Tracing the foot's path to improve your health

Reflexology is an ancient healing art based on the principles that there are reflexes in the hands and feet that correspond to every part, organ and gland in the body.

This whole body treatment was first introduced in the West by Dr. William Fitzgerald in 1913. At this time Dr. Fitzgerald was a medical professional, working as an ear, nose and throat specialist and surgeon. However, when working with patients' feet, the doctor noted that when he applied pressure to specific parts, it sometimes affected another portion of the body in a positive way. Working from this newfound theory, Dr. Fitzgerald created his first reflexology chart. He divided the body into ten vertical zones. The zones traced reflexes on the hands and feet, and noted that when pressure was applied to these "zones" other areas and organs of the body responded.

Today, a reflexology therapist will still apply acupressure and massage to the ears, hands and feet within these same zones. The client is said to benefit from improved circulation, detoxification, reduced tension and the body's ability to heal itself. The Association of Reflexologists claims that this treatment method can be effective for back pain, migraines, infertility, arthritis and many other problems.

During a reflexology appointment, the therapist will ask you questions to determine your present condition. She or he will then apply pressure to the hands and feet - according to a reflexology foot map. Different spots will, theoretically, have an effect on different internal organs. So, you press on spot X on the sole of the foot, and healing takes place in, say, internal organ Y.

Reflexology tools are based on this same map that traces the reflexes in the human body. You can buy several popular tools to use at home, including:

  • Reflexology gloves - to massage the palms
  • Reflexology mats - for use in meditation and yoga
  • Reflexology socks - a reflexology foot chart printed on a sock
  • Reflexology kits - that often include a mix of foot and hand therapies
  • According to some reflexologists, stimulating nerve endings in these extremities has an effect on the whole body's nervous system, which promotes healing. Others take a more mystical approach, believing that "life energy" can be blocked or put into imbalance, and reflexology corrects this.

    We all know that having our feet massaged feels good - especially after a hard day of work. A good feeling can lead to endorphin release and decreased stress.

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