Foot Reflexology or practices like it, have been around as long as people have had sore feet.
What is Foot Reflexology?
Foot reflexology is an ancient treatment. It involves applying pressure to different points on the bottom of the foot.
Reflexology is a touch therapy used to relieve tension and encourage healing, based on the theory that there are reflex points on the feet, hands, and head linked to every part of the body.
How does Foot Reflexology work?
Varied pressure on the feet, hands and ears or head are stimulated to activate a response on the reflex part of the body. Pressure is mostly manual via hands, thumbs or percussive instruments may also be used depending on the therapist’s training. Lubricant is not used.
We have found that Foot Reflexology with an exfoliating Back Scrub also assists with our Lymphatic Drainage Therapy – so we have created new treatments that incorporates Foot Reflexology as an add-on!
See our other new “Add On” treatments
- Lymphatic Drainage plus Exfoliating Back Scrub & Foot Reflexology Book here
- Lymphatic Drainage plus Facial Gua Sha & Foot Reflexology Book here
- Facial Gua Sha and Foot Reflexology Book here
What is the difference between Foot Reflexology and Massage?
- While massage broadly works with the structure of a body, reflexology works via the feet primarily to improve gland, organ, and systems functions. The goal is to promote a response from the soft tissue stimulated through the nervous system and the meridians.
- The other main difference is that massage works on the mostly unclothed body to affect its various techniques whereas Foot Reflexology is practised just on the feet and possibly hands and ears.
- Therefore, persons preferring to remain clothed or have mobility issues or other discomfort issues may prefer reflexology as least disturbing to their comfort levels.
What Is the Difference between Foot Reflexology and Acupressure?
Origins and techniques are the main differences. Reflexology was introduced into the western world in the 20th century, whereas acupressure has been part of Asian traditional health for thousands of years. Reflexology was originally called Zone Theory where the body was divided into ten vertical zones and points on the feet, hands, and ears were discovered to have corresponding effects on parts of the body in that zone. Later called reflex points, hence renamed Reflexology.
Acupressure points are stimulated to activate qi (the Chinese word for activating essence of the body) according to the meridians (24 pathways that course through the body).
The technique is both specific and active in that it treats the affected part and related areas along that meridian. More of a whole-body approach in that when one system or meridian is affected, then other parts will be too. Not unlike the thinking behind Zone Theory, but older and more comprehensive in its delivery and approach and no doubt an earlier influencer of Zone Theory and Reflexology.
Qi or Chi or Ki?
There is no difference at all between the different spellings. Nor in the pronunciation. Think ‘chee’.
The variations occur in translating Chinese into English. In English, qi (also known as chi or ki), is usually translated as “vital life force,” but qi goes beyond that simple translation.
According to Classical Chinese Philosophy, qi is the force that makes up and binds together all things in the universe. It is paradoxically, both everything and nothing.
More about Acupressure
Acupressure relies on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). While practitioners in the West may offer acupressure independently as a form of therapeutic bodywork, traditionally in Asia it is offered as part of an array of options, combined with prescriptions for herbs and consultations about diet and lifestyle. Practitioners of acupressure believe that by targeting specific points on the body, they are encouraging the flow of chi, or life force; since health conditions are supposed to be caused by an imbalance of chi, acupressure is used to correct that imbalance to make the patient feel better.
Vital points on the body
There are 24 meridians plus the Conception Vessel Meridian; this runs right down the center of the body. The fountainhead of all the meridian points is CV-17, near the centre of the sternum. When giving a treatment on K1; the recipients should work CV-l7 simultaneously with finger pressure or other appropriate device.
What about Foot Reflexology and Lymphatic Drainage Massage?
There is a technique called Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD) pioneered by Sally Kay in the UK. RLD is a reflexology technique which stimulates the lymphatic reflexes on the feet which creates an effect on the lymphatic system in the body.
History about Reflexology
Reflexology is believed to date back to ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphics reveal that medical practitioners worked on hands and feet of patients as a treatment. Modern reflexology was first used by Dr. William FitzGerald, Dr. Shelby Riley, and Dr. Eunice D. Ingham in the early 1900s. Dr. William FitzGerald realized through his practice as an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist that applying pressure on specific zones and points reduced pain and helped treat underlying conditions. Dr. Shelby Riley expanded on this work and Dr. Eunice D. Ingham developed the theory that reflex points on the feet correlate to specific organs of the body. Modern practitioners of reflexology apply these findings in manipulation of the feet, and to a lesser degree, the hands and ears, to improve health.
