Reflexology is an alternative medicine technique based on the belief that pressing on specific areas on the hands, feet or ears can have therapeutic effects on other parts of the body.
There are several nerve endings called reflexes running throughout your feet, hands and ears that correspond to different systems and organs within your body.
Pressing on these reflex points stimulates the nervous system and fuels energy pathways that may be congested. This, in turn, improves the functioning of the corresponding organ.
Although less popular than acupuncture, reflexology is an equally effective and holistic treatment.
Keep in mind that reflexology makes no claims that it cures any ailments. Rather, it helps restore your body’s natural healing balance and provides relief from pain and distressing psychological symptoms.
Here are 10 ailments and conditions that can be improved through reflexology.
Depression can be one of two types: reactive or clinical. Reactive depression is caused by an external factor like a personal tragedy, while clinical depression is a result of erratic chemical and hormonal activity in your body.
For instance, low levels of serotonin can cause a bout of clinical depression. Serotonin, which promotes happiness, is released by neurons in the brain.
Massaging the tops of your toes, where the brain reflexes are located, enhances serotonin production. Repeat this exercise at least thrice in one sitting.
The hypothalamic, pituitary, pineal and adrenal glands also play a role in depression. Stimulating these reflex points on the feet may help alleviate the condition.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing notes that 46 middle-aged women who practiced self foot reflexology at home for six weeks reported significantly reduced depression and stress.
Reflexology can help subside symptoms of nausea.
Several cancer departments in hospitals and hospice centers across the globe offer reflexology as a therapeutic treatment to combat nausea in cancer patients.
Sixteen breast cancer patients who underwent four 40-minute sessions of foot reflexology daily for 24 days reported reduced nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
Massage the stomach and duodenum foot reflexes in a circular motion to subside the symptoms of nausea.
3. Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis
Hand and foot reflexology helps relieve the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), minimizes joint damage and reduces anxiety.
Osteoarthritis is an age-related disease characterized by joint pain, especially in the hands, knees, spine and hips. RA is an autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation, and long-term immobility and disability.
A 2004 study published in Reflexology Research notes that 22 of 23 RA patients who underwent 30 foot-reflexology daily sessions reported significant improvement in joint pain, swelling and tenderness.
For either type of arthritis, your reflexologist will stimulate spine, knee, hip, upper arm, elbow, sacroiliac joint, ankles, neck and shoulder reflexes in your feet.
Also, for RA patients, stimulating the adrenal gland reflexes located below the ball of the foot as part of reflexology therapy is beneficial, as the adrenal gland secretes corticosteroid hormones that regulate immunity and inflammation.
4. Hypertension/High Blood Pressure
Hypertension affects 70 million adults in the U.S. and causes heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and heart failure.
In reflexology treatment, your reflexologist will begin with relaxing your diaphragm reflex to relax your chest cavity and stimulate better breathing.
She or he may stimulate the solar plexus reflex to further promote relaxation, as well as the blood pressure-regulating thyroid and pituitary gland reflexes.
Next, she or he may proceed to stimulating your adrenal reflexes, as the adrenal gland regulates the body’s circulatory system.
Finally, she or he will stimulate the organs directly causing hypertension –heart, liver, kidneys and lungs–followed by reflexes of organs like the eyes and brain that may be harmed by hypertension.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Community Health Nursing notes that reflexology significantly lowered hypertension in a group of employees suffering from work stress.
5. Menstrual Cramps
Women all over the world experience menstrual cramps that, often, only subside with medication.
Foot and hand reflexology proves a cheaper, more convenient and non-invasive alternative to medication for menstrual cramps.
Performing the thumb-walking technique on the ovary and uterus reflexes on the foot and the wrist tops will provide relief.
Massaging the pituitary, pineal, thyroid and parathyroid reflexes on the big toe and thumb also helps. The thymus and adrenal gland reflexes, as well as the fallopian tube reflexes, should be stimulated next.
Massaging the lower-back reflexes is beneficial to women who experience extreme lower back pain related to menstruation.
A 2010 study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research notes that students who received regular reflexology sessions reported more reduced intensity and duration of menstrual pain than those who took ibuprofen.
Insomnia is a medical condition that severely affects the quality of life. A proper sleep routine is necessary for normal functioning of all body processes.
Those suffering from insomnia can use reflexology techniques to sleep better. The pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin that induces sleep. Stimulating pineal gland reflexes on the feet and hands activates the gland and promotes melatonin production.
Stimulating the diaphragm reflex points also improves sleep by promoting better breathing that induces relaxation. Stimulating the chest/diaphragm reflex on the ear also promotes sleep.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing notes that reflexology was effective in relieving fatigue and inducing sleep.
A searing pain on either or both sides of the head characterizes migraine. A nauseated feeling often accompanies a migraine.
Over time, migraine can increase dependency on drugs like aspirin that are harmful in the long run.
The hand contains reflexes corresponding to the spine and head/brain.
Thumb walk along the spinal reflex that runs from the base of the thumbnail down the outside of the thumb to the wrist. This will help relax the spine.
Massage the top of each finger to stimulate the head/brain reflexes to induce relaxation and proper blood circulation.
Colds are one of the most underrated ailments of our time. People with a persistent cold struggle to get through daily activities. While medication provides relief, regular dependence on them can prove harmful.
Reflexology is a tried-and-tested technique to relieve the symptoms of a cold. Stimulating the respiratory reflexes located on your footpads (below the toes) promotes movement in congested organs like the lungs, thus reducing coughing and phlegm.
Stimulating the throat reflex also provides relief. Furthermore, thumb walking the inside of the toes and fingers stimulates the sinus reflexes.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies notes that 10 female volunteers who suffered from cold intolerance reported increased skin temperature and faster recovery from the cold after reflexology therapy.
Reflexology is a great complementary technique for relieving asthma. The lung reflex points located in the hands and feet must primarily be stimulated via thumb walking.
Furthermore, doctors prescribe adrenaline to patients experiencing an asthma attack. Since the adrenal gland naturally produces adrenaline, stimulating that gland on the hands and feet can help relieve asthma.
Relaxing the solar plexus reflex further relaxes the body and promotes healthy breathing.
Note: While reflexology is a great alternative treatment for asthma, seek immediate medical attention in case of an attack.
Reflexology can be an effective technique for treating infertility in both men and women.
The latest developments in the field of reflexology suggest that using hand and foot reflexology to stimulate the reproductive organ reflexes, such as the uterus and ovarian reflexes in women and the prostate and testicles reflexes in men, can aid pregnancy and increase libido.
Thumb walking across the fallopian tube reflexes also helps. Stimulating the endocrine system reflexes may also promote relaxation and increase libido.
A 2008 study published in Fertility and Sterility notes that foot reflexology improved ovulation by 42 percent in 11 out of 26 women.
While massaging the reflex points for at least 30-60 seconds is advised, you can massage for a longer duration, depending upon the intensity of pain and discomfort.
Heat is a great relaxing aid to self-reflexology. Put your feet on a heating pad for 10 minutes before performing self-reflexology. Alternatively, you can perform self-reflexology right after a hot shower.
Use hot oil (mixed with or without essential oil) or a light cream on your feet and/or hands before performing reflexology for swifter motions.