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Reflexology is a form of bodywork that involves applying pressure to the hands and feet to produce changes in pain and other benefits elsewhere in the body.
The underlying theory behind reflexology is that there are certain points or "reflex areas" on the feet and hands that are connected energetically to specific organs and body parts through energy channels in the body.
By applying pressure to reflex areas, a reflexologist is said to remove energy blockages and promote health in the related body area. Here are some examples of reflex areas and their corresponding body parts:
Although the roots of reflexology go back to ancient Egypt and China, William H. Fitzgerald, an ear, nose, and throat doctor, introduced this concept of "zone therapy" in 1915. American physiotherapist Eunice Ingram further developed the zone theory in the 1930s into what is known as modern reflexology.
According to reflexologists, pressure on the reflex points also helps to balance the nervous system and stimulates the release of endorphins that help to reduce pain and stress.
Reflexology is also used for post-operative or palliative care. A 2015 review published in Integrative Cancer Therapies found that reflexology massage was more effective for the relief of cancer pain and surgery-related pain than body massage or aromatherapy massage.
While a foot massage may feel the same as a reflexology treatment, a reflexologist will work on areas to promote a healing response in the corresponding organs.
A massage therapist giving a foot massage will manipulate muscles and other soft tissues to improve circulation, relieve pain, and heal injuries in the area or to induce overall relaxation.
Most people find reflexology, for the most part, to be very relaxing.
Reflexology shouldn't be painful. If you feel discomfort, be sure to tell the reflexologist. He or she should work within your comfort zone. Some areas may be tender or sore, and the reflexologist may spend extra time on these points. The soreness should decrease with pressure.
If you're ticklish, not to worry. The reflexologist applies firm pressure to the feet.