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Reflexology - A Combined Therapy

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Reflexology is a combined therapy that applies pressure to the hands, feet, and ears. Read the below article to know more.

Written by

Dr. Durga. A. V

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Atul Prakash

Published At October 24, 2023
Reviewed AtOctober 24, 2023


Reflexology may benefit from treating pain, relaxation, and psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression, according to research conducted in the United States and Worldwide. However, research authors have noticed that the quality of reflexology studies varies and that more high-quality study is necessary. There is no believable scientific evidence that reflexology can help with any health condition.

What Is Reflexology?

Reflexology is a massage in which different amounts of pressure are applied to the feet, hands, and ears. It is based on the idea that all the body parts are linked to specific organs and body systems. Those who specialize in this technique are known as reflexologists. According to the theory, when a reflexologist applies pressure to the hands, feet, or ears, the peripheral nerves (refers to nervous system components outside of the brain and spinal cord) in these extremities send a calming message to the central nervous system, which signals the body to adjust the tension level. According to reflexologists, applying pressure to the areas of the body has a wide range of health benefits.

How Does Reflexology Work?

Reflexologists believe reflexology reduces stress, allowing the body to heal and regenerate. There are various theories on how this process works. The approaches are described below:

  1. Theory 1 - Reflexology Works With the Central Nervous System: According to the theory, when a reflexologist applies pressure to the feet, hands, or ears, the nerve cells in these extremities send a calming message to the central nervous system, which signals the body to adjust the tension level. This improves overall relaxation, brings internal organs and their approaches to maximum performance, and increases blood supply, which brings additional oxygen and nutrients to cells and enhances waste removal. It positively affects the body's respiratory, endocrine, circulatory, immune, and neuropeptide (chemical messengers composed of short chains of amino acids that synthesize nerve cells and release) systems.

  2. Theory 2 - Reflexology Reduces Pain by Reducing Stress and Improving Mood: The gate control theory, more recently, states that the intervention theory of pain may also explain how reflexology can provide pain relief. This theory proposes that pain is a subjective experience created by the brain. The brain acts in response to the sensory experience of pain, but it can also work independently of sensory input and create pain in response to emotional or behavioral characteristics. Thus, things that affect the brain, such as mood or external factors like stress, can also affect the pain experience. According to this theory, reflexology may relieve pain by reducing stress and improving mood.

  3. Theory 3 - Reflexology Keeps the Body's "Vital Energy" Flowing: This theory holds the human body, which contains "vital energy." If stress is not addressed, it causes energy blockage, which leads to physical imperfections, which can lead to illness. According to this theory, reflexology aids in the flow of energy.

  4. Theory 4 - Zone Theory: The recognition of reflexology as a unique type of treatment began with zone theory, which divides the body into ten vertical zones. Each zone relates to the fingers and toes up to the top of the head. For example, if one is standing up with the hands on their thighs (palms facing down), zone one would be the thumbs and great toe. Zone two would be the index finger and second toe on either side of the body, and so on. According to reflexology theory, every organ, valve, muscle, and so on located within a zone can be activated through a point or area on the feet or hands. For example, the eye point can be found by working between toes two and three or fingers two and three. As previously stated, these pathways between pressure points and other body parts are thought to be linked by the nervous system.

How Is Reflexology Procedure Performed?

A traditional session lasts about an hour. The practitioner will ask questions about lifestyle and medical problems. The person sits or reclines on a bed without shoes while the practitioner examines the feet before working on all areas of the feet. Practitioners are experienced in handling feet and applying pressure to prevent ticklishness.

What Are the Benefits of Reflexology?

The ability of reflexology to stimulate nerve function, boost circulation, induce a deep state of relaxation, eliminate toxins, increase energy, and promote the central nervous system is one of its many benefits. The benefits are described below:

  1. Relaxation: Reflexology has been proven to access nerve cell pathways and flood the nervous system with neuron activity, causing the body to relax. By providing excessive relaxation in the system, reflexology can induce a state of calm throughout the body and mind. By utilizing this phenomenon, reflexology can treat sleep disorders such as insomnia and helps the body in returning to its normal, healthy sleep patterns.

  2. Improvement of the Nerve Functions: As an individual ages, the nerve endings in the extremities become less sensitive. Opening and cleaning neural pathways can improve the functionality and flexibility of nerves and cells in various organs. Because neural passageways are similar to muscles, keeping them active is extraordinarily beneficial and critical to health. Thus reflexology improves nerve functions.

  3. Improvement in the Brain Power: Reflexology benefits the brain by stimulating the nerves and opening the nerve cell pathways; information flows much faster and more effectively to the brain, allowing the brain to process the information more quickly, resulting in much quicker cognitive and physical reactions and a boost in the memory.

  4. Increases Blood Circulation in the Body: The most well-known advantage of the reflexology is increased blood circulation throughout the body, which means that blood and oxygen are controlled and delivered more effectively. Increased circulation means more oxygen reaches vital organ systems, which utilizes their functioning and increases metabolism. The passage of oxygen through the body speeds up the healing and regrowth of damaged cells.

  5. Eliminates the Body's Toxins: Reflexology improves bladder function by increasing blood circulation and reducing urinary tract risk. This results in a more efficient system of eliminating toxins and other foreign elements, protecting the body from various diseases and health conditions resulting from an affected urinary system.

  6. Boosting the Metabolism and Energy Level: A good reflexology session can improve the functions of many organs in the body, resulting in higher metabolism, which in turn helps the body create more energy. If one feels weak or needs an energy boost, schedule the next reflexology session with certified therapists immediately.

  7. Relieves Discomfort From Menstruation and Pregnancy: Reflexology can be highly beneficial for women during pregnancy, particularly regarding labor lengths, the need for analgesics during labor, and postpartum recovery time. Furthermore, as a result of many of the health benefits mentioned above, reflexology can reduce the chances of postpartum depression, assist the body in healing itself, and return to regular metabolic activity more quickly.

What Are the Side Effects of Reflexology?

Some people report mild side effects following reflexology treatment, such as lightheadedness and feet that are tender sensitivity to emotions. The side effects are described below:

  • It may cause issues in the feet. Inflammation or blood clots in the leg veins (blood vessels throughout the body that collect oxygen-poor blood and return it to the heart.

  • It may cause foot ulcers and fungal conditions like athlete's foot, which means bleeding more easily.


Although reflexology is not a scientifically proven medical treatment for the disease, studies indicate that it can be a beneficial complementary treatment, particularly for stress and anxiety. Reflexologists may not diagnose or tell about any tension on the foot, hand, or ear that may appear to suggest abnormalities during a session. Some of the theories of reflexology are that once stressed, the body will nurture and repair itself.

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Dr. Atul Prakash
Dr. Atul Prakash

Orthopedician and Traumatology


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