Foot Reflexology

thumbs on foot against white

What Is Foot Reflexology?

Reflexology is an ancient natural therapy that addresses pain and promotes healing and wellness throughout the whole body by applying pressure to related “reflex” points in the feet, hands, or ears.

How Does It Work?

Some would say that the reflex points stimulate a response in the corresponding gland, organ or body part by following specific energetic pathways. If you believe that life energy or Chi (Qi) flows through our bodies, “Reflexology balances the intensity and distribution of energy through the body’s energy pathways.” *

Clearly we are energetic beings. We know that we have chemical and electro-magnetic energy flowing through us all the time. Science shows that our cells communicate with each other and pass substances through their membranes—in the case of electrolytes, it’s because those substances have positive or negative charges. We measure food in calories, which is a measurement of energy conversion. Energy travels through our systems all the time!

But if talking about “energy” healing is too vague or sounds crazy to you, consider this: reflexology has an effect on our nervous system. When we receive a reflexology treatment, it is very, very calming. And it is when we are in this most relaxed state that our bodies are best able to repair and heal. (It is widely believed that micro-tears in muscle fibers heal while we sleep, for example.) Karen Ball, Director of the Academy of Ancient Reflexology writes in one of her manuals Reflexology: “Reflexology shifts the autonomic nervous system into the parasympathetic state. This state of deep relaxation allows the body to restore homeostasis, and from that state the body is able to correct the imbalances that are creating unwanted symptoms and conditions. Reflexology creates the internal environment of relaxation that allows for healing to occur.”

Another specific way reflexology affects the nervous system is by treating an “overgrowth” of nerve tissue in the feet (or hands). In Reflexology, Karen Ball also writes “An increase in nervous tissue develops in the foot or hand in response to, and as an indicator of, an unhealthy organ. Specific reflexology techniques ‘untangle’ the excess congestion and break the biomechanical link between the nerve fibers making it possible for the nerves to transmit impulses freely again.”

At minimum , we know for sure that reflexology:

  • is relaxing—by reducing tension it helps us overcome the ill effects of stress and can improve our feelings of wellbeing
  • increases lymph flow which is good for our immune system
  • increases blood flow which is good for healing—improved circulation of blood brings nutrients to cells and removes metabolic waste, which in turn…
  • promotes normal functioning of the body’s organs and glands
  • helps to maintain optimum health.

working on toes

Why would someone choose reflexology as a treatment?

  1. It’s calming. Foot reflexology feels really good and it helps people relax. It’s an especially good choice for someone who has difficulty winding down, someone with anxiety or insomnia, or related disorders like tension headaches or digestive disorders.
  2. It treats body systems not just specific tissues. Massage therapy endeavors to release tension in muscles and soft tissues—it works on our anatomy. Reflexology works on our physiology—our internal operating systems. Although reflexology is good for the hands and feet themselves (and lots of people choose it because they have specific pain or issues in their hands or feet like arthritis or plantar fasciosis), the end goal can include helping the whole body function better—every gland, organ and body part.
  3. It’s less invasive. This amazing therapy can treat the whole body just by touching the feet. This makes it a great choice for anyone who is uncomfortable with massage. The recipient does not have to get undressed. The recipient does not have to be able to lie on a massage table for an hour. It can be performed very gently and still be effective—so it’s a great choice for anyone who can’t tolerate a lot of pressure, including the elderly and medically fragile.

Reflexology can be combined with massage therapy in a treatment session. Some people do a half hour of foot reflexology followed by an hour massage, or an hour of reflexology followed by a half-hour or hour massage. Some people just really prefer one or the other. They are complementary types of bodywork that aim to help people release stress, relieve pain, and rejuvenate.

I encourage you to try reflexology for yourself and see what your results are! For more information, here are some helpful links:

*Quoted material in this page is from Reflexology by Karen Ball. Used with permission.