The art of foot reflexology massage is an ancient practice that dates back to Egypt and China over 5,000 years ago. In fact a pictograph on the Egyptian tomb of Ankhmahor is thought to be one of the first recordings of the foot reflexology points.
In 1913, William H. Fitzgerald introduced reflexology to the US and it has grown in popularity since then to become a widely used therapy. I must admit it is a personal favorite of mine, and if you have never tried it, it is worth the investment.
The focus of the treatment is based on the belief that internal organs, bones, and body systems can be positively influenced from properly applying pressure to the points on the feet, ears, or hands. For foot reflexology the therapist will apply different types of pressure to specific reflex points on the feet using hand, finger or thumb techniques.
How Does Foot Reflexology Work?
A good reflexologist will be able to explain exactly how reflexology affects your body, they believe that there are 10 zones on the body; five on the front and five on the back. Points on the bottom of the feet represent each zone and each foot represents one half of the body.
Most people who have a reflexology treatment use it for relaxation however research has shown that there are other health benefits:-
Cancer: There are a number of studies that report how reflexology can help reduce cancer treatment symptoms, including nausea, pain, constipation or diarrhea. In a study published in the journal Nursing Standard in 2000, researchers found that reflexology can benefit patients during the palliative care stage of cancer. Also, a study published in the Oncology Nursing Forum in 2000 found that reflexology could significantly reduce anxiety in breast and lung cancer patients.
Arthritis: Foot reflexology benefits have also been used for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Several studies suggest that reflexology can reduce the pain associated with arthritis. In a study published in the Journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2013, researchers from the University of Portsmouth found that reflexology may be as effective as painkillers for osteoarthritis. The patients had felt approximately 40% less pain.
Hypertension: Reflexology has been found to reduce hypertension. In a Korean study from 2004, researchers found that a foot reflexology massage could effectively reduce systolic blood pressure. For the study, 34 participants were either assigned to the reflexology group or the control group. Reflexology was performed twice weekly for a six-week period.
Type 2 Diabetes: In a recent systematic review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers concluded that self-administered foot reflexology might have a positive effect in type 2 diabetics.
Anxiety and Depression: The relaxation benefits of reflexology tend to extend beyond massages. For example, a 2002 study published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics found that a foot massage and reflexology could decrease depression and anxiety in postmenopausal women.
Your therapist should always ask about your general health before administering a reflexology treatment as people with varicose veins, ingrown toenails, extreme edema, bruises, cuts, foot fractures, athlete’s foot, and infections or sores should avoid foot reflexology.
Hodgekiss, A., “Reflexology may be as effective as painkillers for conditions such as back ache and arthritis,” DailyMail web site, April 9, 2013; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2306227/Reflexology-effective-painkillers-conditions-ache-arthritis.html.
Park, H.S., et al., “[Effects of foot reflexology on essential hypertension patients],” Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi, 2004; 34(5): 739-750.
Song, H.J., et al., “Self-administered foot reflexology for the management of chronic health conditions: a systematic review,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2015; 21(2): 69-76, doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0166.Epub, January 30, 2015.
“What Does the Research Say about Reflexology?” University of Minnesota web site; http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/reflexology/what-does-research-say-about-refloxology, last accessed December 4, 2015.