Reflexology is the study of the body’s reflex response, when one part of the body affects the function of other areas in the body. Through this practice, points in the feet, hands, and ears are pressed to affect other parts of the body, getting them to change and return to normal function, or continue to maintain proper function.

The modality is nearly as old as acupuncture, another reflex modality, but follows different response points. Written record of the use of reflexology for health benefits go as far back as 179 B.C. in China. From there, the practice traveled to Japan and other parts of Asia. It was introduced to the West in the texts written by Marco Polo, who spent many years studying Chinese culture and acting as a translator once trade opened between the East and West. However, it did not gain popularity until the 1600s, and this was mostly as a novelty. In 1913, an article was written in America by Dr. William Fitzgerald explaining the responses of the body when pressure was applied to certain zones on the foot. Some additional Western research was conducted and it was termed “reflexology.” The modern routine is very similar to the description found carved in stone over 200 years ago in Thailand.

The areas that are manipulated during a reflexology session are located in the ears, hands, and feet. Fingers and toes correspond to the head; sinuses, eyes, ears, throat, etc. The palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet and behind the ankle bones, correspond to the organ systems in the torso. On the top of the foot and hand, the reflexology points refer to the bones and muscles of the back, neck, and skull. Pressure is applied to the reflex zones using fingers, knuckles, hands, or sometimes a wooden or crystal “wand.”

The Thai Reflexology routine begins at the toes, or sinus points, and systematically works down to the heel of the foot, giving each area attention for preventative care. However, if the client has certain concerns or if a particularly sensitive spot is found, special attention and time can be given to the needed areas. The routine is repeated through the hands, as some systems respond better at different reflex origins.

Ear Reflexology actually has deeper origins in acupressure, heavily relying on meridian points and supporting reflex points used in Chinese Medicine. It starts at the head as with Thai Reflexology routines, which is on the lobe of the ear, the systems and structures of the entire body are located at different points along the cartilage. The routine of ear reflexology is a spiraling routine that targets every area of the body, inside and out. It is a wonderful option for people who can’t receive a full-body massage for any reason, medical or otherwise, but still wants a relaxing and health boosting experience.