going up to the thumbs. Hand reflexology massages start by thumb walking and continue with rotating, pinpointing and finger pulling. Hand stroking is also used as a transition between techniques to connect various systems.
Whether it is your hands or your feet they work on, you may see practitioners using different kind of tools like gloves or socks that will help them spot the reflexology points easily. What distinguishes this technique from a simple massage is the principle of subtle energy flow and the lack of cosmetic products. Reflexologists do not use cream or lotion during their sessions, they just apply their techniques in order to stimulate certain reflex points.
Reflexology is not a stand alone treatment, not even if it is intended just for wellness purposes. Proper diet and exercise are equally, if not more important to optimal well being.