What is Reflexology Foot Massage?
If you’ve looked into foot massage at all, you’ve probably heard of reflexology. But what is it?
Basically, reflexology foot massage is a healing massage method involving pressurising the soles of your feet. Originally, it’s based on the concept that various areas of your foot’s sole correspond to different parts of your body. Aside from its traditional healing purpose, reflexology techniques may also be used for relaxation and therapeutic purposes. It also helps many people manage their stress levels.
The idea behind reflexology foot massage is that by applying pressure to specific regions of your foot’s sole, you can generate a healing, reflexive action in another part of your body. Each specified area on the sole is associated with a particular part of your body. By applying adequate pressure on the prescribed area of the sole using techniques including hands, fingers, cream, and oil, you can promote the healing or relaxation of other body parts.
The theory of reflexology is rooted in ancient Chinese medicine. According to ancient Chinese medical theory, nerves running throughout the body to various organs are assembled around the sole of your foot. This is known as zone theory. Hence, by applying pressure to an area of a particular nerve ending in the foot, the pressure produces a reflexive healing action in the corresponding body part.
Zone theory can also be applied to other body parts, including hands and ears. See this for more information.
Many types of reflexology foot charts and reflexology maps are available to illustrate the supposed locations of the correct pressure regions for each map. Maps like this one illustrate the various body organs corresponding to different areas of the sole of your foot. For instance, the inner edge of your sole is believed to be in correspondence with your spine and back, while your toe pads are taken as corresponding areas for eyes and ears. Similarly, the head and heart are supposed to be connected to the ball of your foot.
Does Reflexology Foot Massage Work?
Like many alternative medicine practices, whether or not reflexology massage techniques work is up for debate. (Also see my post on fish foot spas.) So, does it work?
It depends what you’re looking for. Certainly, it is unlikely to hurt you, and getting a reflexology massage feels good.
Practitioners (of course!) believe it has shown effective results in the healing of various illnesses like insomnia, headaches, dizziness and chronic fatigue. It is also believed to be influential in healing internal diseases concerned with liver, kidneys, heart and high blood pressure. Others, particularly those suspicious of alternative healing techniques, disagree. Nevertheless, even detractors and skeptics admit that it feels good and likely helps to relieve immediate stress at least as well as any other method of foot or hand massage. It may be a placebo, as this study claims, but at worst, it’s a pleasant, presumably harmless placebo effect.
When performed by a professional masseuse, there is little to no additional risk over any other type of massage and the initial pain that you may feel as a result of applied pressure subsides as soon as the masseur stops massaging your sole. Expert masseurs are trained to deal with the critical pressure points of your soles with uttermost care and the massage technique entails no specifically known side effects.
A reflexology foot massage is highly effective for relieving pain caused as a result of excessive physical exertion. It may also be used to reduce muscle stiffness you may experience after exercising for extended time periods. Moreover, it is also influential in increasing blood circulation and regulating the homeostasis to maintain optimum body temperature.
Though a reflexology foot massage may not be able to alleviate or eliminate critical illnesses independently, it can be effective in reducing the related symptoms and assisting the healing process by increasing blood circulation, enhancing the lymphatic circulation and drainage, relaxing the muscles and stimulating the pathways of the nerves.
Of course, if you can’t afford to pay the sometimes steep fees of seeing a professional, there are a number of electric home foot massagers that are designed to utilize reflexology points. Check out the foot massager comparison chart to get started. Look for ones listed as using these principles.
[Image Credits (CC licensed): Feet B/W and Captured Heart]