In the world of massage therapies and bodyworks, the Chinese reign supreme. Broadly categorized into “Tui Na” (pinching and pulling) and “Zhi Ya” (pinching and pressing), traditional Chinese massage therapies release energetic and physical tension to restore balance in your body and kickstart the healing process. One of the most effective Zhi Ya massage therapies is reflexology.
Dating back to 2330BC, reflexology is an ancient Chinese beauty secret that was reserved for emperors and concubines. Like all Chinese massages, it’s based on the principle of the Qi, which loosely stands for “energy flow.” Even if you don’t exactly subscribe to Eastern philosophies, this therapy is worth trying.
Foot reflexology is a type of bodywork that entails applying pressure to the feet to ease pain, release tension and improve blood circulation. Besides relaxing your feet, it can also stimulate sex drive and prevent illnesses that you may not be aware of.
By just touching your feet, an experienced reflexologist can tell if you’re experiencing anxiety or have underlying health issues.
In China, the chinese are famous for their love affair with their regular weekly foot treatment as this massage is the staple of anti-aging routines.
In this piece, we’ll give you the scoop on foot reflexology so you can understand what the fuss is all about, and how to find good and qualified reflexologist that can really help.
What is Foot Reflexology?
Reflexology is a form of alternative massage therapy that’s based on the premise that various reflex points, or “trigger points,” on the feet correspond to specific organs and/or muscles in the human body. By applying a certain amount of pressure on these points, a trained reflexologist can activate your body’s healing process so it can naturally restore a healthy balance.
Foot Massage Vs Foot Reflexology - What's the Difference?
Foot reflexology is often confused with basic foot massage, but the two are quite different. Ordinary foot massage involves manipulating tissues in your foot to relieve tension, relax the muscles and enhance circulation in your feet. In so doing, a basic foot massage improves your overall well-being.
Foot reflexology, on the other hand, is a targeted, pressure-point therapy that seeks to restore the normal flow of energy through your body. Based on the ancient Chinese study of meridians, reflexology stimulates the complex network of energy pathways that run throughout the body to help it restore its balance naturally.
Thus, a foot reflexologist doesn't simply apply pressure to relieve tension in tissues around your feet – as is the case with a traditional foot massage. Rather, they target specific reflex points that connect your feet to other body parts, including internal organs, body systems, and bones.
How Foot Reflexology Works
Reflexology works by stimulating the trigger points on your feet that are energetically connected to specific body parts and organs. Stimulation occurs through the application of pressure and ancient massage techniques that remove energy blockages. As a result, it balances the nervous system and triggers the release of endorphins.
During a session, a reflexologist will use a foot reflexology chart similar to the one above. The chart shows a spot for every system or organ in the body.
Benefits of Foot Reflexology
If properly applied, foot reflexology can leave you feeling like you’ve had a full body massage. Here are some of the well-known benefits of this type of massage:
1. Eases Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Experts have examined the effect of foot reflexology in women experiencing premenstrual syndrome, and the findings suggest it works.
In one study, researchers looked at the effects of the various types of reflexology (foot, hand and ear) on 35 women experiencing PMS symptoms. Women who received the massage for two months reported fewer symptoms compared to a control group that didn’t.
2. Reduces Cancer Symptoms
In 2011, the National Cancer Institute funded a study to find out whether reflexology treatments can help relieve cancer symptoms. 240 women with advanced breast cancer who were undergoing medical treatment participated.
The study found reflexology to be effective at relieving cancer symptoms such as shortness of breath. Additionally, the participants reported better quality of life following a series of reflexology sessions.
3. Anxiety and Stress Relief
In a small 2000 study, researchers found that cancer patients who received half-an-hour foot reflexology massage before their medical treatments had lower levels of anxiety compared to those who didn't. The same findings were replicated in a larger, 2014 study on a group of patients undergoing heart surgery.
Reflexology is relaxing, stress- and anxiety-reducing for everyone, particularly when done by the trained hands of a reflexologist. The therapeutic application of gentle, firm pressure on the reflex points stimulates over 7,000 nerve endings in the feet, and this reduces stress and puts you in a calm state.
4. Improves Sex Drive
The demands that come with leading a successful career, relationships and life in general often lower sex drive. By working reflex points such as the hypothalamus, brain, pituitary glands as well as the testes/ovaries, a foot reflexology massage stimulates hormone production, thus elevating your libido.
It also stimulates blood circulation in sexual organs, which is critical for arousal. That’s not to mention the profound relaxing effect of the massage, which puts you “in the mood.”
5. Pain Relief
A reflexology massage may stimulate the nerves in your feet and the central nervous system, thus, altering the way you feel pain. The pressure applied during reflexology is meant to facilitate a physiological response in the body. Since it helps with your moods, you’ll be in a better psychological position to cope with physical pain.
Even though a reflexology massage can be effective as a pain therapy technique, it may only work for some types of pain. It’s more beneficial to internal conditions like slow digestion, migraines, headaches and insomnia.
Can Foot Reflexology Help Heal Skin Issues?
In a word, yes! One of the guiding principles of traditional Chinese medicine is that the skin is a reflection of what’s going on with your body. Thus, a foot reflexology massage can improve certain skin conditions, particularly those that are directly caused by yin/yang imbalance in your body.
Additionally, reflexology can improve your skin’s appearance. Stress directly affects the condition of your skin, and a relaxing foot reflexology massage is one way to get rid of it.
How to Find a Good Foot Massager or Foot Massage Spa
Reflexology is yet to find an established niche in the world of alternative and complementary medicine, let alone Western medicine. Consequently, there are few training and practice standards, and this can leave you in the hands of unqualified practitioners.
As such, the most reliable way to find a qualified foot reflexology massage spa is through referrals from friends and/or family. Even after a referral, you’ll want to ask prospective practitioners about their training, credentials, and experience.
How Much Does It Cost?
As with any other spa treatment, prices for a foot reflexology massage vary with the practitioner. But, the charges are more or less similar to what you'd pay for a traditional massage.
A one-hour session costs between $40-$90, and a 30-minute treatment $30-$50. Keep in mind that this may vary with your location and the level of experience your reflexologist has.
Is This Right For You?
You don’t necessarily have to subscribe to the whole foot-body theory to see that applying point-targeted pressure on your feet can ease stress and pain. Even if you aren’t stressed out (who isn’t?) or in pain, the fact that it makes your body feel relaxed and rejuvenated is enough reason to try it.
A reflexology foot massage can help you deal with:
• Stress and stress-related conditions
• Digestive disorders
• Tension headaches and migraines
• Hormonal imbalances
• Sports injuries
• Menstrual disorders
• Multiple sclerosis
• Back pain
• Digestive problems like constipation
Who Should Avoid Foot Reflexology
In addition to pregnant women, people with any of the following conditions should avoid reflexology:
• Foot ulcers
• Recent ankle or foot injuries
• Cardiovascular conditions
• Kidney stones
• Active foot infections
• Some types of cancer
There’s also the issue of pain. Depending on your problem, a foot reflexology massage can be painful, whether it’s mild and tolerable or a tad too much to bear. If you can’t ensure the occasional pain of reflexology, you can always go for a regular foot massage, which can help relax your feet and improve blood circulation.
Although you shouldn’t use foot reflexology as a sole medical treatment for any health condition, it remains a relaxing massage therapy for your feet with multiple whole-body benefits. Plus, if you could get glowing skin on top of a healthier body, it’s surely a win-win situation!