What is this foot reflexology stuff all about anyway?
Is it for real? Why would you do it? How does it help you with your walking and fitness?
First though, the usual disclaimer. We're not practitioners or trained professionals in the field, only a couple of curious (some might say nosey!) 50 Plus'ers who want to share what we've found.
And of course, if you have any foot issues or problems you need to see your doctor or health practitioner first.
For the record, foot reflexology is not a replacement for medical treatment. It's another activity that can help with your health and feeling good, much like diet and exercise. You know ... all the good stuff!
You'll probably see something called 'foot reflexology massage' too. That's not a totally accurate term. You're either getting reflexology treatments (focused pressure on specific parts of your foot) or you're getting a foot massage. Some practitioners blend the two different forms together in their own ways and call it what they will. Try both if you encounter them. You decide which one you like the best.
What Does It Look Like?
Here's a brief clip with Rhonda Funes, a leading California-based instructor and practitioner of reflexology. Just click on the picture area to start (and stop).
There. Did that help a bit? We sure hope so. It's one of the best foot reflexology videos we've been able to find for you. You can get the complete DVD here at Massage Tools.
(these are the same folks we recommend on our Foot Massage page for foot massage equipment too. They are very deserving of their 5 Star Customer Service Rating with Yahoo! Great folks!)
Time For A Little Bit of History. What's It All About?
Foot reflexology is considered a form of natural healing and part of the alternative medicine field. It's been around for a really long time - - almost 5,000 years! Since the days of the REALLY Ancient Egyptians!
In the 'REALLY ANCIENT' mix too are the Oriental practices of shiatsu and acupuncture. Even North American Indian Medicine Men appear to have used foot stimulation and manipulation as part of their practice of healing. This stuff has been around awhile!
More writings on this turned up in the late 1500's in Europe. It got more attention in the US in the early 1900's. Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist in Boston developed it further into something called Zone Therapy.
Eunice Ingham who initially worked with Dr. Fitzgerald as a physical therapist became a tireless advocate, teacher and presenter of Zone Therapy - a term used for reflexology until the 1960's. She toured North American cities, presented seminars and published charts and books in the late 1930's and 1950's on the topic.
The Zone Therapy name was changed to Foot Reflexology in the 1960's when a group of physiotherapists in British Columbia, Canada objected to the word 'therapy' being in the name. You might still find it called Zone Therapy outside of North America.
Today the nephew of Eunice Ingham - Dwight Byers - heads up the International Institute of Reflexology (IIR) (new window) based in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The basic idea is that there are reflex zones or areas on your feet and hands that correspond to all of the organs, glands and parts of your body. It is thought they are connected with energy pathways and nerves. Given that there are over 7,000 nerve endings in the soles of your feet, we figure this is a reasonable assumption!
When these reflex areas are stimulated properly, it can help many health problems in a natural way.
From a scientific angle this pressure may actually cause some endorphins to be released or work on the nervous system in a way that promotes a form of balance. Research is ongoing.
Is It For Real?
Ah - the $64 question! Based on all that we have read along with literally centuries of anecdotal evidence, we believe the answer is yes. There must be something to this.
While there is no one international or national entity governing the practice, there are a number of associations in North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East committed to the highest level of training, practice, knowledge and ethical practices for practitioners. The International Institute of Reflexology we mentioned above is one of them.
Some others of note that came out of our 'snooping around' on this are
You may be able to find practitioners in your area registered with one or more of these groups.
It's also fair to say there are some rather strong opinions on both sides of the foot reflexology fence. The majority of views we've found though, seem to accept it as something having some value.
We're sort of old fashioned and look at it this way. If it has helped that many people in that many cultures for that many centuries, there's likely something to it. Even if we don't always understand it.
Why Do It?
Why have these guys been doing this foot reflexology stuff all these years? Here's some of the reasons we found there to be benefits:
Here's another neat thing. It's being used right now for some post-op and palliative care cases. The American Cancer Society recently reported that up to one third of cancer patients are using reflexology as a form of complimentary therapy.
Another REALLY GOOD REASON? It helps you feel better and makes it even easier for you to stick to your fitness walking program...and that's a really good thing! Right?
How Do You Do It?
*Live outside of North America? No problem. Just get in touch and we'll do our best to help you in your area of the world.
You can also work with a friend. Give each other a treatment. You can learn the basics in the video we mentioned above. Or you can even try giving yourself a treatment, using some of the basics you see in the video. This might be a little easier for the gals than the guys at first!
Now it's your turn. Why not give it a go? There's a real good possibility you will enjoy it and benefit from it.
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