What is Foot Reflexology?
We can define foot reflexology as a natural therapy complementary to traditional medicine, based on the theory that there are reflex areas in the feet that correspond to the different parts of our body. This technique starts from the idea that the feet represent a schematic image of the whole body and its organs.
Foot reflexology uses massage and pressure delicately on both feet, to stimulate the reflex points in order to calm and relieve tension in the body. The reflex points are the exact correspondence of other parts, organs and glands of the body. The manipulation of specific reflex points on the feet causes a favorable and involuntary reflex response in the related part of the body.
“The feet also reflect the state of mind, body and soul through the texture and condition of their plants”.
Foot reflexology in a safe, simple and non-invasive natural therapy. It does not understand ages; it is a therapy that can be received by anyone at any age, including newborns. Keep in mind that foot reflexology is not a therapy to diagnose a disease nor is it a medical treatment. It is a natural therapy complementary to traditional medicine that helps the body to recover its natural balance, which takes into account both the physical factors and the environment of the person that could be affecting their well-being. To better understand how this therapy works, we will see a map of foot reflexology showing the location of the reflex points of our body on the feet. A complete map has different views of the foot from different angles: the sole, the sides of the foot and from above. It is important to know that the points indicated on the left foot correspond to our left side of the body and those indicated on the right to the right half. Many organs and body parts are reflected on both feet. What is represented on the inside of the foot has to do with spinal reflexes, and what is represented on the outside with the outside of your body.
How can Foot Reflexology Help me?
There are increasing levels of stress in everyday life and it is important to be aware that this factor can take our toll on our health. Many people use reflexology as a pleasant way to relax the body and mind and counteract stress and anxiety. It is also common to use it as a way to relieve discomfort, pain and general discomfort. By general, after receiving a session, body tension is reduced and we feel more relaxed. It is common to notice that the quality of our sleep improves at night and that our mood and sense of well-being improve.
Origins of Reflexology:
Reflexology is an ancient technique. The first data found on the onset of reflexology date back to 2300 BC in Egypt, where this therapy was already practiced according to certain hieroglyphs and inscriptions found in a doctor’s grave. They reflected how they applied this technique in hands and feet. This type of massage was also practiced in other cultures such as India and China. The translation of the accompanying hieroglyphs says: “Do not make me suffer” says the patient and the therapist replies “you will appreciate what I do to you”. Modern reflexology was born in the early twentieth century when Dr. William Fitzgerald rediscovering the ancient Chinese method of “Zonal Therapy.” He discovered that applying pressure on one part of the body could create a reflex response on another part. He believed that the reflex zones on the feet and hands were linked to other areas and organs of the body within the same area. Thus, he divided the body into ten zones, stating that what happens in a sector of that zone affects the entire area. In this way you could work on internal organs, on the nervous, circulatory, endocrine system, etc … and in many cases getting more results than treating directly on the affected area, mainly when it comes to calming the pain.
In the 1930s, Eunice Ingham, a young physiotherapist, further developed the “Zonal Therapy” and laid the foundations of reflexology as we know it today. She was the one who determined that the reflexes in the feet, hands and ears gives an exact picture of the body’s organs. The reflex therapy technique can be done on the hands, ears, face … although the most popular and probably the most effective is foot massage.
What Happens During a Reflexology Treatment?
What exactly happens in our first reflexology treatment? What are we going to find? What is the session about?
- Prior to Reflexology Treatment:
It is important that, before going to the reflexologist’s office, we consult with our attending physician. He will tell us if reflexology is suitable for us or if there is any inconvenience, given that reflexology is an individualized treatment and what makes us feel good, others do not have to be beneficial. That said let’s go to the topic.
In the Reflexologist’s Office:
The first time we go to the reflexology session, the therapist will ask us a series of questions related to our state of health, medical history, etc. The objective of these questions is to assess whether we are suitable to receive a reflexology treatment or if, on the contrary, there is a question that advises against the treatment.
In addition, the reflexologist will also ask us about our lifestyle and personal customs, which will help you, form a complete picture of us. All this information is strictly confidential and will help the therapist a lot to prepare a fully personalized treatment session, so, we should not be afraid to be honest because the benefits are many. After the consultation, the reflexologist will assess the information we have given you and prepare the session based on what we have told you. Then he will tell us how the session has posed, how exactly it will take place, the time that will last, the reflex points that will affect depending on our needs, etc.
