Reflexology

Reflexology

Enhance overall wellness through pressure points on your feet and hands

Reflexologists near you

How can reflexology nourish you?

This modality is based on the premise that the condition of various organs and parts of the body is ‘reflected’ in corresponding areas of the feet. Reflexology treatment is the practice of applying pressure to defined zones of the feet[1] with the aim of triggering an innate healing response and improving the wellbeing of key organs and other body parts. A reflexologist may also stimulate or massage specific areas on the hands, as well as the ears, but the majority of reflexology practice focuses on the feet[2].

The oldest record showing people having their hands and feet attended to is believed to come from the ancient Egyptian tomb of Ankmahor, estimated to be more than 4,000 years old[3]. Huang Di Nei Jing (whose title can be translated The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine), the definitive text on traditional Chinese medicine, describes a connection between the feet and the flow of qi[4] (vital life energy) through the rest of the body. 

Near the end of the 19th century, Sir Henry Head, an English neurologist[5], observed a connection between sensitivity in particular areas of the skin and disorders of corresponding organs. Several years later, a surgeon in the US named William Fitzgerald identified 10 longitudinal ‘zones’ of the body[6] which could be stimulated in key locations with the aim of bringing pain relief. Dr Fitzgerald’s ‘zone theory’ was the basis of experimental work by physiotherapist Eunice Ingham, who systematically mapped the relationship between areas of the feet and disorders of the body[7]. Published in 1938, her book (titled Stories the Feet Can Tell)[8] became the basis for the Ingham School of Reflexology -- one of the most widely practised forms[9] of this modality today.

Benefits of reflexology

There are anecdotal reports of foot reflexology treatment having beneficial effects for a variety of health conditions[10]. As both a non-pharmaceutical and non-invasive modality, it has been proven to reduce dependency on opioids for pain relief[11]. Reflexology has also been compared to back massage therapy for improving sleep quality[12] in people undergoing dialysis, with results indicating reflexology may be more effective than back massage in this context.

There is evidence to suggest reflexology may be beneficial in treating the symptoms of multiple sclerosis[13], and the results of one study indicate it may help reduce both mental and physiological symptoms[14] associated with premenstrual syndrome.

Research suggests reflexology may be associated with an immediate reduction in anxiety and pain level experienced by cancer patients[15]. There is evidence to suggest that reflexology may reduce anxiety in people who have had coronary bypass[16] surgery. Studies suggest that reflexology may be associated with a shorter duration of labour[17], as well as a decrease in the intensity of labour pain[18]

Reflexology may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Anxiety
Asthma
Back pain
Cancer
Circulation and cardiovascular conditions
Colic
Constipation
Depression
Detoxing and cleansing
Energy and vitality
Foot, heel and ankle issues
Headaches and migraines
Insomnia and sleep disorders
Irritability and restlessness
Jaw, teeth and gum issues
Lymphoedema
Memory and cognitive function
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Neck pain
Nervous system and neurological conditions
Pain relief
PMT/PMS and menstrual issues
Pregnancy, birth and antenatal support
Relaxation
Sciatica
Shoulder and elbow issues
Sinusitis and sinus issues
Stress and tension
Weight control and obesity
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What to expect from a reflexology session

To begin, your reflexologist will ask you about your medical history, and any specific symptoms[19] that might be causing you concern. Reflexology is not intended to diagnose illnesses, and it is not a treatment[20] for health issues of the feet, such as ingrown toenails or corns, which should be addressed by a podiatrist.

You will need to remove your shoes and socks, and you will usually be invited to lie down on a massage table. The practitioner might help you relax by gently washing your feet[21], then begin massaging and stimulating various points on your feet with their thumbs and fingertips. Your reflexologist will work through all the key areas of your feet to promote whole-body wellness[22] and energy balance, and they may also massage reflexology points on your hands and ears.

Sometimes, stimulating a reflex point may cause you discomfort or even slight pain in your foot or in a corresponding area of your body, and some people may also feel very emotional[23] or slightly dizzy. These feelings pass quickly and are usually taken to mean the treatment is working[24] as the flow of energy in your body returns to a state of equilibrium. It is much more common to feel deeply relaxed and relieved of stress[25] after your reflexology session.

Reflexology treatment is not recommended if you have gout, any foot injuries such as fractures, or vascular problems[26] with your lower extremities. It should also be avoided if you may have a clotting issue such as thrombosis. Although reflexology is widely regarded as being safe during pregnancy, as a precaution it may be wise to avoid during the first trimester[27] due to a possible increased risk of miscarriage.

Although reflexology may be a valuable addition to treatment for various conditions, it is not intended as a substitute for conventional medicine. As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing reflexology. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, speak to your reflexologist, who will be happy to address these and explore the option of adjusting the treatment to your individual requirements. 

References

  1. About Reflexology | reflexologyaustralia.com
  2. Reflexology | Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  3. The History Of Reflexology | thrivewellnesscentre.com.au
  4. Foot Massage | E&F Natural Healthcare
  5. Reflexology and Zone Therapy | brooklynreflexology.com
  6. About Reflexology | Contemporary Reflexology College
  7. Eunice Ingham | International Institute of Reflexology
  8. Classic Book by Mother of Reflexology Eunice D. Ingham a Must-Have Resource | circlesoflight.com
  9. The Ingham Method | The Reflexology Association of Australia
  10. Revisiting reflexology: Concept, evidence, current practice, and practitioner training | ScienceDirect
  11. Effects of Foot Reflexology on Severity of Pain and Opioid Dosage | Crescent Journal of Medical and Biological Sciences
  12. The effect of foot reflexology and back massage on hemodialysis patients' fatigue and sleep quality | ScienceDirect
  13. Reflexology treatment relieves symptoms of multiple sclerosis | SAGE Journals
  14. Effect of foot reflexology on physical and psychological symptoms of premenstrual syndrome | Shahid Beshti University of Medical Sciences
  15. Partner-delivered Reflexology: Effects on Cancer Pain and Anxiety | PubMed
  16. The effects of foot reflexology massage on anxiety in patients following coronary artery bypass graft surgery | ScienceDirect
  17. The Effect of Reflexology on Pain Intensity and Duration of Labor on Primiparas | PMC
  18. Effect of foot reflexology on pain intensity and duration of labor | Journal of Semnan University of Medical Sciences
  19. Valuable Health Benefits of Reflexology | byerinmassage.com
  20. Reflexology | betterhealth.vic.gov.au
  21. What can I expect during a reflexology treatment? | thereflexologystudio.com
  22. What Can I Expect in a First Reflexology Visit? | University of Minnesota
  23. What is Reflexology? | Association of Reflexologists
  24. What to expect from reflexology | thegreenparent.co.uk
  25. What Can I Expect in a First Reflexology Visit? | University of Minnesota
  26. Are There Times When I Shouldn’t Have Reflexology? | University of Minnesota
  27. Reflexology use during Pregnancy | Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy

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