Reflexology 101

The body has an innate ability to heal itself. In a world that's always in a rush and looking for quick fixes, we hinder the amazing healing ability of our own body. Suppressing symptoms with pharmaceuticals, we ignore causes foregoing our body's own ability to heal itself.

Stress, poor diets, and compromised digestive processes all disrupt our body's natural rhythms and energies; eventually our health suffers. Reflexology is an all natural, drug free approach to reviving the body's own healing abilities and resetting homeostasis (the body's equilibrium).

Reflexology, originally called zone therapy, is an ancient healing practice that restores the body's equilibrium by stimulating reflex points on the feet, hands, and even the ears. Based on the theory that the body contains an energy field, or Qi, and the blockage of this force compromises health and prevents healing, reflexology restores natural energy flow by stimulating the nerves.

Pressure on certain points sends signals that balance the nervous system, induce circulation, and release chemicals, like endorphins, opening up energy flow or Qi.

Reflexology is a complementary therapy often used in conjunction with other treatments and is not to be a replacement for consulting a qualified medical practitioner regarding serious illness.

This "pressure therapy" is performed by massaging, squeezing, or pushing parts of the foot, hand, or ear. Specific techniques using the thumb, fingers, and hands are utilized.

An Ancient Form of Healing

Reflexology dates back to ancient India, Egypt, and China. Archeological evidence found at the tomb of Ankhmahor (The Physician's Tomb), an ancient Egyptian physician, reveals inscriptions and drawings showing men engaged in foot and hand manipulations.

Reflexology, or as it was called, Zone Therapy, was first introduced to the United States in 1913 by William H. Fitzgerald, M.D., an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist who worked at the Boston City Hospital. Fitzgerald claimed that applying pressure to the feet, hands, and ears had an anesthetic effect on other areas of the body.

Dr. Fitzgerald discovered that placing pressure on zones not only relieved pain, but in the majority of cases also relieved the underlying causes.

Zone Therapy Evolves Into Reflexology

Zone Therapy was further developed in the 1930's when Eunice D. Ingham, a nurse and physiotherapist, explored the field. After extensive research and hundreds of case studies she claimed that hands and feet were especially sensitive to this pressure. It was at this time that Zone Therapy became known as reflexology.

Foot Reflexology

Ingham went on to map the entire body into "reflexes" on the feet. This graphical foot mapping is known as a foot reflexology chart. The reflexes mapped on the feet correspond to specific organs, glands, and other parts of the body. Reflexes on the feet are an exact mirror image of organs of the body.

For example: Tips of the toes = head; ball of foot = heart and chest; arch of the foot = liver, pancreas, and kidney; heel = lower back and intestines. Extensive charts show details of exactly which spots relate to each specific body part.

Lungs, adrenal glands, colon, fallopian tubes, lymph glands, sciatic nerve, and more body parts have specific points on the foot. Pressure and reflexology foot massage on targeted areas stimulates the movement of Qi, circulation, and nerve activation to equivalent body zones and relieves problems in those locations.

Eunice Ingram's methods are known as the Ingham Method of Reflexology and are primarily used for relieving stress and tension in the body. Doctors worldwide agree that stress is responsible for the majority of all health problems, so reflexology can be a very useful therapy.

Ingham and her nephew, Dwight C. Byers, the world's leading authority on reflexology, developed the Ingham Method. Byers is the director of the International Institute of Reflexology in Florida.

In foot reflexology, the practitioner can diagnose abnormalities and disease by feeling the feet. Prolonged stress can be seen on the feet visually in calluses, knobby toes, bunions, and more. With a foot exam the practitioner sees indicators of stress from the patient's sensitivity to pressure and other touch signs as the techniques are applied.

This assessment of stress cues allows reflexologists to create specialized sessions that target an individual's specific needs.

Benefits of Foot Reflexology

There are countless advantages of foot reflexology. Many claim relief from serious diseases, while others report no changes in conditions. After a session of reflexology, sore, tired, and aching feet are relaxed and revived. The benefits only begin there. Other results from foot reflexology are: s

  • Stress reduction
  • Relaxation
  • Improved circulation
  • Reduction in pain
  • Toxin cleansing
  • Assistance in weight loss
  • Improved health of all organs
  • Overall improved well being
  • Enhanced sleep patterns

Benefits of foot reflexology are vast and vary greatly between patients. Using a qualified practitioner and consistent treatments are vital to optimize the restorative benefits of foot reflexology.

Check Out a Foot Reflexology Session

In general, a foot reflexology sitting lasts between 45 and 60 minutes. It often begins with a lifestyle and health consultation. You only need to remove socks and shoes and sit in a chair or sometimes lay on a table. Pressure is applied "dry," without the use of oils, creams, or lotions. Although some reflexologists do use lubricants, this is a debated topic and most stick to the "dry" technique. In one session all parts of both feet are usually worked.

At the end of a session, most patients feel relaxed and stress free.

Anyone can benefit from foot reflexology; however, some people are great candidates for the benefits offered. Those people who may particularly gain results from reflexology often have:

  • High stress levels or stress related conditions
  • Tension headaches
  • Digestive disorders
  • Arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Sports injuries
  • PMS
  • Back pain

Reflexology is an alternative to be considered for treating common health disorders or to accompany other treatments. Energy, vitality, and increased good health are important benefits from this rejuvenating, balance, and restorative therapy.

In the search for cures and long-term fixes, stimulating our bodies' own healing energy is important. Not only will we feel better, restoring our body to balance and strengthening our own healing powers can prevent other ailments from ever occurring.

Author's Bio: 

By Barbara Cronin, writer for, the holistic health web site and blog.