If you’ve ever lived in or visited a bustling metropolis like New York City or Los Angeles, you’ve almost certainly seen reflexology storefronts offering to massage your feet. And if you’ve never treated yourself to a foot rub during a long day of walking, then you’re truly missing out on a fabulous experience.
But reflexology of the feet is more involved than just simple massage therapy. It is a centuries-old practice rooted in ancient Chinese medicine that involves touching specific points on the body (feet are most common, but reflexology applies to other body parts like ears, hands, and face). Practitioners of the medicine believe that certain organs and bodily structures correspond to the points on the feet — therefore, by rubbing, say, the ‘heart point’ of the foot, the patient will receive healing of their actual heart organ.
“Reflexology is pressure points on the foot which are energetically connected to other areas in the body” explains Juhi Singh, Chinese herbalist, acupuncturist, and founder of the Juhi Center. “Different points on the feet can help stimulate and pass energy to organs throughout the rest of the body. For example, points on the tip of the toes can stimulate the head, while the ball of your foot can reflect in your heart and chest.”
Unsurprisingly, modern Western medicine typically scoffs at “alternative” treatments such as reflexology. But even mainstream doctors will admit that the practice can significantly improve circulation throughout the entire body; and that’s reason enough to seek reflexology treatments in our opinion.
“Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is an alternative therapy which involves applying pressure to the feet with the help of your thumb, fingers, and props without using oil or lotion,” says Naveen Sharma, naturopathy counselor at YO1 Wellness Center in the Catskills, New York. “You can get improved blood circulation, it improves your nerve response in your body, and it gives you balanced energy levels.”
Studies show that reflexology of the feet can help as a complimentary therapy
Sharma explains that the essence of reflexology lies in the stimulation of nerve tissue.
“Reflexology works with the central nervous system through nerve endings of the peripheral nerve,” says Sharma. “By applying pressure on peripheral nerve endings, we stimulate the nerve center related to specific organs in the body. The foot, generally, is divided into different zones and specific parts of it represent different organs in your body.”
From there, you can dive much deeper into the details of reflexology, like which points respond to certain pressures, and many other nuances of the practice. Reflexology is still such a popular practice (and gaining even more popularity thanks to modern exposure from YouTube and other mediums), that it is widely available in almost every city.
One 2015 study even admitted that reflexology should be a part of a regular health maintenance routine, even though evidence for legitimate healing is still scanty.
“Reflexology practice should be implemented as a complementary therapy in developed countries due to its functions which can give many benefits to bodily health condition…” the study said. “The basics of reflexology, which can be done by ourselves, helps to improve the performance in our life day by day.”
And even if you can’t access or afford a trained therapist to massage your feet, you can still benefit from self-massage, spiked mats, grass-walking, or walking on smooth pebbles. The key is to stimulate the nerve endings on the feet daily to keep the rest of the body as healthy as possible.