Reflexology is a form of bodywork that focuses primarily on the feet.

It is a healing technique based on the theory that reflex areas exist in the feet, hands, and ears that link or refer to particular organs, glands, and other parts of the body—for example, the heel corresponds to the low back and intestines, while the ball of the foot corresponds to the heart and chest.  In reflexology, the practitioner applies pressure on reflex areas using his or her hands, without using lotions, creams, or tools.

Where did it come from?

Reflexology has been around for a long time.  There is archeological evidence suggesting the use of reflexology in ancient Egypt, China, and Japan.  Reflexology had a renaissance in Asia in the 1980s, and the practice remains extremely popular there today.

Reflexology came into being in the West in the nineteenth century as European researchers delved into the nervous system and the phenomenon of the reflex.  So-called “reflex therapies” initially were developed for medical use, but soon lost favor to the use of surgery and pharmaceuticals. In the early twentieth century, Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, an ear, nose, and throat physician, brought “zone therapy,” a form of reflex therapy, to the U.S.  Physiotherapist Eunice Ingham had developed a reflex area system by 1938.

What are the benefits of reflexology?  How does it work?

Reflexology is relaxing.  It improves circulation, eases pain, and promotes healing throughout the body.

More specifically, reflexology can increase the health of the corresponding organs through the application of pressure to the reflex areas.  It has been shown to benefit individuals suffering from back pain, insomnia, arthritis, sports injuries, hormonal imbalances, menstrual problems, stress, headaches, and digestive complaints.  It has also been demonstrated to reduce aggressive behavior in children, improve blood flow, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce phantom limb pain in amputation patients, ease neuropathy, mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, reduce depression and anxiety, and assist in pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum processes.

Reflexology has been successfully used alongside medical treatment in post-operative and palliative (comfort-focused) care.

It is theorized that reflexology may work partly because it works on the nervous system to effectively interrupt stress and pain signals and restore the body to equilibrium.

What is reflexology like?

Reflexology should not hurt.  Tell your reflexologist if you are uncomfortable.  Some areas could be tender, so the reflexologist may want to spend extra time on these areas.  The tenderness should improve as he or she works.

Most reflexology treatments are between 40 and 60 minutes long.  You will start by talking about your health and habits.  Then you will remove your socks and shoes and get comfortable.  You will stay fully clothed other than your feet.  Brisk movements will be used to warm your feet up.  Afterwards, you may feel calm, even drowsy.

Foot Reflexology Chart