After the consultation phase, we go directly to the treatment phase. He will invite us to sit in a reclining chair from which we will receive the treatment. We just have to take off our shoes and socks. Then the reflexologist will carefully examine our feet, which will help you obtain information about us. An example … do you know that reflexologists interpret that the hardened areas that we have on our feet have been formed to protect the most sensitive reflex points? Before we start, the therapist will wash our feet. The treatment begins with a foot massage to get us to relax and prepare for reflexology. The reflexologist will use their hands to work their feet, will not use tools or any type of complement. You will also not use creams or lotions, but you may use some talcum powder to reduce friction. You will use specialized reflexology techniques to apply foot pressure in a systematic manner, ensuring that all reflexes are worked. When you are working on a reflex that is congested, we may feel some pain or discomfort, but this is usually something punctual, since, normally, we feel comfortable at all times, so comfortable that we even fall asleep. Some people have tickled feet and that worries them. If you are in that group of people and you are afraid to feel them during the treatment, do not worry, in the sessions you will not feel tickled, because the feet are treated and massaged in a specific and totally professional way in which there is no place for the dreaded tickle.
There are times when the therapist can decide to perform a reflexology session on the hands instead of the feet … Why? For example, because we have a wound or infection in one foot, or because we do not have enough time for a foot treatment or simply because we prefer to treat our hands instead of our feet for reasons of comfort or personal preference. Do not worry; the session will be equally effective for our health.
To end the treatment ends with an invigorating massage. After the treatment the reflexologist will talk to us and ask us how we felt. He will also tell us about any anomalous or relevant circumstances for our health, which he would have noticed during the session. He will also tell us the suitability or not of receiving a cycle of sessions, but that is already our free choice. Well, if in the end you decide to try this therapy, I hope that these lines have helped you to clear up any doubts. Here is a video of a reflexology session:
Reflexology as we know it today began as a theory called “zonal therapy” in the United States in the early twentieth century, thanks to Dr. William Fitzgerald and Dr. Eunice Ingham, who created an anatomical map of the body on the foot, pointing to the reflex points of the whole body. Although most ancient cultures had some form of foot therapy, many had vanished and this period of time saw foot reflexology reborn again. Given its ancient origins, reflexology has become a therapy with a wide range of styles and approaches, but all equally effective. We will talk:
Main Methods of Reflexology:
- Rwo Shur method: developed by Father Joseph Wugster.
- Ingham method: developed by physiotherapist Eunice Ingham
- Zonal Therapy Method
- The Rwo Shur Method:
Practiced in many parts of Asia, this method of reflexology combines thumb-slide and pressure techniques, the incorporation of knuckles and sometimes small wooden sticks. The pressure is firm and the therapist uses a cream to improve the movement of the hands on the feet. A session usually lasts about 30 minutes and focuses more on revitalization than relaxation. The Rwo Shur method was developed in Taiwan by Father Joseph Eugster, a Swiss missionary suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. After experiencing the benefits of reflexology itself, he saw the potential to help millions of people in need with this simple therapy and began treating and initiating others in reflexology.
The Ingham Method:
This is the most common reflexology method practiced in the world today. It was developed by Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist by profession and considered by many to be the “mother of reflexology.” This method known as the “Ingham method of understanding massage” is based on working with the thumbs and the rest of the fingers. The pressure is applied “walking with the fingers”, bending and stretching the thumb or other finger while maintaining a constant pressure in the area of the foot on which you are working. The measurement of the pressure exerted depends on the patient’s pain tolerance. The therapist does not use creams or oils, but he can use some talcum powder on his hands to reduce friction. The sessions usually last about an hour and are integral, that is, all the reflex points of the foot are worked (although in some they are affected more than in others), since the therapy focuses on the relaxation and balance of whole body. Eurice Ingham was the one who developed anatomical maps of the whole body on the feet.
Ayurvedic Reflexology, Ayurvedic Method:
Ayurvedic reflexology is best described as a successful mix of Eastern and Western philosophies and techniques. It is based on the principles of Ayurveda. It is a traditional and ancestral medical system, originating in India. Ayurvedic reflexology offers the therapist a new and exciting approach to both foot and hand. It was developed in Australia by Sharon Stathis and is now routinely used in at least fifteen countries. The objective of this approach is to help balance the body’s subtle energy systems based on the efficient flow of vital energy. The vital energy flows into the body through micro channels of energy (similar to the Chinese meridians we talked about in the previous entry). According to the teachings of Ayurveda, the body (and mind) cannot remain healthy if the flow of vital energy is slow or interrupted. Located throughout the body, micro energy channels are centers of vital energy, which help maintain the optimal flow of vital energy. There are vital energy centers located in important micro energy channels in each hand and foot. The whole body benefits from the work of these points located on hands and feet, in Ayurvedic reflexology sessions.
In recent years, new techniques and approaches have evolved rapidly, as have therapists around the world who develop and share their experiences and clinical findings. Increasingly, acupressure points concepts related to energy therapies are used within reflexology sessions. Reflexology in hands, face and ears, although they are not new techniques, is now being used more widely now, in addition to foot reflexology. Therapists can massage our feet, hands and ears in a single session, or they can select the reflex area that they deem most appropriate for the client. In the United Kingdom, reflexologists are researching and practicing a wide variety of methods and techniques. This means that the therapist can adapt the sessions to the specific needs of each client.
