The Ancient Healing Art of Reflexology

Article by Rita Briffa

The ancient healing art of Reflexology enhances the natural ability of the body to heal itself by restoring and maintaining the body’s natural balance.

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What is Reflexology?

Reflexology is a natural healing art based on the principles that there are reflexes in the hands and feet that correspond to every part, gland and organ of the body.  Reflexology is a holistic therapy. Reflexology uses massage to reflex areas found in the feet and the hands. It is healthier to use the feet for Reflexology.

In the feet, there are reflex areas corresponding to all the parts of the body. These areas are arranged in such a way as to form a map of the body in the feet. The right foot corresponds to the right side of the body and the left foot corresponds to the left side of the body.

By having the whole body represented in the feet, Reflexology offers the healthy method of treating the whole body and of treating the body holistically. This is an important factor of a natural therapy and allows not only symptoms to be treated but also the causes of symptoms.

Through application of pressure on these reflexes, reflexology relieves tension, improves circulation and promotes the natural function of the related areas of the body.

In ancient times, we stimulated reflexes naturally by walking barefoot over rocks, stones and rough ground, or by using our hands more often to climb, build or work. In today’s modern world we have lost much of nature’s way of maintaining a balanced and healthy equilibrium. Reflexology helps to restore this balance and promote natural health and vitality.

Although Reflexology does not diagnose or treat specific ailments by definition, it has proven highly successful over time to relieve symptoms or ease pain or discomfort that have manifested themselves physically in the body – either as a result of stress, trauma or disease.

Reflexology does not claim to be a ‘cure-all’ but numerous different disorders have been successfully treated by this method. These disorders include such things as migraine, sinus problems, hormonal imbalances, breathing disorders, digestive problems, circulatory problems, back problems and tension and stress. Most people who have experienced treatment would agree that the method can be most beneficial and is also a very relaxing therapy.

Reflexology is a therapeutic method of relieving pain. It stimulates specific pressure points on the feet and hands. This controlled pressure alleviates the source of the discomfort. In good health, Reflexology is effective for promoting wellbeing and for preventing illness as it may be for relieving symptoms of stress, injury, and illness.

Reflexologists work according to maps of predefined pressure points that are located on the hands and feet. These pressure points are connected directly through the nervous system and affect the bodily organs and glands. The reflexologist works on the pressure points according to specific techniques of reflexology therapy. By means of this touching therapy, any part of the body that is the source of pain, illness, or potential weakness can be strengthened through the application of pressure at the respective foot or hand location.

Origins of reflexology

Reflexology is an ancient healing art. Although its origins are not well documented, there is evidence that it was practiced in ancient Egypt, China and India.

There are pictures on the walls of a Sixth Dynasty Egyptian tomb (c. 2450 B.C.) that show two seated men receiving massage on their hands and feet. From Egypt Reflexology may have entered the Western world during the conquests of the Roman Empire.

Reflexology has also been traced to pre-dynastic China (possibly as early as 3000 B.C.) and to ancient Indian medicine. The Inca civilization may have used the theories of reflexology and passed on the practice of this treatment to the Native Americans.

In the 1890s Sir Henry Head first studied the notions of reflexology in the U.K. At the same time therapists in Germany and Russia were researching similar notions of reflexology with a different focus.

Less than twenty years later, William H. Fitzgerald presented a similar perception that he called zone therapy. Fitzgerald’s zone theory was a method of relieving pain through the application of pressure to specific locations throughout the entire body. Fitzgerald divided the body into 10 vertical zones, five on each side, which extended from the head to the fingertips and toes, and from front to back. Every aspect of the human body appears in one of these 10 zones, and each zone has a reflex area on the hands and feet. Fitzgerald and his colleague, Dr. Edwin Bowers, demonstrated that by applying pressure on one area of the body, they could reduce pain in a corresponding part. In 1917, Fitzgerald and Bowers published Relieving Pain at Home, an explanation of zone therapy.

