How Reflexology Works

How Reflexology Works

Ok, so maybe you know what Reflexology is and how effective it may or may not be but, assuming it is effective, just how does it work? Well, unfortunately there is no definitive explanation. In fact there are a number of theories as to how Reflexology might work. Here are a few of them:

  • Ki or Qi energy theory – This is the standard eastern theory underlying acupressure, acupuncture and reflexology. By bringing balance or flow to the energy in the body the reflexologist can alleviate ailments and disorders.
  • Electrical Potential – Somewhat similar to Qi but rephrased in western terms. Reflexology can bring balance back to areas of the body that are experiencing differences in electrical potential. This difference can cause problems in other parts of the body.
  • Proprioception – This is one’s sense of where one’s body is in space. A good athlete can feel where his or her body is as well as one part of the body relative to another. This can result in fluid movement and good coordination. One theory suggests that reflexology, or pressure to certain points on the feet, causes the body to think it is in a different position than it truly is. This could result in the body relaxing or releasing tension that it would otherwise maintain.
  • Counter Irritation – A good example of counter irritation is scratching. When you get a bug bite you tend to scratch it. The scratching is the counter irritation and tends to lessen the pain of the original irritant. With reflexology the pressure on the feet is the counter irritant which can cause increased circulation or blood flow in the body and tend to alleviate the original irritant – whatever that may be.
  • Crystalline Deposits – another theory suggests that nerves in the body, especially the feet, can experience build ups of crystal at their endings. This buildup can block the nerves pathway or block the grounding path from the feet to the earth. Reflexology may be used to dissipate these crystal buildups.
  • Lymphatic System – Reflexology allegedly helps stimulate the lymphatic system. So, it follows that since the lymphatic system helps to remove toxins from the body that reflexology could be beneficial at cleansing the body and making it healthier.

So, you can see that there are quite a few diverse explanations as to why Reflexology may be effective. It’s entirely possible that each of these theories contribute together to make reflexology useful. Some of the theories are far fetched and other more grounded in factual experience. Perhaps in the future with more research and study we will be able to determine the true reasons behind the apparent effectiveness of Reflexology.

A recent study done in 2008 shows that Reflexology does have some merit. The study, titled: Somatotopical relationships between cortical activity and reflex areas in reflexology: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study, was conducted in Japan at the Tohoku University of Medicine.

The study looked at 25 patients and conducted stimulus of reflexological points on the left foot that corresponded to the eye, shoulder and small intestine. They utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to gauge activity in the brain during stimulus. They found that stimulating these points did actually cause activity in the brain related not just to the left foot but also to the areas corresponding to the reflex points.

While this study doesn’t necessarily show that reflexology is effective at treating ailments it doers provide some support for the claim that reflex points do have some sort of physical relationship with their corresponding parts of the human body.

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