Reflexology: More than a Foot Massage

Reflexology: More than a Foot Massage

If you have ever had your feet rubbed the right way you may have fallen into a trance-like state that relaxed your entire body and mind. This is for good reason as the feet contain many small bones, twenty-six in each, that take the brunt of your daily routine and more often than not respond to a good kneading.

A regular foot massage is enjoyable but, according to Chinese medicine, there allegedly are special points on the feet that correlate to specific parts of the body. This systemic point map,  known as a reflexology chart, shows the correlation of points to organs and other body locations.

When these points are manipulated they are believed to be able to relieve pain and other symptoms. The reflexologist simply rubs, presses and/or holds each point according to a detailed philosophy consisting of intricate reasoning that many still tout as nonsense while many others swear as a valid therapy. These points can also be found on the hands and ears but specific work on the feet is the most common. This is the practice of reflexology.

Through the Ages

Some claim reflexology has evidence of being in use for over 4,000 years while others estimate a few hundred. Its practice has been linked to common use in China, Egypt and India. When western culture got a hold of it, reflexology was changed to the term Zone Therapy which hasn’t held up.

Now, reflexology is becoming more common due to mainstream embracing complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) popularity. Something seems to be going right with this modality that is way more than a foot massage.

Locations You Can Try

It is always best to consult a trained, certified reflexologist for a professional session but you can also try some points yourself. You can work them on your own foot or try them out on a friend and you just may be surprised at the results. In fact, even most baby’s respond positively to reflexology.

This quick and dirty list of locations on the bottom of the foot and what they correlate to are a good introduction to reflexology. Aside from the toes, all locations run along four “bands” of an area.

  • Toes – Brain, mouth, teeth, ears, and sinuses
  • Ball of the Foot – Chest. Lung, breast, heart.
  • Upper mid – Upper abdominals. Stomach, gallbladder, liver, kidney.
  • Lower mid – Lower abdominals. Large intestines, small intestines, bladder.
  • Heel – Pelvic area; sciatic nerve; lower back

In Chinese medicine it is believed that you gently press, hold or rub these points if the correlating body part may be in distress. For instance, babies and the elderly can be prone to constipation. Working the upper and lower abdominals in the middle of the foot between the heel and ball just may help move or strengthen the bowels.

If there is constipation this area may feel full, maybe even slightly swollen. In this case, apply a gentle but firm counterclockwise circular motion for about a minute. After a minute hold your thumb there for a brief moment and then start again. Do this on the same point three times and then move adjacent until you cover the entire area on both feet. During this work it is best to breathe in the nose and out of the mouth.

If there is the presentation of diarrhea, then work the same area with clockwise motions instead.

The concept here is that when there is too much energy you want to release it with the counterclockwise movement and if there is not enough energy you want to fill it up with the clockwise movement.

Placebo or Hero

With most CAM remedies, the placebo effect is always possible, however now it is even a consideration in response to some conventional medicines as well. Some estimate that it can be up to thirty-percent of some patient’s healing response.

On the other hand, several studies have been published that attempt to validate the unknown mechanism of the ancient practice of reflexology beyond the placebo effect.

One study by Michigan State University claimed that reflexology helped relieve symptoms of cancer patients. Published in Oncology Nursing Forum (2012) the study involved 385 women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Three groups were formed with one receiving reflexology from a certified professional; the second received a foot massage; and the third received standard medical treatment with no foot manipulation. It turned out that the reflexology group showed significant improvement in breathing (a common challenge during breast cancer treatment) immediately after the session and five and eleven weeks after the study.

Reflexology is more than a foot massage and even though some will describe it as useless they obviously never experienced what centuries of others claim as highly useful. Try it yourself and you decide.