Updated: Sep 17
Reflexology is one of the alternative therapies that has been used for a very long time, and medical researchers are using it continuously to develop and explore more ways to treat patients today.
Reflexology, sometimes also referred to as zone therapy, is placing light pressure on specific points of the hands, feet, or ears as certain areas correspond to varying body parts and organs.
It is difficult to trace its roots, although people in Egypt, India, Native America, and China first used it. According to the International Institute of Reflexology, ancient reflexology was used in China in 2330 B.C. and at the same time in Egypt, as depicted in the tomb of Ankmahor.
The tomb of Ankmahor, commonly known as the physician's tomb, belonged to the officials of the king's Dynasty VI reign, where medical practices and treatments were performed.
Dr. William Fitzgerald and Eunice Ingham, who is regarded as the father and mother of modern reflexology, are two specific individuals who played vital roles in the evolution of contemporary reflexology from the ancient form.
According to the Ontario College of Reflexology, zone therapy, a traditional method of healing that involves pressing or massaging the foot, was discovered by Dr. Fitzgerald and was used by several North American Indian tribes.
“If you're feeling out of kilter, don't know why or what about, let your feet reveal the answer, find the sore spot, work it out.” — Eunice Ingham
His research and ideas about zonal therapy were later used by both America and Europe and were highly beneficial in the further development of reflexology.
Physiotherapist Eunice Ingham, commonly known as the Mother and the Pioneer of Reflexology, had a massive impact on modern reflexology and its practices through her dedicated research and studies.
For example, she discovered that the body's reflexes are more responsive to stimulation in the feet. She also created charts illustrating the body's responses on the feet, which are now used in modern reflexology research and development.
Reflexologists are more popular now than in previous centuries because of the high demand for the service and the fact that many people consider reflexology a safe, efficient treatment.
How it Works
The reflexology chart shows that the organs of the whole body correspond to certain areas of the feet, hands, or ears. The feet have interconnected impulses that can link up the entire body and its organs, and pressing them triggers the body to adjust the tension levels.
The procedure relaxes the body and improves blood supply and flow, which boosts the body's circulatory, respiratory, and neuropeptide systems. Neuropeptides are a diverse class of neuronal signaling molecules that regulate animal physiological processes and behavior.
Reflexology vs. Massage
Although the two therapies differ, most people mistakenly believe reflexology and massage are the same.
The purpose of massage is typically to reduce pain or stress by manipulating the body's soft tissues, which include the muscles, fat, tendons, and ligaments.
The critical difference between massage and reflexology is that reflexology targets certain points on the hands, feet, or ears, whereas a massage applies pressure by rubbing and kneading the muscles and joints to reduce tension and enhance circulation.
Additionally, reflexology uses the fingers only for smaller precise movements, whereas massage applies the hands, arms, and elbows for larger and wider movements.
Benefits of Reflexology
Although not much research has proven its benefits, Reflexology has been shown in some studies to have some physical benefits to the human body. Reflexology is known to keep the body free of tension and anxiety.
The benefits of incorporating reflexology on the body as a form of therapy may include the following:
1. Alleviates aches and pains.
Recurrent pain brought on by stress and anxiety might be relieved by using reflexology, including:
Neck and shoulder pain
Migraines & Headaches
Upper & Lower Backaches
2. Improves digestive ailments.
Digestive issues such as constipation can be relieved with reflexology. Individuals with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are also said to benefit from reflexology.
3. Enhances blood circulation and metabolism.
Blood circulation is the most efficient delivery system of nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. Reflexology can result in a rise in metabolism, which will cause various body organs to work correctly.
4. Increases neural pathways and energy.
As we age, our nerve endings decrease in function and sensitivity. Reflexology expands, cleanses, and stimulates neural pathways, thereby improving the way the brain and other parts of the body work. As pressure is applied to these spots (foot and hand), the energy flow through the nerve pathways is improved, restoring balance throughout the entire body. When opening the neural pathways, responsiveness, functionality, and flexibility of many body parts improve.
5. May help reduce pain during labor.
Reflexology is helpful to pregnant mothers by reducing labor length, aiding in post-partum hormone balance, minimizing post-partum depression, and aiding in post-partum healing and pain relief.
6. Rids the body of toxins.
Environmental toxins can accumulate in our bodies and result in energy blockages, which can surface as pain. These poisons include pollution, radiation, chemicals, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals.
Reflexology stimulates certain reflex zones on the foot that correlate to various organs and energy pathways. This helps the body to unclog energy routes that have become blocked up with toxins.
7. Helps to manage chronic diseases.
Recent research developments show that reflexology does not only relieve stress and anxiety but is capable of managing different chronic ailments. A study revealed foot reflexology aids in managing conditions including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, migraines, arthritis, and cancer.
Additionally, this therapy can assist in managing their blood sugar, insulin, and energy levels by boosting bio-electrical charges that travel from the nervous system to critical organs that are involved in these processes.
Although reflexology has many benefits for speeding the healing process, you should know its contraindications. In other words, using it could actually be harmful. Here are some of the contraindications below:
1. Pregnant women not in labor
It's crucial to use caution and avoid reflexology when pregnant. It is typically advised to restrain, particularly during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or even longer if the pregnancy is unstable, in an effort to avoid its adverse effects like contractions.
2. Foot injuries
Reflexology is most frequently used on the feet, which is, without a doubt, a crucial area. To avoid excruciating discomfort from pressing on their damaged feet, those with foot issues, including wounds, arthritis, and many others, are cautiously excluded from reflexology sessions.
3. Blood clotting issues
Getting a reflexology session can be difficult if you have a problem with blood clotting issue. Furthermore, reflexology is not recommended for people with "thrombosis," a condition in which a blood clot forms in an artery or vein, since it increases the risk of the clot migrating to the heart or brain.
It is advised to avoid getting a reflexology session or massage if you have a fever, cough, flu, or any other infection. Blood circulation improvement is one of the benefits of massage; in this case, it may make the infection worse.
Caution: Before engaging in a reflexology session, it is generally advisable to consult your primary care provider, especially if you have a chronic illness or a blood flow issue.
A 30- to 60-minute reflexology foot therapy session can help you reduce anxiety and tension, enhance your mental health, strengthen your immune system, lessen stress, and help you live a healthier life.
To kick-start your reflexology adventure, find a specialized reflexology clinic or spa, make an appointment, and enjoy its myriad benefits. Be sure your reflexologist is trained and certified.
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