foot reflexology

Reflexology dates back to ancient Egypt, although specific information related to the practices and use of the modality at that time are somewhat nebulous. What we do know is that physical therapist Eunice D. Ingham began developing theories regarding the feet as mirrors of the organs in the body in the 1930s and eventually established the National Institute of Reflexology. Known today as the International Institute of Reflexology, the organization has more than 25,000 active members.

In 1993, the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology published the first research study confirming reflexology as a viable option in the treatment of pre-menstrual syndrome. Since that time, approximately 380 research studies that show the positive effects of reflexology for many other medical conditions have been studied, according to the American Academy of Reflexology.

One recent study, “A comparison of the effects of reflexology and relaxation on pain in women with multiple sclerosis,” indicated that reflexology reduces pain more than relaxation alone. The study was published in November 2015 in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine.


No Tools Needed

Chelsea Lundgren, a certified reflexologist who works at The Healing Path Massage & Wellness in Federal Hill, Fell’s Point and Timonium, Maryland, said reflexology is the “holistic art of applying the thumbs and fingers to reflexes on the feet in order to improve circulation, release stress and tension, and bring the body back to balance.”

While some complementary health practitioners may employ a variety of tools, reflexologists rely on one resource: their hands.

“The practitioner’s hands are number one, and this is because the practitioner can feel congested energy in the reflexes on a client’s feet,” said Lundgren. “Tools, although very effective, create a barrier and the practitioner cannot feel as organically.” She conceded that, when necessary, tools may help save the practitioner’s hands or get into reflexes that require deeper work.

Some reflexologists use creams or oils in their practice; Lundgren favors a base oil of safflower or apricot oil and essential oils to help balance the client.


Endless Benefits

Regardless of tools or oils used, reflexology offered by a trained reflexologist can offer multiple benefits for clients.

“Reflexology’s benefits are endless, but it’s extremely beneficial in releasing stress and tension, which can wreak havoc on every organ and system in our body,” Lundgren said, adding that almost everyone holds some form of stress that may manifest as a serious condition such as diabetes, insomnia, hormonal imbalances, joint pain or depression.

Reflexology also addresses pregnancy-related stress, Lundgren said, and generally reduces stress and tension on a physical, muscular and emotional level. “Clients often feel deeply relaxed and grounded after a session,” she said. Additionally, reflexology can enhance circulation, which may address digestion and insomnia issues, enhance the nervous system and facilitate recovery from injury, according to Lundgren.

A wide range of clients can enjoy those benefits. “It is safe to give reflexology to a newborn all the way to the elderly, as it reduces pain and brings homeostasis to the body, [addressing] whatever the client may particularly need at the time,” Lundgren said. “As reflexology always brings the body back to homeostasis, it can only improve health, not put it in jeopardy.”


Reflexology Training & Marketing

If you’re considering becoming certified in reflexology, be sure to check the requirements in your state, as they vary considerably. “Maryland has no requirements, [whereas] Florida … requires a practitioner to first and foremost be a massage therapist before practicing reflexology on the public,” said Lundgren.

Lundgren takes a hands-on approach to marketing her practice. “The absolute best way to market reflexology is by having a potential client receive a session, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Experiencing is believing,” she said. Also, referrals, word-of-mouth and written information about the benefits, such as a brochure, can help promote the practice.


Practitioner Perks

As far as Lundgren is concerned, her chosen professional path is ideal. “I can help any person on the face of the earth—who has feet—with their health and receive a very deep satisfaction in helping them calm down or feel better,” said Lundgren. “My clients are often vulnerable, which I don’t take for granted. They trust in me. Plus, my ability to help improve their health gives me great happiness.”


About the Author

Phyllis Hanlon has written nonfiction articles and book reviews as well as human-interest stories, profiles and award-winning essays. Her specialty areas include health and medicine, religion, education and business. She regularly delights in the joys of massage. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine, including “Does Massage with Arnica Improve Circulation?