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Reflexology and Why You Should Care?



Reflexology, also known as foot zone therapy, is an alternative medical practice involving the application of pressure to specific points on the feet and hands. This is done using thumb, finger, and hand massage techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a pseudoscientific system of zones and reflex areas that purportedly reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work on the feet and hands causes a physical change to the supposedly related areas of the body.

Historians sustain that reflexology dates back to yesteryears. The founder of the reflexology is unknown. However, the development of reflexology contains both Western and Eastern sway still in use today such as theories, science, and practices of reflexology. The origins of reflexology date back to 2500 BC to ancient Egypt. Supporting evidence in the ancient Egyptian papyrus (ancient documentation) insinuates reflexology may have been used as it illustrates medical ancient Egyptian practitioners performing hand and foot treatments to patients. Archaeologists during excavation in Saqqara discovered wall paintings in a physician’s tomb known as Ankhmahor dating back to 2330 BC. The paintings illustrated people welcome treatments on their feet. Further discoveries have Ben cited in China, Japan, and India where stone carvings have been brought to light elucidate ancient practices of healing techniques such as the feet. In Greece, historians suggest the existence of a health spa in ancient times called "The Delphi" where massage, hydrotherapy, and reflexology were used to promote relaxation and well-being. 


During the early part of the nineteenth century, an American doctor William H. Fitzgerald began to study the technique of healing which he referred to as zone analgesia (the relief of pain). Through extensive research, he suggested that when pressure is directed to certain areas of the body it called into existence a dullness sensation effect which may be used to help reduce the feeling of pain. In his experiments, he used clothes pegs, elastic bands, and aluminum combs to place pressure on parts of the body to reduce pain.


The reflexology principle suggests that areas on the soles of our feet or hands – contain millions of nerve endings – correspond to other parts of the body. All systems and organs of the whole body are said to be mirrored or reflected in smaller peripheral areas. Reflexologists believe that various areas – known as reflex points – correspond to specific organs of your body and bodily systems. For example, the liver is situated in the arch of the foot. Applying pressure to specific reflex points is believed to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. Stimulation one receives from reflexology gathers the body into healing itself by improving circulation, reducing stress, pain and restoring natural balance,' says O'Connell. 'A therapist may apply pressure to your big toe and ankle to calm your endocrine and reproductive system, helping to relieve PMS or menopausal symptoms.'

On your initial consultation, your reflexologist may ask you about your medical history, health issues, lifestyle, and diet, they will then apply painless pressure to your feet using their thumb and forefinger to identify which areas of your body aren't functioning fitly. Sessions usually last 30 to 60 minutes and focus on the soles of your feet, 'unless you are very ticklish, in which case they can massage your hands,' Some reflexologists use five or six sessions to treat specific health conditions and you do not have to undress.'


Reflexologists do not claim to diagnose or cure any ailments. While reflexology is connected to a huge variety of potential benefits, only a few of them have been observed in scientific studies. These include reduced stress, anxiety and pain, and improvements in mood and general health. This is because your nervous system – which controls almost every aspect of your health and wellbeing – can be influenced by outside factors, including touch.


Applying pressure to the hands and feet 'can assist to enhance your blood supply, reduce any tension and bring balance to your body,'. 'It can also provide good pain relief for those suffering from osteoarthritis, but make sure you consult your doctor before treatment. The theory behind reflexology is that it can help your body restore its balance naturally and can leave you feeling relaxed.'


Reflexology is also used to treat symptoms of the following:


  • Back pain

  • Migraine

  • Poor digestion

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Respiratory problems

  • Asthma

  • Headache

  • Bladder problems

  • Menopausal symptoms

  • Period pain


When congested reflex points are treated, they may be painful, tender or feel uncomfortable. Your reflexologist may spend extra time on these points during the session. Over time, the soreness should decrease with pressure. Your foot has 7,000 nerve endings, so when pressure is applied, it may hurt – but only temporarily.


'If you experience any pain, tightness, or discomfort during a reflexology session, your therapist will apply pressure to reduce this, and to bring your body back into balance,' says Rowe. 'Reflexology shouldn't be a hugely painful experience, so let your therapist know if you're in a lot of discomforts.'


Reflexology works on an individual basis, like all complementary therapies, so you can't be fully certain it will work for you, Rowe adds. 'Before starting reflexology, let your doctor know – especially if you have an existing condition, such as diabetes (it may interfere with medication) epilepsy or circulatory problems,' he says. Reflexology is not suitable for everyone, and shouldn't be used if you suffer from verrucas or athlete's foot, a recently broken or fractured bone in your ankle or foot, or broken skin.

Reflexology may not be a scientifically proven medical treatment for disease, but studies suggest it’s a helpful complementary treatment, especially for stress and anxiety.

Reflexology Therapy
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Rethabile Tsephe - Africa Country Lead 


She is a mental health consultant who encourages the use of expressive writing, emotional intelligence as key competencies as a human resource tool to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people. She has collaborated with a massage therapist and sports coach to introduce innovative interventions. She has a Diploma in Adult basic education and training from the University of South Africa and various complementary qualifications. She is currently pursuing a diploma in sociology to enhance her comprehension of “human behavior” in support of her research work.


Rethabile is one of the researchers at the Global Foundation of cyber studies and research. Her tenacity and willingness to learn will provide an opportunity for her to be among great thought leaders and influence communication & decision making.

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