Reflexology is a form of complementary and alternative treatment that involves the application of manual pressure to certain areas of the feet (sometimes also the hands and ears) to relieve a wide range of symptoms. Originating from Egyptian and Chinese traditions, reflexology has been used for thousands of years, based on the theory that pressure applied to areas that correspond to a person's organs and systems benefits their health.
How it Works
Reflexologists (including chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, etc) use foot charts, which map out specific areas that correspond to different parts of the body. According to their theory, pressure and massage stimulates the natural healing power of the body, which may help restore health and well-being. Pressure is believed to work on the energy pathways that lead to the organs, which works in a similar manner as acupuncture.
A session in reflexology usually lasts for 45 to 60 minutes, with the patient lying down or sitting on a reclining chair. The reflexologist uses his/her fingers to apply pressure and massage to reflex points that correspond to specific areas in the body. For example, massaging the right big toe will relieve symptoms in the right side of the head. Although manipulations are generally relaxing, sometimes they may also feel uncomfortable. Other items such as a rubber ball, wooden sticks, and rubber bands may also be used.
Reflexology has been known to be used as treatment for a wide variety of medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, circulatory problems, infertility, back problems, digestive problems, and many more. Several studies conducted under the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute suggest that reflexology may help reduce pain, anxiety, stress, and depression, and may enhance sleep and relaxation. It is also believed to improve circulation, boost immunity and improve organ function. Some studies also indicate that it may benefit people with serious disease, such as cancer, in the palliation of their symptoms. However, solid scientific evidence is still lacking to support claims that it can heal diseases.
Some experts believe that it may have placebo effects, which are similar to those experienced by people who take sugar pills. In these forms of therapy, patients expect the treatment to be effective, and thereby experience some form of temporary improvement of symptoms, even if the treatment received is known to be inactive.
Is it Safe?
Reflexology is generally considered a safe form of complementary therapy, but for some people, vigorous pressure may cause discomfort and tenderness. It may also make one feel lightheaded or emotional after a session, and may make one go to the toilet more often to urinate.
The practice of reflexology is not regulated, and anyone can train and practice it without the need for a license. Therefore, one must be careful in choosing a reflexologist, remembering that they are not qualified to diagnose, treat or prescribe medications.
Reflexology is not recommended for people who have foot ulcers, gout, circulatory problems involving the feet, epilepsy, thyroid problems, or those who bruise easily. Ask your doctor if reflexology is suitable for your condition.
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