What is reflexology?

Reflexology is an ancient natural therapy that uses subtle energies of the feet to create balance and harmony in the body by reducing tension.

The holistic approach of reflexology

Reflexology is a natural, non-invasive holistic complementary therapy.  It works to treat the whole person – body, mind, emotion and spirit – and not just the prevailing symptom.  Simply put holistic means whole, that is mind, body and spirit together. Reflexology is a complementary therapy which looks at the whole person, their lifestyle, their work and home life, medical background etc. and approaches treatment holistically.

It is a ‘holistic’ approach to achieving good physical and emotional health – these two aspects of health are interdependent and affect each other greatly. It is important to appreciate that often holistic treatments are spread over a period of time, rather than a ‘quick fix’.  Although, treating yourself to one reflexology treatment can also be deeply relaxing and rewarding for your health.

Being a complementary therapy it works alongside and complements conventional medicine rather than aiming to replace it.

How does reflexology work?

Reflexology works on the principle that there are reflex areas in the feet and hands that correspond to all of the organs, glands and parts of the body.  By using a unique combination of finger and thumb pressure on these reflexes the body is positively encouraged to work naturally to restore its own healthy balance and heal itself.  Stimulating these reflexes the subtle energies of the body are re-balanced, restored and harmonised leading to an improved sense of health and well-being.

It is based on Zone Theory whereby the body is divided into 10 longitudinal lines or zones which run the entire length of the body ending in the fingers and toes. All organs and glands found in a specific zone will have its reflex in the corresponding zone of the foot.  Any sensitivity located in a specific area on the foot signals that there could be congestion in that area.

Doctors agree that approximately 75% of our health problems may be stress related.  Following illness, stress or injury the body can be in a state of imbalance and vital energy pathways are blocked preventing the body from functioning effectively.  Reflexology can be used to clear these blockages and help restore and maintain the body’s natural equilibrium.  It aims to calm emotional distress; enhance well-being;  improve sleep and mood; encourage vitality; relieve aches and pains.  By easing tension, improving circulation, reflexology triggers the body's own healing mechanisms.  It positively affects the circulatory, respiratory, endocrine, digestive, immune, and lymphatic systems.

Although reflexology is not used to diagnose or offer a cure for health disorders, millions of people around the world use it to complement other treatments. In conjunction with lifestyle changes it can provide support and relieve stress and tension in relation to conditions or diseases that have already been diagnosed by the medical profession; such as: stress related conditions; headaches and migraine; musculo-skeletal pain (back ache, stiff neck, frozen shoulder, arthritis); sinus problems; asthma and other respiratory problems; sleep disorders; digestive disorders (constipation and irritable bowel syndrome); cancer treatment, hormonal imbalances; menstrual irregularities (PMT and menopausal symptoms); cardiovascular issues; diabetes; and kidney function.

Whilst reflexology works very well alongside conventional medicine, it should never be used in place of seeking professional medical advice. There are very few contra-indications with reflexology.  A regular reflexology treatment is a good form of preventative medicine because it can reach an area of pain or tension before it becomes chronic.

History of reflexology

Reflexology is an ancient healing art that has been around for thousands of years, practised throughout history by many cultures.  From evidence that we have, reflexology is known to be more than 4000 years old.  Paintings discovered in the Physician’s Tomb at Saqqara, Eygpt, dating back to about 2300 BC, show an actual reflexology treatment in progress.

Today’s modern reflexology is based upon the discovery by an American physician Dr William Fitzgerald, an ear, nose and throat specialist who introduced Zone Therapy in the 1900’s.  He claimed that applying pressure had an anaesthetic effect on other areas of the body.  Building on his findings, Fitzgerald divided the body into ten longitudinal vertical zones, ending in the fingers and toes.  He concluded that pressure on one part of a zone could affect everything else within that zone.

Zone therapy was further developed and refined in the 1930s and 1940s by a nurse and physiotherapist, Eunice Ingham, the “mother of reflexology”.  She claimed that the feet and hands were especially sensitive, and mapped the entire body into ‘reflexes’ on the feet renaming ‘zone therapy’ to reflexology. The map and charts she produced are still in use today. She wrote two books, ‘Stories the feet can tell’ (1938) and ‘Stories the feet have told’ (1963). Today her legacy continues under the direction of her nephew, Dwight Byers, who founded the International Institute of Reflexology.