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F or over 5,000 years, reflexology massage has been practiced as a powerful complementary therapy thought to bring balance to the body and improve well-being. This ancient healing therapy is based on the idea that specific points on the feet, hands, and ears correspond to different areas, organs, and systems of the body.

It’s important to seek reflexology massage from a qualified practitioner who is well-versed in the therapy. With a trained reflexology practitioner, you may experience some of the incredible benefits of this ancient alternative therapy.

What is Reflexology Massage?

Based on the idea that specific points on the feet, hands, and ears correspond to different areas of the body, reflexology is an ancient healing modality with some incredible benefits.

It has been shown in studies to ease chemotherapy side effects, support women during pregnancy and labor, ease symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and address digestive issues. More broadly, receiving reflexology from a trained practitioner is thought to increase energy, boost circulation, aid in relaxation, and eliminate toxins from the body.

How Reflexology Helps Contribute to Well-Being

Similar to therapeutic practices like Shiatsu, acupuncture, and acupressure, reflexology contributes to overall well-being by helping to release energetic blockages in certain areas of the body — from the liver, to the joints, to the reproductive system, and beyond — through releasing tension in corresponding reflex zones in the feet and hands.

By providing measured pressure on specific points, reflexology experts work to stimulate the 7,000 nerve endings that exist in the feet [1]. By doing so, they can release blockages in certain areas, helping to support the body through illness and injury.

Top 10 Reflexology Benefits

1. Helps Eliminate Toxins from the Body

During a reflexology session, you may notice that certain areas on your feet feel more tender than others. The practitioner will probably spend a little extra time on these areas, knowing that tender spots on the feet can correspond to areas of congestion in other parts of the body.

According to the teachings of reflexology, it’s normal to build up toxins and blockages in different areas of the body over the course of a lifetime. These toxins can contribute to a general feeling of being unwell and prevent the body from healing from sickness or injury. Like Shiatsu and acupuncture, reflexology helps release this blocked energy throughout the body — helping to detoxify, eliminate toxins, and get the body back on track to wellness.

2. Ease the Pain of Arthritis

Arthritis is a common medical condition associated with pain and inflammation in joints like the knees, wrists, and hips. While those with arthritis benefit from seeking physical therapy, reflexology may also be a helpful complementary therapy.

For example, to address osteoarthritis in the knee joint, a practitioner might work the knee reflex point in the foot to strengthen the knee joint [2]. They may also stimulate spine reflex areas in order to strengthen the spine and take excess pressure off the knees.

Recently, researchers have studied reflexology’s effects on rheumatoid arthritis — an autoimmune disorder that causes painful joint swelling. In the study, reflexology was shown to relieve pain and fatigue for patients with rheumatoid arthritis [3].

3. Improve Circulation for Overall Health

When people think of circulation and massage, they probably envision the long, sweeping strokes of Swedish massage. However, reflexology has been shown in studies to boost circulation as well [4].

Increased circulation in the body is a powerful contributor to overall health. It helps flood the body’s cells with the oxygen they need to thrive, while ridding the body of toxins at the same time. This is why many people use reflexology as a complementary therapy to support overall health.

4. Address Digestive Issues

It’s difficult to directly access organs like the intestines, stomach, and colon that are involved with digestion. By stimulating certain areas on the feet and hands, reflexology can help bring balance to these organ systems — and rid blockages — in a safe and comfortable way.

For many patients, a reflexology massage session is helpful in managing digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. In fact, one study of reflexology’s effects on constipation showed that 94% of participants reported improvement in constipation after receiving reflexology [5].

5. Support Pregnancy and Labor

Reflexology is used to help pregnant women cope with many pregnancy-related symptoms, including [6]:

  • Ease pain in joints
  • Help with back pain
  • Moderate nausea and morning sickness
  • Treat insomnia
  • Relieve constipation

Because stimulating certain points on the feet is thought to cause uterine contractions, it’s important to only work with a trained professional when receiving prenatal reflexology. They will know which points to avoid during a session. However, once labor has begun, reflexology can be a powerful complementary therapy. In fact, studies have shown that pregnant women who receive reflexology during labor reported less pain [7].

6. Aid Relaxation & Ease Anxiety

Multiple studies have examined the way gentle, therapeutic touch can help people achieve a state of deep relaxation — and reflexology is no different [8]. As patients experience the gentle yet firm pressure on their feet throughout the session, they generally feel a loosening of tension throughout the body and mind.

This is thought to occur because of the way reflexology — and other manual therapies — stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body heal, seek balance, and digest [9]. Relaxation is powerful for full-body health, and can have the following effects:

  • Reduced anxiety and mental stress
  • Improved digestion
  • Cut down on harmful stress hormones like cortisol
  • Bring blood pressure into balance

7. Ease Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis causes a variety of symptoms, including muscle spasticity (contracted, painful muscles) and paresthesia — prickling, pins and needles sensation. In addition, those with MS might experience mental health symptoms like stress, anxiety, and depression.

In one study, reflexology was shown to significantly improve patients’ paresthesia, spasticity, and bladder symptoms. In other studies, research has demonstrated that reflexology has a significant impact on reducing anxiety and depression in women with multiple sclerosis, making it an exciting treatment option for people with this autoimmune disease [10].

8. Increase Energy

One of the major goals of any reflexology session is to restore balance throughout the body. Reflexology is thought to facilitate the body’s natural tendency towards healing, and therefore helps bodily systems get back into optimal function. As a result, many people experience increased energy as a result of a reflexology session.

In fact, practitioners can address fatigue by stimulating certain points on the feet. For example, stimulating the adrenal gland reflex point in the foot can help boost energy for those suffering from exhaustion [11].

9. Support General Pain Relief

As discussed, reflexology experts work with the 7,000 nerve endings in the feet to produce results. By stimulating these areas, it’s possible to relieve pain throughout the body. In fact, one study showed that using reflexology to manage pain can be as effective as painkillers in some circumstances [12]. To this end, reflexology sessions have been used to address:

  • Headache pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Stomach and digestive pain
  • Muscle and joint pain

When people are in pain, it’s difficult to relax. Because reflexology helps induce a state of relaxation in the body, this allows a person to break a cycle of pain and stress. This helps jump start the body’s natural healing abilities, which can be a powerful way to fight back against chronic pain [13].

10. Ease Chemotherapy Side Effects

Though chemotherapy treatments from cancer effectively fight against tumors, most people who receive chemo suffer side effects as a result. One study took a look at the effects of reflexology on women who’d received treatment for metastatic breast cancer.

The study found that women who received reflexology, in comparison to a placebo group, had less incidence of dyspnea — also known as shortness of breath [14]. Because reflexology is known to jump start the body’s healing process, receiving reflexology massage can be a soothing and relaxing complement to an individual’s cancer treatment [15].

Is Reflexology Right for You?

The ancient healing modality of reflexology can be a powerful complementary therapy to support your overall health and well-being. If you’re struggling from digestive issues, low energy, or arthritic pain — or simply could benefit from a relaxing massage — then scheduling a reflexology session with a trained practitioner might be a good option for you.

Rather Buy a Massage Wand?

Going to a professional massage therapist may be too expensive, or even time consuming for some, so why not give yourself a massage from home? Valm offers several different types of therapeutic handheld-massagers — both large and small, ergonomically designed handles, and even fully waterproof wands.