After a day on our feet, most of us enjoy a good foot massage. It relieves pain, alleviates tension, and just plain feels good. But did you know that with a few modifications, a foot massage can have numerous other health benefits?
Reflexology is often considered the same thing as foot massage, but it’s actually an ancient practice. Evidence of its practice has been found on Egyptian wall paintings dating back as far as 2330 BC, and it is believed to be even older than that. Reflexology has much in common with the Oriental practices of shiatsu and acupuncture, both of which are believed to have originated around the same time as reflexology.
There are some important differences between reflexology and an ordinary foot massage. While a foot massage usually involves the entire foot or the portion that is in pain, reflexology involves specific spots on the feet. The goals of reflexology usually have nothing at all to do with the feet themselves. Rather, the purpose is to either benefit a specific part of the body or promote overall health.
Reflexology utilizes reflex areas in the feet that correspond to various body systems. There are surprisingly many reflex points. Practitioners utilize a reflexology chart to determine the location of the reflex point that is linked to the patient’s problem area. Each foot represents its half of the body and its organs, tissues and vessels.
In reflexology, specific types of touch are used to stimulate the reflex points. Traditionally these points have been said to affect our “life energy,” or qi, a concept also addressed in acupuncture and other types of traditional Asian medicine. But modern science has rejected these claims due to the fact that there is no scientific evidence that qi exists. Many do, however, recognize that reflexology offers some benefits, attributing this to its effect on the nerves and circulation.
Even though it is an ancient practice, reflexology still receives a great deal of criticism today. As an alternative therapy, it has not been the subject of extensive study, making it easy for critics to cite lack of evidence that it works.
Many countries also have lax requirements for reflexologists, opening the practice to unqualified practitioners. And although the points to be used for each part of the body are very specific, there is no consensus on how reflexology works. These criticisms are responsible for keeping reflexology out of mainstream medicine.
Reflexology is one of the few healing techniques that carries virtually no risk for the patient. But it has yet to gain widespread acceptance from the medical community. Still, many patients are seeking it out to complement or replace regular medical treatment.
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