Reflexology: Is reflexology a new complementary therapy?

By Susan Watson

Reflexology has its roots in every ancient culture. Wall carvings, papyrus dated 2,500 B.C. portraying Egyptian physicians working on hands and feet. History offers vivid accounts of ancient healers applying pressure on the feet, which produced positive effects and resulted in better health.

The scientific community used reflexology and called this technique zone therapy. In the early 1900s in America, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, Dr. Fitzgerald, used zone therapy for pain management and as a drug-free anesthetic. Fitzgerald discovered putting pressure in the hands and feet would often relieve pain and treat the underlying condition. He wrote books called Zone Therapy, relieving pain at home.

Modern-day M.D. Dr. Mehmet Oz, as seen on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live, is a heart surgeon at Columbia University Hospital. He is the founder of the Complementary Medicine Program at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, and he uses reflexology on his patients after surgery to promote a faster healing response. The word “complementary” means it complements conventional medicine.

Reflexology is an art and a science. Reflexology works reflex points on the feet, hands and ears that represent the mirrored image of the body. The nerve pathway in both feet creates an electrochemical flow that communicates to the entire nervous system.

Through the application of thumb- and finger-walking techniques, reflexology connects to the peripheral nervous system, and encourages the body to relax. Reflexology is not a foot massage. Massage is palpitation of soft tissue and muscle, whereas reflexology is the stimulation of nerve pathways.

The principles of reflexology are to reduce stress and restore homeostasis, a Greek word meaning “for balance.” Some examples are blood sugar levels, body temperature and heart rate.

When homeostasis is maintained, the body is healthy. Our bodies are equipped with self-healing facilities, but these often fail to work properly because the vital energy pathways are blocked because of degeneration and stress.

A trained certified reflexologist destresses the body, therefore accelerating healing of the body and boosting the immune system. The theory of reflexology is that tension, congestion and possible diseases are mirrored on the feet and hands. Both feet and hands represent one-half of the body—the reflexes correlate to every part of the body. Reflexologists do not diagnose specific conditions; but if a particular reflex is tender or if they feel an area of congestion under the skin when pressed, it indicates the corresponding body area is in need of stimulation to boost its natural healing powers.

If you would like to find a trained certified reflexologist in the Rockford area, please see my Web site,, and click on “Meet the Graduates.” If you’re interested in becoming a certified reflexologist, call me at (815) 986-8308.

Susan Watson, a National Board Certified Reflexology Therapist (NCRT), is author of Practical Reflexology, a reflexology certification textbook published by McGraw-Hill, and is founder and instructor of Healthy Soles School of Reflexology.

From the September 9-15, 2009 issue

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