by Dr. Larry Wilson —
Foot and hand reflexology is an ancient and profound type of healing therapy that is extremely safe, simple and effective. The technique consists of firmly rubbing the feet or hands in particular ways.
Zone therapy is another term that is used to mean reflexology, as is the term acupressure. However, acupressure (which refers to the stimulation of various acupuncture meridians using pressure over the acupuncture points) is actually not the proper terminology. Reflexology works with a different system of channels that carry subtle energy throughout the body. For this reason, it is often referred to as channel therapy.
The reflex channels are a system of tiny tubes or energy channels that run vertically down the front and up the back of the body along its entire length. They connect to all organs, glands and tissues within human and animal bodies. The channels turn around at the feet and hands, which is why rubbing these locations is especially helpful. By stimulating the entire channel to empty or open, this action will move energy along the channel.
According to the theory of reflexology, thousands of these ultra-microscopic channels run the entire length of the body, although they cannot be seen under a microscope. They are arranged in bundles that connect to each toe and finger.
Each part of the feet and hands — top, bottom and sides — corresponds to a particular organ, gland or area of the body. For example, the large toe and all of the toes, to some degree, correspond or reflex to the head. The arch of the foot reflexes (corresponds) to the spine. The middle of the foot corresponds to the trunk and internal organs.
As you rub various parts of the feet or hands, sometimes you can feel bits of hard, sand-like crystals. This is a kind of sediment that builds up in the channels. When it is removed by rubbing properly, the channel opens or empties, and energy flows to the organ or gland to which the channel is connected. It is a complex system, but simple to work with.
The reflex channels are a very profound aspect of human physiology that are not well understood. For this reason (and perhaps others), this method is unfortunately not taught, used or recommended enough by the medical or even the holistic healing professions. However, all can use it and enjoy amazing health benefits.
When to use reflexology
Over the past 30 years, I have found that hand and foot reflexology is a wonderfully safe and effective method of healing. In addition, it is easy to do anywhere and can be done by almost anyone, including a child. In fact, it is great for babies who are not feeling well, for children, teenagers and the elderly. Babies and children, and even teens, often love a foot rub. It is also a nonsexual, but rather intimate and helpful way to connect with others.
No formal training is needed, although some instruction can be helpful. Many books and courses are available to teach its use. This article provides useful tips to help you get started. Depending upon where you live, you may also find a professional who offers this therapy.
Emergencies — Reflexology can be used for emergencies and may even save a life if used during a heart attack, stroke, shock or hemorrhage.
Chronic health conditions — Reflexology is an excellent treatment for chronic conditions, ranging from constipation, pain and subluxation of joints, to very serious conditions as well.
Healing reactions and toxin removal — Reflexology can help to remove all toxins and infections from the body. Certain channels of energy can be opened to improve your health status permanently and promote mental or spiritual development.
How to get started
The main thing you will need is a map of the feet and hands. These are available online and in health food stores.
In addition, certain stores sell reflexology implements that may be helpful. While these are not necessary, some people like to use foot rollers and other simple wooden or plastic devices to rub the feet and hands in particular ways. No other materials are required to perform reflexology.
Types of reflexology treatments
I suggest two different ways to perform reflexology on yourself or another person. They are:
1. A general or relaxation session — This type of session can help relax and tone the body, and relieve pain or other symptoms. It is also excellent for generalized infections such as colds or flus and for many other acute or chronic symptoms.
In a general reflexology session, you do not focus on any particular area of the foot or hand. Instead, you rub firmly, moving along the entire surface. If a spot appears tense or is tender and painful, spend a little more time working on it.
Often, the tension or pain will diminish after a minute or two. However, it is best to complete the entire treatment on both feet or both hands. A general session usually lasts between 10 and 20 minutes per foot or hand.
2. Spot therapy — This approach focuses on a particular organ, gland or area of the body, such as relieving a headache by rubbing the reflex areas on the foot that are related to the head and neck.
The following will enhance any reflexology session:
• Be sure you are comfortable. Lie down or sit comfortably in a recliner or other comfortable chair.
• Relax the entire body. In other words, make sure you are not tense anywhere.
• Be sure to drink water if you are thirsty or eat if you are hungry. In fact, I suggest drinking a small glass of water before each session, even if you do not think you are thirsty, as this will often help the session to be more successful.
• Breathe deeply before and during the session. This is less important, but can help.
