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Reflexology is more than just a footrub. It targets foot- and hand-based nerves that affect the entire body.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: May 18, 2020

Reflexology is considered alternative medicine, though it may seem similar to a foot massage. It is meant to be relaxing and to relieve stress, tension headaches, digestive disorders, arthritis, sports injuries, back pain, and PMS by improving circulation. If nothing else, it soothes your achy feet.

The origins of Reflexology: Reflexology has been around for thousands of years—some people believe that there are references to the method carved into the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs.

Reflexology in its modern form was invented in 1913 by Dr. William Fitzgerald, who described the relation of the nerves in the hands and feet to the rest of the body. He called this "Zone Analgesia."

The practice was further refined by physical therapist Eunice Ingram in the 1930s. She published her seminal work, Stories the Feet Can Tell, in 1938.

Benefits Of Reflexology

Reflexology practitioners use their fingers and thumb to massage specific pressure points on the feet. (Some also include pressure points on the hands.) The idea is that pressure points connect to other parts of the body and can stimulate your organs and glands.

According to reflexologists, the tips of your toes correlate to the head; the ball of the foot to the heart and chest; the arch of the foot affects the liver, pancreas, and kidneys; and pressure on the heel affects the lower back.

What To Expect

During a reflexology session, you will sit in a padded chair while the reflexologist applies pressure to the soles of your feet, and sometimes your hands as well. Wooden balls and rollers are occasionally used. No oil is used on the feet or hands.

Specialized equipment: Wooden balls and rollers are occasionally used, though more commonly the therapist employs just oil and hands.

Recommended sessions: A reflexology session takes 45 minutes to an hour, and is performed with your socks and shoes off.

Preparation: Simply inform your massage therapist about any health issues or injuries, as this will influence the course of treatment.


Pregnant women with some rare medical conditions, like pre-eclampsia, are advised to consult their doctor prior to reflexology.

Who wouldn't benefit: People with arthritis and gout are not good candidates for reflexology.

Celebrity Devotees

Princess Diana was said to be a big fan of reflexology. Regis Philbin is also an enthusiast.

Find licensed and certified experts who offer Reflexology near you