What is Reflexology?

By Christina Morris, L.Ac., Certified Reflexologist

Reflexology is the application of specific pressure by the use of the practitioner’s hands, thumb or fingers, to reflex points precisely located on the feet and hands as well as on the ears. These reflex points are specific points which correspond to various organs, glands and structures of the body. Evidence indicates that reflexology was used thousands of years ago in China, Egypt and India in the treatment of various ailments.

Reflexology has evolved through the years. In 1913, an American surgeon, Dr. William Fitzgerald developed the zone theory which divided the body into ten zones. Five of the body zones are represented on one foot and the other five zones on the other foot. The left foot represents the left side of the body and the right foot represents the right side of the body. In 1930 Eunice Ingham, a nurse and physiotherapist, used this theory to map out the reflex points on the feet. Each zone on the foot mirrors the corresponding zone on the body giving location to the reflex points on the foot. These reflex points correspond to the human anatomical locations of various organs, glands and body structures.

Reflexology is becoming a more common form of therapy in the United States. Many hospitals now offer complimentary therapies including reflexology to their patients. The American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB) states that a primary benefit of reflexology is relaxation. The ARCB states that as well as bringing about relaxation, reflexology also promotes balance, reduces stress, and improves circulation. Research studies are currently being conducted around the world on reflexology and its effect on numerous health conditions. Examples of research studies include reflexology and its effect on gynecological and urogenital disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disorders, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, neurological, emotional and psychological disorders. To access research studies on reflexology you can go to www. reflexology-research.com.

A reflexology session generally lasts 30 minutes to 1 hour. During the first treatment the reflexologist will ask questions regarding the client’s medical history, current health and lifestyle. Most reflexologists focus on the feet but may also do additional work on the hands and ears. The client should remove their shoes and socks. Some therapists treat the client while sitting in a chair and others have the client lay on their back typically on a massage table. The reflexologist will first observe the feet, noting any blisters, calluses, dryness, etc. Next, a series of relaxation techniques will be performed on the feet which may include some stretching and rocking. Many practitioners then do warm up techniques using lotion before they begin the reflexology. After the warm up techniques, the practitioner will then work the foot point by point with their thumb and sometimes fingers or other hand techniques. Sessions should be flowing and very relaxing. The reflexologist should smoothly move up and down the zones as well as move across the foot and on the toes. The practitioner may focus on reflex points of importance to the individual and their overall health and well being. The reflexologist may come across some tender points but should work in the comfort zone of the client. It is important to communicate with the practitioner if there is any discomfort. When one foot is complete the reflexologist will move to the next foot.

Reflexology does not diagnose diseases. Some conditions require a series of sessions. For some health conditions it is best to consult your health care provider before receiving reflexology. Reflexology is generally safe for most everyone including the elderly and children. Currently there is no licensing available for reflexologists in New York, although there are many certification programs available. Reflexology is a great adjunct to many other therapies and is commonly used for relaxation, stress reduction, and general wellness. Isn’t it time to relax your feet and your mind?