Reflexology is the application of appropriate pressure to specific points and areas on the feet, hands, or ears. These areas and reflex points correspond to different body organs and systems, and strategically applying pressure to them has a beneficial effect on the organs and person's general health. For example, a specific spot in the arch of the foot corresponds to the bladder point. When a reflexology practitioner uses thumbs or fingers to apply appropriate pressure to this area, it affects bladder functioning. Although reflexology is not used to diagnose or cure health disorders, millions of people around the world use it to complement other treatments when addressing conditions like anxiety, asthma, cancer treatment, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, headaches, kidney function, PMS, and sinusitis.
Where are the reflexology points and areas?
To represent how the body systems correspond to one another, reflexologists use reflexology "maps." The illustration to the right shows a reflexology map for the feet. Each foot represents a vertical half of the body: The left foot corresponds to the left side of the body and all organs, valves, etc. found there. The right foot corresponds to the right side of the body and all organs found there. For example, the liver is on the right side of the body, and therefore the corresponding reflex area is on the right foot.
How does reflexology relate to other therapies?
Reflexology is similar to acupuncture and acupressure in that it works with the body's vital energy through the stimulation of points on the body.
Some people confuse reflexology with massage however, massage therapists work "from the outside in," manipulating specific muscle groups or fascia to release tension. Reflexology practitioners work "from the inside out", stimulating the nervous system to release tension.
Where does reflexology come from?
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 in 2330 BC along with other medical procedures. Reflexology symbols are also thought to be recorded on the feet of statues of Buddha in India and later China. The Chinese classic, the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which was written around 1,000 BC, has a chapter on "Examining Foot Method" and is the beginning of discussions in print about the connection of life force and points and areas on the feet.
In the United States, William H. Fitzgerald, MD, who is frequently referred to as the father of reflexology, wrote in 1917 about ten vertical zones that extended the length of the body. He found that the application of pressure to a zone that corresponded to the location of an injury could serve as relief of pain during minor surgeries.