When people think of massage therapy, they most likely conjure up images of Swedish massage or deep tissue. However, many alternative forms of massage, such as Lomi Lomi and Reflexology, have cropped up in recent years.

Reflexology is ancient in origin, utilizing many of the same principles that acupuncture and Lomi Lomi rely on to stimulate well-being throughout the body. 

While reflexology tends to focus on areas not as utilized in other forms of massage, such as the hands and feet, it still promotes many of the same benefits for its adherents. 

This guide will explore the origins, techniques, and benefits of reflexology and how to incorporate reflexology into your massage therapy career

Origins of Reflexology

Reflexology traces its roots back thousands of years to ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Chinese, and Native Americans. The earliest recorded evidence of reflexology dates back to ancient Egyptian wall paintings depicting practitioners working on the hands and feet of their clients.

The Chinese also practiced a form of foot therapy around 4,000 years ago, believing that vital energy, or “qi,” flowed through the body along energy pathways.

Reflexology, as it is known today, gained prominence in the early 20th century, thanks to the work of healthcare professionals like Dr. William Fitzgerald and physiotherapist Eunice Ingham. Dr. Fitzgerald introduced the concept of zone therapy, dividing the body into ten longitudinal zones with reflex areas on the feet and hands.

Eunice Ingham further developed this concept, mapping out specific reflex points on the feet that correspond to different organs and glands.

Techniques and Methods in Reflexology

Like acupuncture, reflexology revolves around the power of pressure points. The process involves applying pressure to specific points on your feet and hands with thumb or finger movements to promote healing in different parts of your body. 

While hard to wrap your head around, the vertical zones of our feet reflect the layout of our internal organs, according to this ancient technique. In turn, by applying targeted force to these zones, practitioners aim to promote relaxation and well-being throughout your whole system, including specific organs, such as your liver or gallbladder.

In fact, reflexology can even be practiced at home by yourself by gently applying pressure to the right spots in your foot. 

Reflexology as Complementary Medicine 

It’s important to note that reflexology is considered a complementary treatment and not a panacea for any serious ailment. Some research has suggested that reflexology is helpful in reducing pain for women suffering from breast cancer. Likewise, patients who had just undergone heart surgery reported pain relief from reflexology. 

While evidence is scant on the subject, renewed interest in the field has been making some pretty encouraging discoveries. 

Potential Benefits of Reflexology Massage

Reflexology shares many of the same benefits of massage that other traditional practices boast. For example, reflexology has been found to be helpful in easing symptoms of:

  • Pain
  • Stress
  • Anxiety

Likewise, reflexology was found to be helpful in clearing up sinuses, improving digestion, and even boosting fertility. 

Safety Measures in Practicing Reflexology

As a reflexologist, it’s essential to uphold safety measures and be mindful of the potential aftereffects like nausea. This makes sure you give your clients the best experience while avoiding any health risks.

The American Reflexology Certification Board emphasizes these precautions for ensuring client safety. They ask practitioners to avoid working with individuals who have skin diseases or inflammation in their feet or hands. 

Conditions such as blood clots, leg vein issues, and peripheral neuropathy are considered high-risk scenarios where reflexologists should tread carefully.

Becoming a Certified Reflexologist

To ensure safe practice while providing top-notch care, prospective therapists need formal training from accredited institutions like the NEPA School of Massage, followed by certification through organizations like the American Reflexology Certification Board.

Many massage therapy schools provide you with the foundation you need to understand pressure points in the body and start practicing reflexology. Be sure to sign up for our next semester’s classes to get a head start on your reflexologist career. 

FAQs: What is a Reflexology Massage?

What does a reflexology massage do?

A reflexology massage uses pressure points on the hands, feet, and ears to promote balance in your body’s energy flow. It can also reduce stress and boost overall well-being.

What is the difference between massage and reflexology?

While general massages target muscle tension, reflexology focuses specifically on pressure points that correlate with other areas of your body to improve organ function and overall health.

What happens during a reflexology session?

In a typical session, you relax while a practitioner applies specific pressures to targeted areas—usually starting with your feet—that correspond to different organs or systems in your body.