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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Special Topics > Reflexology
      Category : Health Centers > Alternative Medicine


Reflexology is the art, science, and study of specific touch techniques. It is a therapy by which the clinician applies pressure to certain points on the foot and sometimes on the hand and ear.

What is the information for this topic?

Reflexologists believe that various organs, nerves, and glands in the body are connected to "reflex areas." These reflex areas are found on the bottoms of the feet, hands, and other areas of the body. When done properly, reflexology is thought to:

  • relieve stress and tension
  • stimulate deep relaxation
  • improve the blood supply
  • bring balance to the entire body
  • Reflexologists believe that this therapy can help many conditions, including:

  • asthma
  • stress
  • depression
  • high blood pressure
  • neurological problems, including multiple sclerosis
  • chronic pain, such as arthritis
  • gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • pain caused by conditions such as cancer
  • pain caused by treatment for other conditions
  • infectious diseases, including HIV
  • symptoms of premenopause or postmenopause
  • recovery from surgery
  • The reflexologist believes he or she can pinpoint the area of the foot that is related to the area of the body where a person's symptoms are coming from. The following areas of the foot are thought to correspond to a particular area of the body:

  • the ball of the foot is related to the chest and lungs
  • the arch is related to the internal organs
  • the toes are related to the head and neck
  • the bone on the inner arch of the foot is related to the spine
  • the heel is related to the sciatic nerve and pelvis
  • It is also believed the right side of the foot is related to the right side of the body and the left side of the foot to the left side of the body.

    The reflexologist may look at a map of the body while the person describes his or her symptoms. The person can point out on the map where the problems are. The map shows what pressure points on the foot are related to the areas where the problems are occurring.

    The person is seated or lying in a comfortable position. After pinpointing the proper pressure points, the reflexologist then gently massages the foot to warm it and relax it. Then the reflexologist applies pressure to the specific points on the foot. Sometimes he or she uses special tools to apply pressure. Usually one foot is treated first and then the next.

    Each session lasts 30 minutes to an hour. At first, the treatments may be done every week. Then they may be scheduled further apart. The reflexologist may also teach a person how to relieve pressure points at home. There are certain items, such as sandals or foot supports, that may be added to the treatment as well.

    A person with a serious illness should check with his or her health care provider before having a reflexology session. Reflexology is not a substitute for:

  • regular medical check-ups
  • good exercise
  • proper nutrition
  • The reflexologist does not treat foot problems, such as calluses, ulcers, or injuries.

    Reflexology is a complement to more traditional medical treatment. A person should have any underlying conditions evaluated, treated, and followed up by a healthcare provider. Persons with certain conditions should check with their healthcare provider before being treated by a reflexologist. Some of these conditions include:

  • stasis ulcers
  • a history of blood clots, such as deep venous thrombosis
  • any problems with blood flow in the lower legs
  • pregnancy, because some pressure points on the foot can cause uterine contractions
  • There is currently no national legislation or licensing requirements for practitioners of reflexology in the US. To find a reflexologist, persons can check with a center of alternative medicine at a large medical center or ask a massage therapist whom they know and trust.

    Reflexology should not be considered a "cure" for any conditions. It is used to relieve or reduce symptoms, problems, and stress affecting the body. Health professionals should be cautious about a reflexologist who claims that this is a valid way of assessing health or for treating diseases.

    Since reflexology treats the whole person, not the symptoms of disease, most people benefit from treatment. The therapy brings relief to a wide range of conditions. It is suitable for all ages. More and more people are using this safe, natural therapy as a way of relaxing, balance, and harmonized the body.

    Author: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 07/02/01

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