Reflexology: World Reflexology Week–What is reflexology?

By Susan Watson

Reflexology has its roots in every ancient culture. Wall carvings, papyrus dated 2500 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 named Dr. Fitzgerald used zone therapy for pain management and as a drug-free anesthetic. Fitzgerald discovered that putting pressure in the hands and feet would often relieve pain, as well as treat the underlying condition. He wrote a book called Zone Therapy, Relieving Pain at Home.

Modern-day M.D. Dr. Mehmet Oz, as seen on Oprah, Larry King Live and CNN, is a heart surgeon at Columbia University Hospital. Founder of the Complementary Medicine Program at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Oz 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 science. Reflexologists work reflex points on the feet, hands and ears that represent the mirrored image of the body. The nerve pathway in each foot 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 principle of reflexology is to reduce stress, thus restoring homeostasis, a Greek word meaning “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 vital energy pathways are blocked as a result 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. Each foot and each hand represents one-half of the body; the reflexes have correlation 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, please see my website,, and click on “Meet the Graduates.” If you are interested in becoming a certified reflexologist, Healthy Soles School of Reflexology, LLC is an accredited school.

Susan Watson, NCRT, AAED, is an accredited educator through ACARET, and is a National Board Certified Reflexology Therapist. She’s the author of Practical Reflexology, published by McGraw-Hill, and is founder and instructor at Healthy Soles School of Reflexology, LLC.

From the Oct. 20-26, 2010 issue

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