An Overview of Reflexology

Reflexology is an alternative therapy that involves stimulating pressure points on the hands, feet and ears in order to effect changes on other parts of the body and improve overall health. The most common form of reflexology is foot reflexology, which focuses on stimulating and massaging reflex zones on the feet. It's a hands-on therapy that involves body manipulation and massage.

As with many other alternative therapies, practitioners believe there is a vital life force that circulates throughout the body and that many illnesses are the result of a blockage that prevents this life energy from reaching the affected organs. Reflexologists stimulate pressure points on the feet, hands or ears that are said to be ‘centers’ for circulation, releasing the blockage and allowing the body to heal itself.

Reflexology may have been practiced as far back as Egyptian times, but its history in modern times dates to 1913 when Dr. William Fitzgerald divided the body into ten parts, each ending in the fingers and toes. His belief was that putting pressure on those areas of the fingers or hands could affect anything within the zone to which it belonged. In the 1930s, reflexologists studied the areas of the body affected by each reflex area on the hands and feet, and treated illness by using the fingers and thumbs to apply pressure to those areas, similar to acupressure.

The Evidence In Favor
There have been few formal studies of reflexology despite its worldwide popularity. In many areas of the world, it's practiced simply as foot massage. Users of reflexology report feelings of well-being and improvements in a wide variety of ailments and conditions, though there is little to support their reports.

Practitioners of reflexology are quick to point out that the purpose of reflexology is not to treat or cure any disease or condition. Instead, the intent is relaxation and promotion of a positive flow of energy to all organs in the body. By releasing and relieving the tension in those areas, reflexologists believe the circulation of blood, lymph drainage and immune system function will improve. They also contend that as an all natural non-invasive therapy, reflexology has no associated risks, and the side effects are minor and short-term.

The Criticisms
There are no scientific studies that prove the efficacy of reflexology as a medical treatment. There is no proof that there is any link or connection between the areas of the feet and hands stimulated in reflexology and other areas of the body. All reported benefits are based on anecdotal evidence which is subjective.

There is a fear that those who turn to alternative medical therapies such as reflexology will delay or avoid medical treatment for real physical problems because of a sense of complacency and the general feeling of well-being that the therapy can promote. They point out that those feelings may be nothing more than the relaxation induced by a good physical massage.


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