Reflexology: How it works for relaxation and healing


Reflexology is a therapy where you stimulate points in your ears, feet and hands to relax and rejuvenate. Know all about it!

Reflexology is a therapy whereby using gentle pressure on certain points in the body, you can instantly feel refreshed, rejuvenated as well as healed. Besides this, this therapy is great at easing stress and making you feel better.

Also called zone therapy, reflexology aids better blood flow in the body and helps with circulation as well. This is also used as a complementary therapy and can help relieve pain due to migraine, and arthiritis, as well as help with several mental health disorders. Read on to know all about this therapy, its benefits, and what to keep in mind before getting it done.

What is reflexology?

Reflexology is a holistic therapy where the therapist applies pressure to specific points on the hands, feet, and ears to promote relaxation and healing throughout the body. According to a study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, reflexology, as a practice, studies how different organs, and other parts of the body, are connected to the hands and feet. โ€œItโ€™s based on the principle that these points correspond to different organs and systems,โ€ says physiotherapist Thejaswi G.

Reflexology is recommended for a variety of conditions and wellness goals, including stress reduction, relaxation, pain management, improved circulation, enhanced sleep quality, digestive issues, hormonal balance, immune support, and overall well-being. โ€œIt is also commonly used as a complementary therapy for conditions such as headache, migraine, arthritis, anxiety, depression, and pregnancy-related discomfort,โ€ adds Thejaswi.

In reflexology, try to apply pressure with your thumbs on your heel, and move to the base of the toe. Image courtesy: Pexels

How does reflexology work?

Reflexology stimulates nerve endings. These, then, send signals to the brain, thereby promoting relaxation and improving circulation. So be it stress, tension, or overall well-being, reflexology is sure to help you through all this.

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There are various beliefs that are said to be the principle on which reflexology works. One is the Chinese belief that stress blocks a personโ€™s qi, or energy. This causes illnesses in the body, and reflexology helps to ease the flow of qi in the body. The British, in the 90s believed that the nerves can be stimulated by exerting outside pressure, and, thus, a massage can often calm you down. A study, published in Healthcare, also states that the body is divided into five zones on each side of the body. Each of these zones spreads down the arms and legs and eventually reaches one finger, and toe. So massaging different parts of the hands and feet can help stimulate energy, blood as well and nutrition.

Also Read: 3 acupressure points to leave you re-energized

Health benefits of reflexology

1. Stress reduction

Reflexology promotes relaxation and helps to alleviate stress by calming the nervous system. It can also help with anxiety. A study, published in the Oncology Nursing Forum, suggests that a 30-minute foot reflexology treatment on breast and lung cancer patients lowered anxiety levels considerably.

2. Improved circulation

By stimulating blood flow, reflexology enhances circulation throughout the body, aiding in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells. In a study, published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, 40 minutes of foot reflexology was performed three times a week for six weeks, on pre-menopausal, middle-aged women. The results showed that the women had improved blood circulation.

3. Pain relief

Reflexology can alleviate pain by triggering the release of endorphins, the bodyโ€™s natural painkillers, and by reducing muscle tension. A study, published in Healthcare, states that reflexology helps the release of pain-relieving chemicals, besides releasing endorphins and enkephalins. It helps with musculoskeletal pain as well.

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4. Enhanced immune function

By promoting overall balance and well-being, reflexology supports the immune systemโ€™s ability to fight off illnesses and infections. It does this through its ability to encourage better sleep, as lack of sleep can lower our immunity. A study, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, suggested that foot reflexology helped reduce sleep disturbances significantly. It is also said that reflexology can be considered as a therapy for those suffering from sleep disorders.

5. Increased energy levels

Reflexology helps to boost energy levels by revitalizing the bodyโ€™s natural energy pathways and reducing fatigue. A study, published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, states that reflexology can energise all parts of the body. It can also help with energy circulation through the body. It helps restore energy flow in the body.

6. Digestive support

Reflexology can aid digestion by stimulating reflex points related to the digestive organs, promoting better nutrient absorption and waste elimination. A research paper, published in the British Journal of General Practice, states that reflexology can help with chronic constipation as well.

7. Hormonal balance

Reflexology may help balance hormones by stimulating the endocrine system and promoting overall hormonal harmony. A study, published in BioPsychoSocial Medicine, states that reflexology can help relieve pre-menstrual symptoms, and is effective in treating hormonal imbalances.

A pregnant woman
Reflexology can provide relief from back pain and even shorten labour during pregnancy. Image courtesy: Pexels

8. Relaxation during pregnancy

Reflexology can provide relief from pregnancy-related discomforts such as back pain, swollen feet, and nausea, while also promoting relaxation for both the mother and baby. This research, published in Nature, analysed the results of 13 studies involving 1189 participants. It was seen that foot reflexology reduced anxiety and pain in pregnant women. It also shortened the stages of labour.

How to do reflexology?

You can either go to a professional for a reflexology session, or you can even try it at home. Here are a few steps to get you started:

  • Warm up your foot by massaging lightly with your thumbs
  • With the help of your thumbs, fingers or even a small massage ball, apply pressure from your heel bone to the base of your toes.
  • Try to spread the tissue by pushing your thumbs away from each other.

Side effects of reflexology

Reflexology has some side effects but they are very rare. Drinking ample water after a reflexology session is crucial to aid in the elimination of toxins from the body. It may include:

  • Temporary discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Emotional release

The Cancer Research UK states that doing reflexology while battling cancer can be tricky. It is important to inform your doctor if you have the following medical conditions:

  • Circulatory problems of the feet
  • Inflammation in veins in the legs
  • Conditions such as gout, foot ulcers and fungal ailments.
  • Depleted platelet count

FAQs

Can you do reflexology at home?

Yes, you can perform reflexology at home with proper knowledge and technique. There are many resources available, including books, online tutorials, and workshops, to help you learn how to practice reflexology safely and effectively at home.

What to remember while doing reflexology?

While doing reflexology at home, itโ€™s important to remember to start gently and gradually increase pressure. Be mindful of how your body reacts and adjust as necessary. Also, maintain proper hygiene by washing your hands and feet before and after the session.

Can you do reflexology every day?

Doing reflexology every day is generally safe for most people, but itโ€™s essential to listen to your body and not overdo it. Start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the frequency if desired. If you have any medical conditions or concerns, itโ€™s best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a daily reflexology practice.



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