Foot reflexology and foot massage are not the same. This article provides reflexology information to distinguish between these two techniques.
Massage manipulates soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligament, and fascia). Reflexology applies pressure to specific reflex zones to affect your entire body.
Reflexology is a healing technique based on the principle that your hands, feet, and ears have reflexes that correspond to every part, gland, and organ of your body. Pressure applied to these reflexes can release tension, improve blood circulation, and promote the optimal functioning of related areas of your body.
A reflex zone is an area of your body that can affect other areas of your body.
The concept of reflex zones developed out of the Zone Theory promoted by Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, MD, in the early 1900s. Fitzgerald found that applying specific pressure to certain areas of the body, which he called zones, could relieve pain and promote healing in other areas of the body.
In the 1930s, physical therapist Eunice D. Ingham took the principles of Zone Therapy and began using them on the feet of her patients. Ingham worked with hundreds of patients and matched reflexes on the feet to specific organs, glands, and parts of the body. She also discovered that the use of alternating pressure on the reflex zones has a stimulating effect on the body.
Ingham developed a reflexology chart based on her discoveries. Ingham's reflexology chart is now known as The Original Ingham Method®; however, other styles of reflexology are also available.
Reflexologists believe that working reflex zones can affect other parts of the body. The reported benefits of reflexology include:
According to reflexologists Barbara and Kevin Kunz, more than 170 studies, including 95 controlled studies, have looked at reflexology. Ninety percent of the studies show reflexology has positive effects, helping the body heal and improving quality of life.
Many massage therapists have basic working knowledge of reflexology and often incorporate it into their massage practice. However, you can also find qualified reflexologists who are not massage therapists. Most sessions conducted by reflexologists last from 30 minutes to an hour. You can remain fully clothed, except for shoes and socks.
Some states regulate reflexology as part of massage regulation, while other states recognize it as a separate profession. Reflexologists have the option of becoming certified through the American Reflexology Certification Board. You can start your search for a professional and find more reflexology information through the International Institute of Reflexology or Reflexology Association of America.