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Foot massage for indigestion? Or maybe massaging your wrists when you’re facing problems with getting pregnant? Sounds at least intriguing, if not slightly insane?

Opinions on the effectiveness of reflexology are divided, but one thing is certain – zonal therapy has a loyal group of supporters. For some, it helped as an additional massage therapy during conventional medical treatment. Others use it prophylactically, as a way to calm down the body and improve general health and well-being. What is reflexology and where does this centuries-old method of alternative healing come from? What are different the types of this intriguing treatment and how does it actually work? Let’s read on! 

What's reflexology?

What is a reflexology massage? Reflexology, otherwise known as zonal therapy, or reflexotherapy, is a popular method of holistic medicine. Some consider it to be pseudoscience, based on the placebo effect. Others emphasize its centuries-old traditions and find it very effective.

The aim of zonal therapy techniques is to press the reflexes, which are points located all over the body. According to reflexologists, each of these points corresponds to different internal organs. It is believed that every person consists of energy zones, arranged from the feet to the top of the head.

Exploring 3 types of reflexology

The most important reflexes are believed to be placed on the face, feet, and hands. So, what are the 3 types of reflexology and how do they work in detail? Let’s find out!

Type 1: feet

Foot reflexology is considered to be an effective and safe method of therapy. It causes physiological responses that increase your body’s self-healing potential. Through the work on foot receptors, the therapist supports your body to cleanse itself of toxins, and unlock energy channels, as well as relaxes the body and mind. 

The reflexologist stimulates the reflex points on the feet. The toes represent the head, and going down towards the heel we go down the body, one by one through all the organs. Then the search for painful places begins. Sensitivity may indicate a problem in a region of the body that is a kind of reflex zone and is connected to a specific point in the foot. The map of reflex points on the feet is very complex, therefore foot reflexology should only be performed by a qualified person. For example, it is believed that tenderness on the side of the heel can indicate dysfunction in the pelvic area.

foot reflexology chart

Type 2: hands

hand reflexology chart

When your head or spine hurts, zonal therapy would suggest… a hand massage! Surprising, right? According to hand reflexology, during this kind of treatment energy is released and it stimulates the work of your organs. Your hands contain a precise reflexology map of the whole body, and the individual points on it are a reflection of a given organ.

Generally speaking, the thumb represents your arms and stomach. When we suffer from pain in these parts of the body, depression, and anxiety appear. Symptoms that help identify a problem include irritability, abdominal pain, or headaches. The index finger, in turn, is associated with the kidneys and bladder, and possible symptoms include digestive ailments, backaches, and toothaches. The middle finger is associated with the liver and is related to migraines, vision problems, and nausea. The ring finger is primarily the large intestine and lungs, and the most common symptoms are indigestion, asthma, and lung failure. The little finger symbolizes the small intestine. Hand reflexology map is of course much more complicated and these are only general information.

Type 3: face

Face and head zonal therapy will put you in a state of pleasant tranquility, but it isn’t only a healing and relaxing treatment. A gentle massage of the face and head stimulates the brain, self-regulation, and self-healing processes, as well as regulates the energy of the entire body. It improves the functioning of the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems.

The condition of our organs is also the condition of our face and its appearance. The appearance of wrinkles, for example, depends on the condition of our entire body and the individual functions of the organs. Premature nasolabial wrinkles will indicate insufficient hydration of the body and poor condition of the large intestine. Another example is a vertical wrinkle between the eyebrows, which can be a sign of energy disorders of the liver. As a result, reflex stimulation of internal organs translates into anti-wrinkle therapy as well!

face reflexology chart

Secret of Reflexology

How does reflexology work? In simple terms, zonal therapy works like acupuncture. Blood starts flowing better in areas that are being pressed during the treatment. According to Chinese medicine, this restores the proper flow of energy. An energized body, in turn, means better work of organs and relief for the nervous system.

Your body is a precise mechanism, so everything in it is interconnected and dependent on each other. Pressure in one place causes a reaction in another, even though they are seemingly unrelated. According to zonal therapy, there is a strict relation between particular spots in the body. It’s reflected on a reflexology chart on which corresponding body points are marked precisely.

Unlocking The Wonders Of Reflexology

What are the benefits of reflexology? In the beginning, it’s important to mention that this method can have a positive effect on emotions and relieve stress. Yet, there is still no certain scientific confirmation of its therapeutic effects. According to its supporters, however, the list of benefits of foot reflexology is long and includes advantages such as:

  • strengthening the immune system and metabolic regulation
  • improving the work of internal organs and intestinal peristalsis
  • tendon and muscle strengthening
  • treatment of skin diseases and pain relief
  • relief of constipation and heartburn
  • improvement of blood circulation
  • increasing memory and concentration
  • reducing sleep disorders and improving sleep quality

Hand reflexotherapy has a beneficial effect on the functioning of the whole body, because it relieves headaches, improves blood circulation, removes heartburn, eliminates flatulence, regulates menstrual disorders, and supports the work of the immune system.

