Reflexology

Helen Buckley, L.B.S.W

Reflexology is an integrative approach to health applying thumb and finger pressure to specific areas on the foot, hand or ear, stimulating the body to create homeostatic balance.  There are nerve endings in our hands, feet and ears that correspond to organs and other parts of the body.  When work is done on those reflex areas the body responds.   

For example:

  • the tips of the toes reflect the head
  • the heart and chest are around the ball of the foot
  • the liver, pancreas and kidney are in the arch of the foot
  • low back and intestines are towards the heel

What Are The Benefits?

  • Relieve stress and stress-related conditions
  • Soothe tension headaches
  • Calm digestive disorders
  • Ease arthritis
  • Improve sleep
  • Regulate Hormonal imbalances
  • Expedite healing of sports injuries
  • Quiet menstrual disorders, such as premenstrual syndrome
  • Liberate digestive problems, such as constipation
  • Subdue back pain

In addition, our reflexologist is also trained in the unique uses of essential oils. She incorporates Young Living Essential Oils into her practice to amplify the benefits of the reflexology session.

What Does The Science Say?

Several studies funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health indicate that reflexology may reduce pain and psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, and enhance relaxation and sleep. Studies also show that reflexology may have benefits in palliative care of people with cancer.

A review of 168 studies on reflexology demonstrates that reflexology helps individuals of all ages with some 78 health concerns ranging from aggressive behavior in children to urinary concerns of the elderly.

A Colorful History

Because reflexology is an ancient practice, its origin and history is difficult to track. However, reflexology is thought to have been passed down through an oral tradition, and possibly first recorded as a pictograph on the Egyptian tomb of Ankhamor in 2330 BC along with other medical procedures .

Reflexology symbols are also thought to be recorded on the feet of statues of Buddha in India and later China. The Chinese classic, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which was written around 1,000 BC, has a chapter on “Examining Foot Method” and is the beginning of discussions in print about the connection of life force and points and areas on the feet.

Ancient drawings of the feet of the Hindu God, Vishnu reflect images that show the influence of reflex stimulus covering every phase of life in the Hindu tradition: political, religious, familial, social and personal.

It is believed that Marco Polo translated a Chinese massage book into Italian in the 1300s, thus introducing reflexology and massage to Europe. In 1582, a book on an integral element of reflexology called zone therapy was first published in Europe by Dr. Adamus and Dr. A’tatis.

In the United States, William H. Fitzgerald, MD, who is frequently referred to as the father of reflexology, wrote in 1917 about ten vertical zones that extended the length of the body. He found that the application of pressure to a zone that corresponded to the location of an injury could serve as relief of pain during minor surgeries.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s work was expanded by Dr. Shelby Riley, who developed a map of horizontal zones going across the body and a detailed map of reflex points on the feet and hands. He also suggested pressure points on the outer ear.

Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist who worked for Dr. Riley, is another prominent figure in the development of reflexology. In her research with zone therapy’s pressure points, she found the feet to be the most sensitive and responsive. She developed the foot maps still in use today and introduced reflexology practices to the non-medical community in the 1930s. Ms. Ingham also designed one of the most commonly used reflexology charts, which has since been refined by her nephew, Dwight Byers, at the International Reflexology Institute.

In 1957, Dr. Paul Nogier recorded a reflex map of points on the outer ear. His work has been expanded by Oleson and Flocco and is now being taught as part of an integrated approach to hand, ear and foot reflexology.

In Great Britain, Reflexology is provided in the National Health Service.  Denmark and Japan both incorporate Reflexology in their employee health programs.

References:

http://altmedicine.about.com/od/therapiesfromrtoz/a/Reflexology.htm

History of Reflexology. (2007). American Academy of Reflexology Retrieved March 4, 2007 http://www.americanacademyofreflexology.com/HistoryOf.shtml