Q: What is Reflexology Therapy? An ancient healing art (it’s been around for over 4000 years), based on the fact that there are nerve endings and zones in the feet, hands and ears (and other areas) which correspond directly to specific glands, organs and parts of the body. In each foot, for example, there are roughly 7200 nerve endings – each one of which is connected to a specific part of the body. The feet really are a map of the body – and Reflexology Therapists are fond of saying that “the feet don’t lie”.

Q: How does it work?  By applying pressure with our fingers or thumbs on specific points on the feet, for example, effects a response in a particular gland or organ in a related area in the body. This works through the “autonomic nervous system”, which is the “electrical box” of the body.

It can be compared to an internal massage of the body – pressing a specific pressure point sends a “charge” from the nerve endings at one end of a nerve relay (the feet) and awakens or excites the nerve endings at the other end (the body). Reflexology is also known to stimulate the release of endorphins (feel good hormones) in the body.

Q: What are the benefits?

There are many benefits, but the 3 main ones are:
• an increase in circulation – of blood and lymph
• a relaxation response in the body
• a release of tension wherever tension is being held in the body

Q: How long has it been around?

Reflexology has been around at least 3000 – 4000 years in various older cultures such as Egypt, China, Peru, some native Indian cultures of North America; in the tomb of the healer in Egypt, there exists a well known pictograph of healers doing hand and foot pressure techniques on receivers. In China, there are ancient cave drawings in the same vein. Many North American native peoples consider the feet to be very sacred because of their contact with the earth, and so they have practiced a form of reflexology for centuries in their cultures.

In western cultures such as North America, Reflexology therapy has been around for about 100 years. An Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, Dr. William Fitzgerald, studied anesthetic techniques through using pressure points on the hands and feet. He brought the knowledge to America and his colleague, Dr Riley, wrote a booklet entitled: “For that Toothache, press your toes”. Shortly afterward, a lady named Eunice Ingham elaborated on the points of the feet and hands and developed a detailed chart, which maps the related organs and body parts found in each foot, variations of which are in use today around the world.

Q: What does a session look like?

First of all, the great thing about it is that you need only remove your shoes and socks – in the case of foot reflexology – or in the case of Hand reflexology, you can just sit back, relax and enjoy. No special tables or tools are needed. The Reflexology Therapist will have you complete a confidential health questionnaire. He/she will then begin the session by doing some relaxation techniques on the foot, which are designed to “warm up” the areas to be worked on. Specific points are then worked in a methodical way, and pressure is adapted to the person’s comfort level.

Many reflexologists do home visits. Others have home offices or work in health clinics or studios. You can be sitting on your lazy boy, or even a regular chair if need be. Otherwise, the reflexologist may have a special “anti-gravity” chair for you to relax in, or a massage table that you can lie on. Warning – you may fall into a deep sleep!

Q: How long is a session?

A session usually lasts about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, but can be shorter, as in the case of the sick, the elderly or the young. We are also present at fairs, conferences and special events, where those in attendance receive from 10 to 30 minutes of blissful respite from being on their feet. Reflexology is increasingly popular in the workplace, where, instead of a coffee break, an employee can benefit from 15 to 30 minute sessions, and thus feel more invigorated and ready to get back to work. This makes a great gift for special occasions like employee appreciation days, at home “spa days”, “wedding party treats” etc.

Q: Can anyone receive a session?

Yes – from the very young to the very old, and in varying stages of health. Princess Di was a huge fan (as is the Royal family in general) the late Pope received a session from a well known Swiss priest, Father Josef, who popularized reflexology in Taiwan and who trained thousands of family members to do Reflexology on their loved ones.

Q: What is the average cost of a session?

The price of a one hour session varies between $60 to $110. Some Reflexology Therapists work on a sliding scale (sign up for 3 or more sessions and get a discount, for example). Others reduce their fee for seniors etc.

Q: Can a person work on their own points in the hands or feet?

Yes – definitely. Many of my students decide to take the certification course because they have seen the benefits for themselves in their lives or for someone they love who has benefited from their acupressing a few points of the feet. There are certain specific points, for example, that are commonly known to help for headaches (at the juncture of the index and thumb of the hand, in the soft, fleshy part), breathing issues (the lung reflex points are on the “balls” of the feet and hands), inflammation etc. The brain reflex points are found on the tips of the fingers and toes (e.g. students who drum their fingertips on the desk when thinking about the answer to a question during an exam). There are 4 main endocrine points in the thumbs and big toe alone. Just by applying pressure, for example, on the middle of the toe or thumb, you can stimulate the point for the pituitary gland, which is known as the “master gland” located in the mid-brain.

Q: Are there any contraindications?

Reflexology can do no harm, and our main goal is always to relax the person receiving. A reflexologist is taught to work with care and respect in accordance with the level of health, well being and age of the client. There are very few contraindications. But for pregnant woman, for example, the reflexologist would avoid working directly on the reproductive reflex areas of the foot. For the very sick, we would use a light relaxing pressure and shorten the session. These and other situations are covered in detail during the course.

Q: Are the effects different when doing Hand reflexology as opposed to Foot reflexology?

Given the many nerve endings in the feet, and the fact there is a larger area to work on, it is more effective to work with the feet. Having said that, Hand Reflexology is very useful in certain situations, such as a hospital setting, or in addition to work already done on the foot. It is great for relieving anxiety and stress. Research in China has shown that even 15 minutes of Hand Reflexology can help alleviate some of the side effects of chemotherapy.

Q: Are there any medical uses for Reflexology today? Is there any research on it?

There is an ongoing, growing body of research on Reflexology today, especially in countries such as Denmark, the U.K. and China, where Reflexology is very popular and part of the medical mainstream. One hospital in Switzerland offered Reflexology in its dialysis unit. In Denmark, out of all the complementary alternative modalities available, Reflexology is the prime therapy of choice. In the U.K., Reflexology has been around since the 50’s and is integrated into palliative care hospices, hospitals, maternity centers and seniors residences.

There exists a wealth of anecdotal stories and testimonials from people around the globe about the wonderful healing effects of reflexology on the body.

Q: Is Reflexology Therapy better known for certain specific health issues as opposed to others?

Well, Reflexology is known to be of help in cases such as arthritis, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, fatigue and depression to name a few. Children benefit from just a few minutes and elderly people feel the effects – many say they feel “more alive” and generally have more energy after a session.

Q: How can I be sure if a Reflexology Therapist is well-qualified?

Ask the Reflexologist if he/she is a member of a recognized association such as the Reflexology Association of Canada (RAC), which has set standards and a code of ethics and code of conduct for its members. RAC has been around since 1976 and represents Reflexology Therapists from coast to coast. 

Q: Where can I get information on finding a qualified Reflexology Therapist in my area or on taking a Reflexology course?

Check the Reflexology Association of Canada’s website (www.reflexologycanada.org) 

“The feet don’t lie”