Reflexology is Not Just a Foot Massage

reflexology foot massage

What Is the Difference Between Reflexology and a Foot Massage?

When most people hear the term “reflexology,” they think of a foot massage. After all, from a distance, the two types of healing appear to be almost the same: they involve the manipulation of the foot to provide relief for a variety of pains.

See the videos demonstrating both at the end of the post.

However, unlike a foot massage, which seeks primarily to treat muscle aches and pains, reflexology is a part of the movement that seeks to tap into the body’s natural forces to provide relief for tension, circulation, and even disease prevention or cure. It can also be used for other parts of the body, including the hands and ears.

Many people have used reflexology in the past without even realizing it.  A common “old wives tale” cure for a headache is to pinch the web of skin between the forefinger and thumb. This practice, which many people rely on for relief, has its origins in reflexology.

What is Reflexology?

The underlying philosophy of reflexology is connected to many types of Asian healing methods dealing with the bodies natural energies, or Qi.

Like acupuncture and acupressure, reflexology is based on the premise that there are certain trigger points in the body that can help to stimulate organs, organ systems, and nerves. When done correctly, this should relieve stress and reduce pain in systems not directly connected to the feet or hands.

Because reflexology is so closely affiliated with acupressure, its origins go back thousands of years to ancient Chinese practices. Different types of pressure point massage can also be traced back to Japan and Egypt, though it is believed that modern reflexology is mostly Chinese in origin. It was introduced to the United States in the early twentieth century, though it hasn’t gained popularity until the last twenty years or so.

How Does Reflexology Work?

Reflexology is based on the premise that the foot contains a series of pressure points that correspond with all the major body systems, including the skin, nervous system, musculoskeletal system, circulatory system, and lymphatic system. Using specialized movements of the hands, reflexologists are able to apply pressure and flex the foot to stimulate these systems.

The foundation of reflexology is based on the belief that there are energy zones (Qi) within the body that run from the head to the tips of the fingers and toes. Because they encompass the entire length of the body, they access all the organs and organ systems.

By manipulating certain zones of the feet and hands, the reflexologist is able to access the energies of any system he or she is targeting. In order to know which zones of the feet and hands to use, reflexology relies on a “map” or “chart” that demonstrates where the access points of the hands and feet are.

Even without the roots in Chinese alternative medicine and the use of Qi, this practice makes sense; after all, there are more nerve endings in the hands and feet than in almost any other part of the body.

Reflexology and Health

Reflexology isn’t an accepted medical practice by the whole of the medical community. Though few people contest the muscular benefits of a traditional foot massage, the use of reflexology to treat diseases and non-foot-related medical conditions remains controversial.

Critics cite no nationwide accreditation program and a lack of medical evidence as reasons against reflexology – especially since it can be practiced by professionals without proper training in the field. However, these critics fail to take into account the thousands of years of use by other cultures or the mountains of anecdotal evidence that lauds reflexology as a viable form of alternative medicine.

In most cases, reflexology is used for:

  • General stress relief
  • Restoring inner balance
  • Detoxification
  • Improved circulation
  • Immunological boost
  • Pain relief
  • Easing of symptoms related to other medical conditions
  • Relief from pregnancy and female-health-related conditions

Reflexology should not be used as a way to treat major medical conditions or to the exclusion of standardized Western medical care.

 What to Expect During a Reflexology Session

A reflexology session takes place in much the same setting that a traditional massage or foot massage might. Using specialty beds and an ambient atmosphere, the reflexologist ensures that the client is as comfortable and relaxed as possible.

Depending on the client, the clothes may remain on or they may be removed and replaced with a robe and bare feet. In most cases, the session is not painful, though there may be areas in the feet that require additional work. Most professionals recommend drinking plenty of fluids following a session to aid in the detoxification process.

 Basic Foot Massage Video

Basic Foot Reflexology Video



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  1. kathy says:

    where in washington state is a school for refexology

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