In the 1930s, Eunice D. Ingham went further into the theory of reflexology. It was ascertained that pressure points on the human foot were situated in a mirror image of the corresponding organs of the body.

Ingham formed the basis of reflexology, in Stories the Feet Can Tell, published in 1938. Although Ingham’s work in reflexology was inaccurately described as zone therapy by some, there are differences between the two therapies of pressure therapy.

Among the more marked differences, reflexology defines a precise correlation between pressure points and afflicted areas of the body. Furthermore, Ingham divided each foot and hand into 12 respective pressure zones, in contrast to the 10 vertical divisions that encompass the entire body in Fitzgerald’s zone therapy.

In 1968 Dwight Byers and Eusebia Messenger, established the National Institute of Reflexology. By the early 1970s the Institute had grown and was renamed the International Institute of Reflexology.

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Recent popularity of reflexology

For several reasons, in recent years reflexology has enjoyed a lot of popularity. Today we are exposed to high levels of stress in our jobs, our homes and travels. Stress is without a doubt one of the main causes of physical and mental pain and suffering, as well as contributing to making symptoms, other diseases or conditions much worse. Reflexology is a great stress reducer.

Even though many people are trying to eat organic or healthy foods, even those ‘healthy’ foods grown today are grown in soil conditions that are greatly depleted in basic minerals and nutrients compared to the days of our grandparents. This means that even though people are trying to improve their diet, it is not easy to do. This lack of minerals combined with stress puts more pressure on our immune system and health. Reflexology works to allow the body to work to heal itself and normalize functions.

People are turning more and more to complimentary or natural health care that focuses on pro-active maintenance and holistic or entire body well being.

Reflexology offers an all-natural therapy that does not require anything other than gentle manipulation to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms to normalize and heal.  It is gaining popularity primarily due to the enthusiasm of those who have found and realized the benefits.

How does it work?

In a typical reflexology treatment, the therapist and patient have a preliminary discussion prior to therapy, to enable the therapist to focus more accurately on the patient’s specific complaints and to determine the appropriate pressure points for treatment.

A reflexology session involves pressure treatment that is most commonly administered in foot therapy sessions of approximately 40–45 minutes in duration. The foot therapy may be followed by a brief 15-minute hand therapy session. No artificial devices or special equipment are associated with this therapy. The human hand is the primary tool used in reflexology. The therapist applies controlled pressure with the thumb and forefinger, generally working toward the heel of the foot or the outer palm of the hand. Reflexology therapy is not massage, and it is not a substitute for medical treatment.

Reflexology is a complex system that identifies and addresses the mass of 7,000 nerve endings that are contained in the foot. Additional reflexology addresses the nerves that are located in the hand. This is a completely natural therapy that affords relief without the use of drugs.

Reflexology is safe

Reflexology is extremely safe. It may even be self-administered in a limited form whenever desired. The qualified reflexologist offers a clear and open disclaimer that reflexology does not constitute medical treatment in any form, nor is reflexology given as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. The ultimate purpose of the therapy is to promote wellness; fundamentally it is a form of preventive therapy. Reflexology compliments other medical treatments and relieves pain and stimulates healing.

People with serious and long-term medical problems are urged to seek the advice of a physician. A consultation with a reflexologist is recommended in order to determine the safety and appropriateness of reflexology therapy for a specific health problem or condition.

Preparations

In order to realize maximum benefit from a reflexology session, the therapist as well as the patient should be situated so as to afford optimal comfort for both. Patients in general receive treatment in a reclining position, with the therapist positioned as necessary—to work on the bare feet, or alternately on the bare hands.

A reflexology patient removes both shoes and socks in order to receive treatment. No other preparation is involved. No prescription drugs, creams, oils, or lotions are used on the skin.

How Can Reflexology Help You?

The body has the ability to heal itself. Following illness, stress, injury or disease, it is in a state of “imbalance”, and vital energy pathways are blocked, preventing the body from functioning effectively. Reflexology can be used to restore and maintain the body’s natural equilibrium and encourage healing.

