Reflexology is a therapy in which the clinician applies pressure to certain points on the foot and, less frequently, on the hand and ear. Formerly known as zone therapy, it is based on the belief that pressure applied to the areas of the feet bring relief and benefits to other parts of the body.
Reflexologists believe that various organs, nerves, and glands in the body are connected to "reflex areas." These reflex areas are found on the bottoms of the feet, hands, and other areas of the body. When done properly, reflexology is believed by therapists to: relieve stress and tensionstimulate deep relaxationimprove the blood supplybring balance to the entire body.
Reflexologists believe that this therapy can help many conditions, including: asthmastressdepressionhigh blood pressureneurological problems, including multiple sclerosischronic pain, such as arthritis gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndromepain caused by conditions such as cancerpain caused by treatment for other conditionsinfectious diseases, including HIVsymptoms of premenopause or postmenopauserecovery from surgery
The reflexologist believes he or she can pinpoint the area of the foot that is related to the area of the body where a person's symptoms are coming from. Reflexology maps have been developed to show how the areas of the foot are connected to other regions of the body.
The following are examples of areas of the foot that are thought to correspond to a particular area of the body: the ball of the foot is related to the chest and lungsthe arch is related to the internal organsthe toes are related to the head and neckthe bone on the inner arch of the foot is related to the spinethe heel is related to the sciatic nerve and pelvis
It is also believed the right side of the foot is related to the right side of the body and the left side of the foot to the left side of the body.
For treatment, a person sits or lies in a comfortable position. The reflexologist may look at a map of the body while the person describes his or her symptoms. The map shows what pressure points on the foot are related to the areas where the problems are occurring.
After pinpointing the proper pressure points, the reflexologist then gently massages the foot to warm it and relax it. Then the reflexologist applies pressure to the specific points on the foot. Sometimes he or she uses special tools to apply pressure. Usually one foot is treated first and then the other. Each session lasts 30 minutes to an hour. At first, the treatments may be done every week and then scheduled further apart.
The reflexologist may also teach a person how to relieve their own pressure points at home. Items such as sandals or foot supports may be added to the treatment as well. A person with a serious illness should check with his or her health care professional before having a reflexology session.
Reflexology is not a substitute for: regular medical check-upsgood exerciseproper nutrition
A reflexologist does not treat foot problems, such as calluses, ulcers, or injuries. Reflexology is a complementary therapy and a person should have any underlying medical conditions evaluated, treated, and followed up by a healthcare professional.
Persons with certain conditions should check with their healthcare professional before being treated by a reflexologist. Some of these conditions include: stasis ulcersa history of blood clots, such as deep venous thrombosisany problems with blood flow in the lower legspregnancy, because some pressure points on the foot may cause uterine contractions.
There is currently no national legislation or licensing requirements for practitioners of reflexology in the US. To find a reflexologist, persons can check with a center of alternative medicine at a large medical center or ask a massage therapist whom they know and trust. Reflexology should not be considered a "cure" for any condition. It is used to relieve or reduce symptoms, problems, and stress affecting the body.
Health professionals should be cautious about a reflexologist who claims that this is a valid way of assessing health or diagnosing and treating diseases. Controlled studies do not support the accuracy of diagnoses made using reflexology, nor that reflexology works by any mechanism beyond the placebo effect. Since reflexology treats the whole person, not the symptoms of disease, many people benefit in a general way from therapy. The therapy can relieve stress and is becoming more popular as a safe way to relax the body.
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