• Let the practitioner know if the rubbing is too hard or not hard enough. Also, be sure to alert the person who is treating you if an area needs more attention. Tell the person exactly where to rub and how to rub the area. This can be very important in some cases.
• Learn about rubbing the sides and tops of the toes. Also, the crevices between the toes and other unusual spots often will be found to be very sensitive.
• Sessions usually need not be longer than 10 to 20 minutes per foot or hand. At times, a longer session is helpful. At other times, a shorter session is adequate. Practice will help you determine the best amount of time.
• Some professional reflexologists will begin by soaking your feet in warm water. This is not only relaxing, but it is also more hygienic for the practitioner, although it is not necessary.
• Some people like to use oil when performing a reflexology session. This allows the practitioner’s hands to slide along the foot or hand more easily. I do not feel this is necessary, but some people prefer it.
• Reflexology tools can be helpful. These are usually rubber or wooden rollers or balls to be rolled under the feet or other implements. They can be very helpful if used correctly.
A general session for relaxation
This is a very worthwhile daily or even twice daily use of reflexology. Here are some tips:
• The order of treatment is not critical. However, I was taught to begin with the left foot or the left hand. After finishing the left foot or hand, move to the right one.
• Begin on the top of each foot or back of the hand. On the top of the foot or back of the hand only, rub from the ankle or wrist toward the toes or fingers. Then rub the bottom of the foot or palm of the hand. Next work on the tips of the toes or fingers, moving toward the heel of the foot or wrist.
• It may help to always move in straight lines. Once again, this is not that critical in most cases.
• Rub quite firmly, enough to cause some pain. If, however, the person you are treating becomes tense and complains, ease up a little until he relaxes enough to continue more firmly with the therapy. Keep in mind that it may take a few sessions for someone to get used to reflexology and to trust you with his or her feet or hands.
Focusing on a particular area or spot requires that you have a good map or chart of the reflex channels on the feet and hands. You can rub the areas that you feel need attention and use the technique to help relieve symptoms.
Reflexology works quickly on many acute symptoms. Chronic conditions will require multiple sessions of both general and spot therapy in many cases.
Spot therapy is excellent as a remedy for headaches, backaches, poisoning of certain kinds, infections and other symptoms such as an upset stomach or even an emotional upset. A few simple rules are:
1. Rub the reflex area you are targeting on both feet. Even if the chart shows the problem area to be related to just one hand or foot, work on both to enhance the results.
2. If possible, always follow your spot treatment with a quick general foot or hand rub. This can help balance the entire body and help relieve symptoms and tone the body.
3. Do not overdo a spot treatment. Usually 10 to 20 minutes is enough. In a few cases, more time may be needed.
4. Be careful not to rub too hard. Some people will rub too lightly, but others definitely rub too hard. It should hurt a little, but not be unbearable.
Rubbing too hard can tear blood vessels, especially in older people and in babies. Be careful not to do this, as you will then be unable to do another reflexology treatment until the injured hand or foot heals. Short movements are sometimes better than longer, deeper movements for this reason.
Popping the fingers or toes during treatment
Pulling or “popping” the toes, in particular, should be part of a complete reflexology session. This is relaxing and helps clear the energy flow through the joints of the feet and the hands.
To pull or pop correctly and without injury, first take hold of a toe or finger firmly, holding it on the sides or the top and bottom with several fingers. Then pull the toe or finger slightly away from the foot or hand, and quickly bend it downward.
Upon pulling the toe or finger, a quick release of tension may occur, usually with a slight popping sound. Do not worry if this does not happen and, in general, do not try it more than twice. Popping occurs easily in some people; while in others, it takes more pressure or does not occur at all.
Always pull or pop the foot or hand joints gently, as too much force could damage the joint. The popping sound can be grating or alarming for some people. When done correctly, however, I am not aware that it causes any damage. I know of people who have done it thousands of times, with no apparent ill effects.
Foot and hand reflexology, also called zone therapy or channel therapy, is one of the finest natural therapies in the world. It is readily available, often can be obtained at no cost, and is amazingly powerful when understood and practiced correctly.
For more information, I suggest you read the following books by Eunice D. Ingham, one of the older masters of this technique: Stories the Feet Can Tell Thru Reflexology and Stories the Feet Have Told Thru Reflexology.
In addition, a number of schools around the world teach reflexology. See: www.reflexologyschools.org for a list of many schools.
Dr. Lawrence Wilson has a medical degree, has been in the health field for more than 25 years and is the author of several books. www.drlwilson.com or 928-445-7690.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 2, Oct/Nov 2011.