Differences Between Foot Massage and Foot Reflexology:
Often the question arises: What are the differences between foot massage and foot reflexology? It is a very reasonable doubt since, at first glance they can be very similar and not notice substantial differences, and so, I thought it would be interesting to write some keys that differentiate them. With this I do not try to say that one is better than another, much less!!! I think we can get many benefits either by receiving a foot massage, as in a foot reflexology session. It all depends on the needs of each one. This review is only to point out the main differences between them.
Objectives of Foot Reflexology:
The goal of foot reflexology is to balance the flow of energy throughout the body by stimulating the reflex points on the feet (or hands). Reflexology is based on the theory that energy flows throughout the body and that, while this energy can flow freely, our body, mind and spirit will be balanced and in harmony. However, if an energy block is perceived, the reflexologist sees this as an energy imbalance that can be detrimental to health if left untreated.
Objectives of Foot Massage:
Foot massages aim to relax the client and relieve pressure from rubbing muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin and joints of the feet.
Foot Reflexology Techniques:
Therapists use varied reflexology methods and techniques during treatments, for example:
- Pressing on the feet with the thumb in short movements over a specific area
- Pressing deeply on a specific reflex of the foot
- Press deeply, moving your thumb up
- Hold two separate reflex points slightly in order to balance the energy between them
Foot Massage Techniques:
The effleurage is a massage technique that consists of slightly passing the entire hand, the tip of the fingers or the dorsal face of the phalanges, with a clenched fist, over the region to be treated.
Media used in Reflexology
Reflexologists do not normally use any type of accessory support in their treatments. Some use a small amount of oil, cream or talcum powder, but only enough to reduce friction between hands and feet and to easily work on the skin. The reflexologist does not want the foot to become too slippery, since they need to work the reflex points, and this would make their work very difficult.
Means used in Massages:
In general, a good amount of oils or creams are used in a foot massage session, which help to achieve client relaxation.
Routine of a Reflexologist:
A reflexologist follows specific steps in his treatment sessions in order to ensure that all foot reflexes are stimulated, and thus be sure that they identify any imbalances that may exist. The therapist will have a longer impact on the areas they deem appropriate in order to restore the balance of our body.
Routine of a Masseuse
A foot massage may also have an established routine, but it is not performed in order to restore the flow of energy. It is normal for the masseuse to spend more time in the most stressed areas, in order to relax them.
What is Vertical Reflexology?
Vertical reflexology is a method of applying therapy while standing, supporting our own weight. What does this mean? Let’s put two examples:
We remain standing to receive a vertical reflexology treatment on the feet. We press the hands against a hard surface for a vertical reflexology treatment on the hands. It must be said that this method is not as relaxing as conventional reflexology since; you have to be upright to receive it. However, this method is widely used in situations such as:
The treatment is received outside of a consultation and there is no reclining chair that can be used. Because there is some reason why you find it uncomfortable to recline or sit in a reclining chair. For example, a pregnant woman who finds it uncomfortable to lie down because of feeling dizzy, or perhaps a person who suffers from sciatica and finds it more comfortable to stand. We have little time. A complete vertical reflexology treatment can last around 20 minutes, because the reflexologist only works the upper part and the sides of the feet. The person suffers from a chronic ailment and wants to incorporate vertical reflexology into their conventional reflexology treatment to get an additional boost. There are many doubts about vertical reflexology and if it is as effective as conventional reflexology, since the sessions are shorter and the soles of the feet are not worked. It is understandable that one may come to think that this treatment is not so good. It is true that the reflexologist does not work the sole of the feet directly, however, the therapist uses the weight of the body to help work the reflex points located on the soles of the feet, also accessing from the top (instep) and from the sides of the feet.
Is Vertical Reflexology as Effective as Conventional Reflexology?
Many therapists believe that vertical reflexology can be more effective than conventional reflexology. This idea is based on the fact that when we carry weight on the feet (or on the hands), the nerves in these areas become more sensitive than they would be if the feet or hands were in a relaxed position (that is, without weight) . Therefore, reflex stimulation is carried out much faster through a more sensitized nervous system.
Is Vertical Reflexology Compatible with Conventional Reflexology?
Of course. You could combine both techniques. We could program about 5 minutes of vertical reflexology before or after a conventional reflexology treatment. What is more convenient before or after? This depends on our personal preferences and speaking with our reflexologist and seeing which the best option is. We may prefer vertical reflexology at the beginning of the session and thus rest and enjoy the rest of the treatment or we may prefer to put it at the end of the session in order to choose to place more emphasis on the unbalanced reflexes that the reflexologist might encounter during conventional treatment. Here you have the keys to vertical reflexology that, both individually and in combination with conventional reflexology, is an effective form of treatment, which I encourage you to try.