Face reflexotherapy is a good option if you suffer from insomnia, headaches, depression, anxiety, problems with concentration, and you feel constantly tired, both physically and mentally. It also allows you to improve blood circulation, body balance, and thinking processes. Last but not least it also improves the condition of the skin, its color, and vitality.

Navigating the side effects of reflexology

Are there any reflexology side effects? It’s a form of massage, so the body reacts as it would to any other form of such treatment. In most cases, people do not experience any negative effects, in fact, they are in a state of deep relaxation.

Yet, sometimes reflexotherapy can cause ailments, such as excessive sweating, headache, sleepiness, and fatigue. You should not worry about them, because they’re a natural and short-term reaction of the body after a massage treatment. If zonal therapy causes such effects, it means that the body is regenerating. It’s worth supporting the treatment process yourself, and leading a healthy lifestyle so that the therapy is more effective.

Going into the Session Room

Your zonal therapist will lead you to a comfortable reclining chair or a massage table. You may choose candlelight, relaxing music, and essential oils to make this experience as soothing as possible. The therapist will begin massaging your feet, hands, or face, applying the required pressure to target areas. They might use lotions, creams, and powders to loosen the muscles and achieve better results.

You can choose between a foot, hand, or face treatment separately or decide on two or three of them, depending on your needs and goals. Your zonal therapist will discuss your medical history in detail and review the results of your tests to determine what type of therapy will be most effective for you. This way he or she will be able to focus on the particular spots and their specific effects on the targeted areas.

How long does the session last?

How long is a reflexology session? A zonal therapy session usually lasts from 30 to 60 minutes. If the massage is performed on the feet, hands, and face, the session will take an hour.

What to wear for a reflexology treatment?

What to wear to reflexology? It doesn’t matter what you wear to your zonal therapy sessions. Your feet, hands, or face will be massaged, so the clothes don’t really matter. It’s important that you wear clothes that make you comfortable and help you relax during the treatment.

Finding the best treatment place

Where to get reflexology? Your goal is to find a reflexologist who has taken the proper training and gained experience. A zonal therapy education should take at least 300 hours. Check the websites of professional zonal therapy associations in your area.

It can be the American Reflexology Certification Board or Reflexology Association of America in the case of the US, or the British Association of Reflexologists. Check your country’s associations and certification local specifics. Ideally, you should look for a nationally certified reflexologist, who has trained at an accredited institution and passed a national zonal therapy exam.

What should be the frequency for the best results?

The length and frequency of the treatments depend on your individual needs and medical conditions. In many cases, reflexology performed once a week turns out to be sufficient. Over time, the frequency of treatments is slowly reduced to once in 2 weeks, and once-a-month visits, until satisfactory results are achieved. Usually, after the first three treatments, a specialist can tell whether zonal therapy has soothing effects on our body.

If you are entirely healthy, you may benefit from zonal therapy once in 6 months, and relax your body. Yet, these sorts of massages are primarily complementary therapies to traditional therapies and treatments. Regular sessions make the drugs better absorbed. In the case of oncological patients who have undergone chemotherapy, zonal therapy may be considered to be an additional treatment that may reduce anxiety and bring stress relief.

Pricing insights into reflexology

How much does reflexology cost? You can expect a cost ranging from $40-90 for a 1-hour massage session, or $30-50 for a 30-minute massage session. Reflexology treatments are usually charged by the hour, but this can also vary from one massage therapist to another.

Similar to any massage treatment, the cost of reflexology varies, depending on the country, the experience of the licensed massage therapists, and the medical facility. However, the price is usually similar to a traditional massage session. The cost also depends on your choice of a massaged area. If the session includes feet, hands, and the face, the price will rise to the highest.

Tracing the legacy of reflexology

Where did reflexology originate from? Zonal therapy is based on ancient Chinese knowledge about meridians, which are energy flow channels. It has been known for several thousand years, and it became popular in the West in the 1980s.

According to its supporters, zonal therapy can improve your health by complementing traditional medicine. The fact that the human face has nerve endings is also known in conventional medicine. What connects reflexotherapy and conventional medicine is the same goal, which is first and foremost to improve people’s well-being.

American Reflexology Certification Board

Reflexology Association of America

Association of Reflexologists

Quattrin R, Zanini A, Buchini S, Turello D, Annunziata MA, Vidotti C, Colombatti A, Brusaferro S. Use of reflexology foot massage to reduce anxiety in hospitalized cancer patients in chemotherapy treatment: methodology and outcomes. J Nurs Manag. 2006 Mar;14(2):96-105. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2934.2006.00557.x. PMID: 16487421.