From the point of view of the client, acupressure and reflexology may appear very similar. However, from the point of view of the practitioner, the techniques are quite different. Both are rooted in Asian tradition. However, reflexology practitioners tap into the flow of chi by manipulating the feet whereas in reflexology, pressure points are believed to improve the function of specific organs. In addition, practitioners generally work on these techniques exclusively and the pressure points in reflexology are different from those used in acupressure.
- In the 1890s, British scientists found that nerves connect the skin and internal organs. They also found that the body’s entire nervous system tends to adjust to outside factors, including touch.
- A reflexologist’s touch may help to calm the central nervous system, promoting relaxation and other benefits just like any form of massage.
- Others believe that the brain creates pain as a subjective experience. Sometimes, the brain reacts to physical pain. But in other cases, it may create pain in response to emotional or mental distress.
- Some believe that reflexology can reduce pain through calming touch, which may help to improve someone’s mood and reduce stress.
- Zone theory is another belief that some use to explain how reflexology works. This theory holds that the body contains 10 vertical zones. Each zone contains different body parts and corresponds to specific fingers and toes.
What are the potential benefits of Foot Reflexology?
Reflexology is linked to many potential benefits, but only a few of them have been evaluated in scientific studies.
So far, there’s limited evidence that reflexology may help to:
- reduce stress and anxiety
- reduce pain
- lift mood
- improve general well-being
In addition, people have reported that reflexology helped them:
- boost their immune system
- fight cancer
- get over colds and bacterial infections
- clear up sinus issues
- recover from back problems
- correct hormonal imbalances
- boost fertility
- improve digestion
- ease arthritis pain
- treat nerve problems and numbness from cancer drugs (peripheral neuropathy)
What does the research say?
There aren’t many studies about reflexology. And many experts consider those that do exist to be of low quality. In addition, a 2014 review concluded that reflexology isn’t an effective treatment for any medical condition.
But it may have some value as a complementary therapy to help reduce symptoms and improve someone’s quality of life, much like massage.
Since the massaged area is the feet, for some people that will provide even more relief of stress or discomfort.
Some studies written up here.
Here’s a look at what the research says about using reflexology to manage pain and anxiety.
How does Reflexology affect Pain?
In a 2011 study /Trusted Source funded by the National Cancer Institute, experts studied how reflexology treatments affected 240 women with advanced breast cancer
All women were undergoing medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, for their cancer.
The study found that reflexology helped to reduce some of their symptoms, including shortness of breath. The participants also reported an improved quality of life. But it didn’t have any effect on pain.
Experts have also looked at the effects of reflexology on pain in women experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
In another older studyTrusted Source, researchers looked at the effects of ear, hand, and foot reflexology on 35 women who previously reported having of PMS symptoms.
They found that those who received two months of reflexology treatment reported significantly fewer PMS symptoms than the women who did not.
(However, keep in mind that this study was very small and done decades ago)
Larger, long-term studies are needed to fully understand whether reflexology helps to reduce pain.
In one small study/Trusted Source from 2000, researchers looked at the effects of one 30-minute foot reflexology treatment on people being treated for breast or lung cancer.
Those who received a foot reflexology treatment reported lower levels of anxiety than those who received no reflexology treatment.
In a 2014 study that was slightly larger, researchers gave people undergoing heart surgery a 20-minute foot reflexology treatment once a day for four days.
They found that those who received the reflexology treatment reported significantly lower levels of anxiety than those who didn’t. Touch by another human being is a relaxing, caring, anxiety-reducing action for most people.
Is Foot Reflexology safe to try?
Generally, foot reflexology is very safe, even for people living with serious health conditions.
It’s non-invasive and comfortable to receive, so it may be worth trying if it’s something you’re interested in.
However, you should talk to your doctor first if you have any of the following health issues:
- circulatory problems in the feet
- blood clots or inflammation of your leg veins
- foot ulcers
- fungal infections, like athlete’s foot
- open wounds on your hands or feet
- thyroid problems
- a low platelet count or other blood problems, which can make you bruise and bleed more easily
You may still be able to try reflexology if you have any of these issues, but you might need to take a few precautions to avoid any adverse effects.
If you’re pregnant, make sure to tell your reflexologist before your session, as some pressure points in the hands and feet may induce contractions.
If you’re trying to use reflexology to induce labour, only do so with your doctor’s approval. There is a risk of premature delivery, and babies are healthiest if born at 40 weeks of gestation.
Some people also report having mild side effects after reflexology treatment, including:
- tender feet
- emotional sensitivity
But these are short-term side effects that tend to go away shortly after treatment.
The bottom line?
Foot Reflexology may not be a scientifically proven medical treatment for disease, but studies suggest it’s a helpful complementary treatment, especially for stress and anxiety and overall wellness.
Foot Reflexology can be practised on its own or added to other treatments.