A reflexologist uses hands only to apply gentle pressure to the feet. For each person the application and the effect of the therapy is unique. Sensitive, trained hands can detect tiny deposits and imbalances in the feet, and by working on these points, the reflexologist can release blockages and restore the free flow of energy to the whole body.

Tensions are eased, and circulation and elimination is improved. This gentle therapy encourages the body to heal itself at its own pace, often counteracting a lifetime of misuse.

What Happens When You Go For Treatment?

On your first visit there is a preliminary talk with the practitioner. The reflexologist then begins to work on your feet, or hands if necessary, noting problem areas. There may be discomfort in some places, but it is fleeting, and is an indication of congestion or imbalance in a corresponding part of the body. For the most part, the sensation is pleasant and soothing. Reflexology will relax you while stimulating the body’s own healing mechanisms.

Usually a treatment session lasts for about one hour. A course of treatment varies in length depending on your body’s needs. Your reflexologist will discuss this with you at the first session. After the first treatment or two your body may respond in a very definite way: you may have a feeling of well being and relaxation; or you may feel lethargic, nauseous or tearful, but this is transitory. It is, however, vital information for reflexologist, as it shows how your body is responding to treatment.

Who can benefit from reflexology?

Since reflexology treats the whole person, not the symptoms of disease, most people benefit from treatment. The therapy brings relief to a wide range of acute and chronic conditions, and is suitable for all ages.

Once your body is in-tune, it is wise to have regular treatments in order to help maintain health and well being. An increasing number of people are using this safe, natural therapy as a way of relaxing, balancing and harmonizing the body.

Benefits of reflexology

Reflexology promotes healing by stimulating the nerves in the body and encouraging the flow of blood. In the process, reflexology not only relieves pain, but also heals the source of the pain.

Reflexologists relate numerous success stories in the treatment of a variety of conditions and injuries. Persons who suffer from chronic conditions are encouraged to experience reflexology therapy to alleviate its symptoms. Frequent brief sessions of reflexology therapy are also recommended as an alternative to drug therapy for controlling muscle pain associated with fibromyalgia. Reflexology is also effective in relieving difficult breathing caused by tightness in the muscles of the patient’s neck and throat.

Benefits of Reflexology:

  • Relieves sore and tired feet by reducing bloating and stimulating nerve function
  • Improves body posture and blood circulation
  • Reduces depression and brings on a deep state of relaxation,
  • Relieves the pain associated with arthritis
  • Helps digestion and eliminates toxins,
  • Prevents migraines,
  • Speeds recovery after injury or surgery,
  • Helps relieve sleep disorders,
  • Soothes the pains of pregnancy, even those occurring after the baby is born.
  • Assists pain management in cancer, MS, arthritis, fibromylgia and other chronic conditions

How to find a good therapist?

There are several good reflexology therapists. In searching for a good therapist; it is advisable to go with your gut feeling. You cannot decide solely on the prices they charge as this can be misleading. A high price does not mean the best service.

So it is suggested that you ask your friends or relatives who made use of the services by this therapist. Or else browse the website or the social media and get an idea on how they work and any reviews or comments on their services.

And finally reflexology cannot go wrong. So in the event that you go and do not feel satisfied with the service, then you can decide not to go again. Or you may be satisfied and make another appointment.


Rita Briffa, Wellbeing Consultant gives treatments with Reiki, Reflexology, Talking Therapy (Holistic Guidance), Bach Flower Remedies and Encaustic Art therapies.

Rita also teaches Reiki at all levels up to Master Teacher level.

Rita Briffa

Wellbeing Consultant

B.A. (Gen.) M.A. (Qual) Certificate in Management (MIM)

Traditional Reiki Master Teacher,

Diploma in Bach Flower Remedies,

Certificate in Gestalt Psychotherapy,

Certificate in Reflexology,

Encaustic Art and Colour Therapy Healing,

Website: www.wellbeingconsultantmalta.com

E-mail: ritabriffa@gmail.com                                                                                            Skype. rita.briffa

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