Like many modern forms of complementary and alternative medicine, reflexology is a variation on an older method. Ancient China, Africa, India, Egypt, Russia, Japan and the Cherokee Indians practiced a form of reflexology. The idea has been around Europe since the 1800s. Several people mapped out sections of the body referring to them as zones. In Germany, during the 1930s, Elizabeth Dicke originated a type of massage – connective tissue massage, based on a theory of reflex zones.
William Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose, and throat specialist from Hartford, Connecticut, was working in London in 1902. He came across the zone theory. Before returning to the United States he developed a theory combining zone theory and various parts of the body, specifically the hands and feet. His book, Zone Therapy, or Relieving Pain at Home, published in 1917, expounded on his findings.
Another American physician adopted the method and further expounded upon its rudimentary form. This was Dr. Joseph Shelby Riley. He and his wife added three transverse zones. The work developed further when Eunice Ingham (1889-1974), a physiotherapist in Dr. Riley’s office mapped out a new program. This was a movement away from zone theory and into a foot map. She put her methods and design in a book published in 1938: Stories the Feet Can Tell. It was the birth of reflexology as we know it today.
Like many forms of massage therapy, reflexology has had its ups-and-downs. During World War II and its aftermath, the popularity of reflexology waned. This changed in the 1990s. Since then, reflexology has become on of the more popular forms of non-conventional medicine practices. It is making strides as a type of massage therapy. In part, this is because of its approach.
Balancing Mind, Body and Emotion
Like reiki, reflexology is a holistic form of massage therapy. Its intent is to balance the entire body – mind, body and emotion. Its approach is based on a theory of the interconnection between certain points on the foot and the rest of the body. Simply put reflexology believes the foot to be a microcosm of the entire physical body.
The foot has points of reference on it. Each part of the foot corresponds directly to a specific area of the body. Those on the left foot connect to the left side of the body. Those on the right foot connect to the right side of the body.
Each foot is also divided into zones: longitudinal and transverse.
These zones relate to specific areas such as shoulders, waist or pelvis. A practitioner works with the feet using this theory of zones and areas in order to heal the body. Reflexology is energetic work. It concerns itself with the Chi/Qi, Ki or Prada of the body. It manipulates the body through the foot to balance the energy. It uses both pressure point or acupressure and other types of massage to create balance. An ill body is, according to reflexology, disharmonic or unbalanced.
Before a treatment, the practitioner should have a consultation with the client. This will include general health information, family history and other pertinent material. A good therapist will also explain precisely what the treatment entails. The patient must be clear that Reflexology is about creating harmony and balance.
The client needs to remove socks, stocking and shoes. A pillow will elevate the foot. This increases the comfort level of both the practitioner and the client. The Reflexologist will then examine the foot, including posture and bone structure. He or she will consider the size, shape, arch, condition of the nails, skin color, odor and temperature. He or she will check for swelling, puffiness and edema. Only upon completing this stage will the practitioner begin Reflexology treatment.
The treatment begins with a warm-up foot massage. Applying talc to soak up any moisture and to ease hand contact, the therapist begins to softly and slowly massage the foot. She or he will go through a number of actions supporting the foot in hand. These include foot rolls and kneading.
The warm foot massage is followed by a reflexology treatment. This may include Reflex Point Treatment. It can also utilize pressure techniques. These involve finger walking, rotating, finger press and/or pinch grip. The treatment concludes with a relaxation massage.
There are several possible benefits from Reflexology Massage Therapy. It increases circulation, particularly micro-circulation. It boosts the lymph system thereby improving the immune response system. It helps remove waste products from the body. It helps and individual relax, by removing stress and tension. It soothes and stimulates the nervous system. It may normalize blood pressure. Overall, Reflexology creates a sense of well-being.
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