Reflexology Massage Therapy
Reflexology is a specific type of massage modality that focuses on the hands and, more commonly, the feet. The basis for this modality stems from both ancient China as well as ancient Egypt. Today, reflexology massage utilizes the stimulus/reflex principle in an attempt to relax or sedate overactive reflexive points or stimulate underactive reflexive points, respectively.
The underlying idea for this massage modality is that relaxation, sedation, or stimulation of reflexive points is responsible for initiating the body's various electrical and biochemical activities. Therefore, while reflexology massage focuses on the hands and feet, the effects are often thought to correspond to a number of different organs in the body, aiding in overall health and wellbeing.
The human foot contains thousands of nerve endings, one hundred and seven ligaments, thirty-four joints, twenty-six bones, and nineteen muscles. Comparatively, the human hand, which also contains thousands of nerve endings, is composed of one hundred and twenty-three ligaments, thirty-four muscles, twenty-nine bones, and the same number of joints.
Nerve endings in both the feet as well as the hands are responsible for sending various communication signals to the human brain, alerting us, for instance, of the presence of a rock in our shoe or a hot surface that should not be touched. In reflexology, the concept is that the nerve endings in our feet and hands are also capable of communicating with other organs in the body besides the brain. By relaxing, sedating, or stimulating reflexive points, the massage therapist who specializes in reflexology massage is capable of sending communication signals to other parts of the body that may be either hyperactive or hypoactive.
People seek reflexology massage therapy as a complementary treatment for a variety of medical conditions. Some of these medical conditions include tension headaches, insomnia, arthritis, digestive disorders, hormonal imbalances, depression, anxiety, and back pain.
Recent studies have also suggested that reflexology massage therapy may have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes, may aid in lowering blood pressure and incontinence (Song 2015), and may also be effective for tingling in patients with multiple sclerosis (Yadav 2015). Other studies, conducted by Kunz and Kunz (2208), have noted that reflexology can have an impact on specific organs, can reduce certain kinds of symptoms, can have a relaxation effect, and can aid in pain reduction. With regard to certain kinds of cancer treatments, studies have demonstrated that reflexology massage can aid in the reduction of pain, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms associated with chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Contraindications for receiving reflexology massage therapy include the presence of foot ulcers, foot or hand fractures, unhealed wounds in the hands or feet, or active gout. Caution should also be exercised for people with vascular disease or osteoarthritis or current conditions involving thrombosis or embolism. Women in their first trimester of pregnancy are also discouraged from receiving reflexology massage therapy.
While not intended to replace conventional medical treatment, reflexology massage therapy can assist in improving circulation and reducing pain, as well as other symptoms, associated with a variety of different medical conditions. This massage modality, which assumes a direct communicative connection between the hands and feet to other parts of the human body, has been utilized since ancient times to promote both a healthy as well as a balanced sense of overall well-being.