December 15, 2017

Reflexology: The how and why of it all

By: Robert Campbell : LMT and Massage Therapy Instructor at our massage school in Des Moines

So, let me first start with saying that when you tell most people that you perform reflexology they look at you like you are some sort of “witch doctor”. But, the truth of the matter is that reflexology or forms of it, have been practiced for thousands of years. Ancient texts from India, China and Japan have descriptions of how rubbing certain parts of the body; specifically, the hands, feet and ears can enhance the flow of energy (Qi) throughout the energy pathways (Meridians) in the body. This is usually where people will give you that deer in the headlights look.


The fact of the matter is that Reflexology can be a useful adjunct to modern medicine. Reflexology, simply put in medical terminology, is ology “study of”reflexes. So then what is a reflex? A reflex is an involuntary reaction to a stimulus that is predictable. Otherwise, why would the doctor knock you in the knee with that pointed hammer? Unless they are a sadistic person, they are looking for a certain action and that is for you to jerk your knee. Coincidentally, this particular reflex is called the knee-jerk reflex, I know, go figure right.


Reflexology uses the concept that there are shared nervous pathways throughout the body that are constantly taking information to the brain and out to the other parts of the body. By applying techniques to these shared pathways, you can then affect a particular part of the body located in a different area. To put this another way when someone is having a heart attack most people know that not only do you feel pressure on your chest but there is also pain that shoots down the left arm. This happens for 2 reasons:

1.  Your heart is actually located on the left side of your chest cavity
2.  Your heart and left arm share a spinal nerve going to the brain

You see when your heart is in distress it sends a signal out to whatever might be listening in the body. Think about this if you just had pressure in the chest you might mistake it for heartburn or something else. However, if you have that pressure and pain shooting down your left arm you brain is going to stand up and take notice. This pain is due to the fact that there are only 31 pairs of spinal nerves coming out of the spinal cord and once they leave, those nerves start to separate to supply every part of your body with nervous stimuli. By knowing this we then can assume if the heart can send a signal down the left arm then we should be able to send a stimulus at the point on the hand to “activate” the heart. That in a nutshell is reflexology.


Technically in 1913 Dr. William Fitzgerald separated the body into 10 different zones, each correlated with different fingers and toes. Later Eunice Ingham further broke down the body by “mapping” out which parts of the feet and hands represented body parts and/or organs.

So, whether you believe in the eastern philosophy of energy flow or the western approach of reflexology, one thing is for certain. If you spend a lot of time on your feet or work with your hands constantly, your hands and feet will definitely appreciate a reflexology session.


Pictured & Author: Robert Campbell : LMT and Massage Therapy Instructor at La’ James International College Des Moines.

If you’re curious to learn more and aspire to become a professional massage therapist, enrolling in our massage therapy classes is the perfect opportunity for you. Feel free to contact us today.

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