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Soothe your soul through your soles. Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is a type of massage that uses specific trigger points on the feet (or sometimes hands) to stimulate and heal other parts of the body. So, even though you use, abuse and tramp around on them all day, your sensitive feet could be the key to wellbeing and holistic health.

There are millions of nerve endings in our feet and hands. The idea behind reflexology is that through skilled manipulation, the connections in the nervous system can be used to redistribute tension and restore the natural flow of chi (the invisible life force) around your body.

Pampering your paws in this way could be the answer to a whole host of problems ranging from muscular pain to digestive disorders. Having your hands and feet manipulated also releases those feel-good endorphins, your body’s natural warriors of stress-relief. And, if you’re not already whipping your socks off in anticipation, it’s worth knowing that reflexology is also thought to boost circulation and aid the lymphatic system, which gets rid of waste products produced around the body. So, not only will your chi be flowing freely, but your immune system will be full steam ahead too.

How does it work?

Most therapists will perform reflexology on your feet, but it is also possible to have your hands treated, which is great if you’re a bit of a foot-phobic.

Before the treatment gets started, a detailed consultation will help your therapist to find out if there are any particular complaints he or she should be focussing on – this is your chance to pipe up about any niggling pains that the reflexology might be able to ease.

When you’re done with the small talk, your therapist will ask you to remove your shoes and socks and lie down on a massage bed. He or she will use a combination of thumb, finger and hand massage techniques to stimulate the different zones of your feet and ankles, unblocking trapped energy around your body. Sometimes a small, round-ended tool, a bit like the handle of a wooden spoon, is used to apply more direct pressure to the tougher parts of your soles of your feet - particularly if your hoofs are well-hardened.

If your therapist shows you the reflexology map (like a key to the connected areas) you’ll notice that the left foot and the left hand are used to affect the left side of your body and vice versa for the right hand side. It’s said that if you have a particular complaint, such as a thyroid problem, you might feel a pain in your foot when the area that corresponds to your thyroid is touched.

Is it for me?

The great thing about reflexology is that it’s a calm, non-invasive treatment. There’s no need to take any clothes off except your footwear and you won’t be pulled around or pummelled in the way you would be with some other massage treatments.

Reflexologists would recommend the treatment to anyone who suffers from headaches, muscular pain or injury, arthritis, insomnia, hormonal problems, digestive disorders, stress or infertility.

Good to know

Reflexology is thought to date back to ancient Egyptian times. It’s a highly studied therapy; if you want to be sure that your therapist knows his or her stuff, look out for their MAR status (meaning that they are a Member of the Association of Reflexologists and have met the required training standards) and whether they are MBRA certified (a member of The British Reflexology Association).

Questions and answers about Reflexology