All about Reflexology

egypt reflexology

Where does reflexology come from?

Because reflexology is an ancient practice, its origin and history is difficult to track. However, 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.

It is believed that Marco Polo translated a Chinese massage book into Italian in the 1300s, thus introducing reflexology and massage to Europe. In 1582, a book on an integral element of reflexology called zone therapy was first published in Europe by Dr. Adamus and Dr. A’tatis.

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.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s work was expanded by Dr. Shelby Riley, who developed a map of horizontal zones going across the body and a detailed map of reflex points on the feet and hands. He also suggested pressure points on the outer ear.

Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist who worked for Dr. Riley, is another prominent figure in the development of reflexology. In her research with zone therapy’s pressure points, she found the feet to be the most sensitive and responsive. She developed the foot maps still in use today and introduced reflexology practices to the non-medical community in the 1930s. Ms. Ingham also designed one of the most commonly used reflexology charts, which has since been refined by her nephew, Dwight Byers, at the International Reflexology Institute.

In 1957, Dr. Paul Nogier recorded a reflex map of points on the outer ear. His work has been expanded by Oleson and Flocco and is now being taught as part of an integrated approach to hand, ear and foot reflexology.

reflex history

How does it work?

The underlying theory behind reflexology is that there are “reflex” areas on the feet and hands that correspond to specific organs, glands, and other parts of the body.

For example:

  • the tips of the toes reflect the head
  • the heart and chest are around the ball of the foot
  • the liver, pancreas and kidney are in the arch of the foot
  • low back and intestines are towards the heel

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hand reflex 2

What will I feel?

Most people find reflexology for the most part to be very relaxing.

Reflexology shouldn’t be painful. If you feel discomfort, be sure to tell the reflexologist. He or she should work within your comfort zone.

Some areas may be tender or sore, and the reflexologist may spend extra time on these points. The soreness should decrease with pressure.

If you’re ticklish, not to worry. The reflexologist applies firm pressure to the feet.

Why do people get reflexology?

Reflexology is a popular alternative therapy. It promotes relaxation, improves circulation, reduces pain, soothes tired feet, and encourages overall healing.

Reflexology is also used for post-operative or palliative care. A study in the American Cancer Society journal found that one-third of cancer patients used reflexology as a complementary therapy.

Reflexology is recommended as a complementary therapy and should not replace medical treatment.

What is a typical reflexology treatment like

A typical treatment is 45 minutes to 60 minutes long and begins with a consultation about your health and lifestyle.

You are then asked to remove your shoes and socks and sit comfortably in a reclining chair or on a massage table. Otherwise you remain fully clothed.

The reflexologist will assess the feet and then stimulates various points to identify areas of tenderness or tension.

The reflexologist then uses brisk movements to warm the feet up. Then pressure is applied from the toes to the heel according to your comfort.

Lotion or oil may be used.reflex 3

How will I feel after?

Most people feel calm and relaxed after a treatment. They may even feel sleepy.

Occasionally, people feel nauseous, anxious, or tearful, but this is only temporary and is considered to be part of the healing process.

Precautions

If you’re pregnant, talk with your doctor first and let the reflexologist know.

Be sure to give the reflexologist a complete and accurate health history.

If you have foot ulcers, injury, or blood vessel disease such as blood clots, consult your doctor before having reflexology.

Disclaimer:

Reflexology treatment is not a substitute for traditional medical care by your GP, it is a complementary therapy that may be used in conjunction with conventional medicine. Should you be aware of any reason why this treatment is contraindicated for you or you have a serious health problem, please consult your GP