Reflexology is the practice of applying pressure to the feet and hands. It is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands. The premise is that such work effects a physical change in the body. A reflexology chart mirrors a reflection of the body on the feet and hands, left foot or hand representing the body's left half and right foot or hand its right half. In reflexology practice, technique is applied to the relevant reflex area(s) to prompt a change in the related part of the body. Research has demonstrated such effects for several reflex areas and their reflected parts of the body.
Around the world and throughout history, reflexology has been rediscovered time and time again. Archeological evidence points to ancient reflexology medical practices in Egypt (2330 BCE), China (2704 BCE) and Japan (690 CE). In the West, the concept of reflexology began to emerge in the 19th century with European and Russian research into the nervous system and reflex (think Pavlov). Reflex therapies were created as medical practices but were soon eclipsed by use of surgery and drugs. The ideas of reflex use for health improvement were carried on sporadically and brought to American in 1909 by Dr. William Fitzgerald, an eye-ear and nose specialist from Connecticut.
In the East, ancient Chinese techniques were re-discovered in the 1980's and have spread throughout Asia creating today's reflexology-rich environment with reflexology paths in parks and a thriving reflexology industry of practitioners, businesses and research. Research has shown the specific techniques of reflexology to be effective and beneficial in many ways. A survey of 170 reflexology studies from 21 countries shows that reflexology is effective, impacting a variety of physical and psychological concerns.
• Creates relaxation: From the moment the reflexologist's hands start their work, the relaxation begins as shown in research using EEG brain activity. All together, 24 studies demonstrate reflexology's relaxation effects.
• Reduces pain: Pain reduction following reflexology work is documented in 27 studies including research showing impact on individuals of all ages and health states.
• Ameliorates health concerns: Research shows that reflexology work helps individuals of all ages with some 78 health concerns ranging from aggressive behavior in children to urinary concerns of the elderly.
• Improves blood flow: Separate studies show that reflexology work increases blood flow to the feet, brain, kidneys and intestines.
• Aids post-operative recovery: Reflexology work aids recovery after surgery as shown by several studies, reducing pain and lessening the use of post operative analgesics.
• Has an impact on physiological measures (e. g. blood pressure and cholesterol; measurements by ECG, EEG, and MRI)
• Enhances medical care: Reflexology helps where nothing else can for many: phantom limb pain sufferers, neuropathy patients, and hemodialysis patients to name a few.
• Benefits mental health: Research demonstrates that reflexology can reduce depression (11 studies) and anxiety (9 studies).
• Complements cancer care: Pain, nausea, vomiting, and/or anxiety eased for chemotherapy patients following reflexology work as shown by16 studies from 7 countries.
• Eases pregnancy, delivery and post-partum effects: Women who received reflexology experienced shorter labor times and used less analgesia. In addition, reflexology showed a positive impact on postpartum depression, anxiety, urination and bowel movements.
In general terms, the benefits of reflexology have to do with the reduction of stress. Because the feet and hands help set the tension level for the rest of the body, they are an easy way to interrupt the stress signal and reset homeostasis, the body's equilibrium.
There have been many significant areas of study into reflexology which include: stress and anxiety; lessening of pain and cancer care as well as health concerns for individuals of all ages. Reflexology works as the pressure techniques applied to the feet or hands interact as a part of the body's nervous system creating: relaxation, improved circulation, exercise of the nervous system and the benefits of touch. Pressure sensors in the feet and hands are a part of the body's reflexive response that makes possible the "fight or flight" reaction to danger. Feet ready to flee and hands ready to fight communicate with the body's internal organs, especially the adrenal gland. The sudden adrenal surge that enables a person to lift a car is an example of this coordinated activity. The perception of pressure by the feet and hands taps into the reflex network that makes possible our every move. Reflexology, consistently applied, provides an exercise of these pressure sensors and thus a conditioning of the internal organs to which they are inextricably tied. This produces relaxation and facilitates better health.