Foot reflexology is a form of massage therapy that involves applying pressure to specific points on the foot. It is designed to reduce pain and improve overall health.
This article discusses the conditions foot reflexology can be used for and how to prepare for a session.
Definition and Theories
Reflexology is a form of massage therapy centered around the idea that pressure points in the feet are directly connected to other areas of the body, including organs. It’s though that when pressure is applied to these points, you will encounter better overall health and rejuvenation.
There are a couple of theories surrounding reflexology and its efficacy. They mainly focus on energy. It’s thought that energy within the body communicates freely through electromagnetic fields.
Sometimes, energy can become blocked. Foot reflexology is thought to clear the path for better communication between the organs and the rest of the body’s energy fields. Another theory maintains that putting pressure on points in the foot during reflexology can help break up lactic acid crystals that stop energy flow.
Are the Theories True?
Medical evidence surrounding these theories is scarce. However, some research confirms foot reflexology works for treating several ailments and people experience positive changes after a session.
Pressure Points in the Foot
According to foot reflexology advocates, several points in the foot play a role in the health of an organ or system elsewhere in the body. The various pressure points on the foot, from the top of the toes to the ankle, are thought to affect health in areas such as:
- Top of the toes: Head/brain
- Middle of the toes: Face and sinuses
- Bottom of the toes: Teeth, gums, and jaw
- The base of the pinky toe: Neck
- The outer lateral (away from center) side of the foot: Arms, elbows, knees, and legs
- The outer medial (close to center) side of the foot: Neck, brain stem, thymus, spine, bladder
- The lateral side of the ankle: Lower back
- The medial side of the ankle: Lymph glands, fallopian tubes, groin
- Middle of the top of the foot: Lungs, chest, breasts, upper back, waistline
Are Pressure Points Accurate?
According to research, many people experience positive changes after participating in pressure point therapy and foot reflexology and there could be more to pressure points than traditional medicine has yet to discover.
The process of reflexology involves putting massage-like pressure onto specific points in the foot. Typically, there is no pain during the process, and people feel like they are getting a foot massage.
A reflexologist will use their thumb or finger to apply pressure and make micro-movements over the pressure points. Reflexologists will use these specific movements to help improve blood circulation and energy flow within the body. During a session, additional forms of relaxation may be employed to improve the experience, such as calming music and aromatherapy.
According to research, several health disorders can be positively affected by foot reflexology. They include:
Reflexology and Stress
Stress is a risk factor associated with many diseases and illnesses. People with high stress levels are much more likely to become sick at some point in their lives. Reflexology has been shown to decrease everyday stress significantly, which could contribute to a reduced risk of developing certain diseases.
Some people may not be good candidates for foot reflexology because they may experience adverse effects. Certain people should avoid the practice until speaking with a medical provider, including:
- Those in their first trimester of pregnancy
- Those who suffer from diarrhea or vomiting
- People with skin diseases on their feet or hands
- Those who have inflammation in the feet or hands
- People with fever or any infectious diseases
- People with certain health disorders, such as cancer, blood clotting disorders, or heart failure
Why Is Foot Reflexology Bad for Certain People?
Foot reflexology is designed to stimulate energy and blood flow in the body. In people with contraindications for use (reasons not to use a therapy), overstimulation could worsen the symptoms or condition or cause adverse and unwanted side effects. That said, some research has found that symptoms associated with cancer treatment, such as pain or vomiting, can be helped with foot reflexology.
How to Prepare
There is not much you need to do before a foot reflexology appointment if you have been approved for the therapy by your medical provider.
During the session, you will be asked to remove your socks and shoes and get comfortable on a massage table or chair. The reflexologist will apply pressure to your feet to warm them up before pushing on specific pressure points. There are particular reflexology techniques used to massage the pressure points, such as:
- Finger walking
- Applying pressure with the thumbs
- Rotation on the point
There isn’t much of a recovery time needed following foot reflexology. However, some aftereffects can occur, including:
These aftereffects are temporary and can last one to two days following your session.
Should You Consider Foot Reflexology?
If you are interested in foot reflexology, speaking to your healthcare provider is essential. They will be able to let you know if it may be right for you.
Foot reflexology is an alternative therapy designed to free up energy communication in the body. The practice is thought to help those who develop specific ailments due to energy blockages. The process works by applying pressure to particular points in the foot that correspond to organs and other body systems. The pressure is supposed to free up energy blockages and provide relief. While more research surrounding the practice is needed, it can be helpful for some people.
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Embong NH, Soh YC, Ming LC, Wong TW. Perspectives on reflexology: A qualitative approach. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016 Dec 3;7(3):327-331. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.08.008
Wang WL, Hung HY, Chen YR, Chen KH, Yang SN, Chu CM, Chan YY. Effect of foot reflexology intervention on depression, anxiety, and sleep quality in adults: A meta-analysis and metaregression of randomized controlled trials. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2020 Sep 15;2020:2654353. doi:10.1155/2020/2654353
Anderson KD, Downey M. Foot reflexology: An intervention for pain and nausea among inpatients with cancer. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2021 Oct 1;25(5):539-545. doi:10.1188/21.CJON.539-545
The Henry Spink Foundation. Reflexology.
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