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Reflexology in 10 points
What is reflexology? How is it practiced? What is it useful for and which disorders does it treat? Let’s explore it through 10 key words.
Reflexology can alleviate headaches and backaches, reduce stress and shoulder tension and even relieve a cold. Here are 10 points that can help you learn more about this technique.
Reflexologists compare a person to a tree: the roots are the feet, the trunk is the spinal column and the fronds are the face, the nearest part of the human body to sunlight. According to this discipline, feet create the microcosm of human beings, that’s why they should be healthy and firm.
In physiology, it is an involuntary and nearly instantaneous secretory or motoric response. In reflexology, it is a response to a stimulus that comes from a peripheral receptor (that can be for example in hands or feet) and is transmitted to a central organ such as the brain or the spinal cord and then to an effector organ (e.g. a muscle, a gland or the other organs). Basically, reflexology tries to improve body functions through the application of pressure to specific areas.
Every organ has its own specificity but it also reflects in itself the whole body. In particular, feet, hands, the face and ears are the most likely to reflect the other organs thanks to the large amount of nerves they have. Therefore, on the feet there are the reflex areas of the internal organs, spine and bones.
Feet are especially sensitive: they have 7,200 nerve endings. Mechanoreceptors and exteroceptors sensitive to pressure are widely distributed on the sole.
William H. Fitzgerald
He is considered the founding father of modern reflexology. Even though practices resembling reflexology existed 5000 years ago in Egypt, India, China and Peru, the first reflexology chart dates back to the first decade of the XX century. Fitzgerald started his experimentations in 1902 when he discovered that, by applying pressure to some areas of the body, he induced analgesia or even short-lasting anaesthesia to patients. In 1917 he published with dentist F. Bower his first book, “Zone therapy, or relieving pain at home”.
Among the supporters of Fitzgerald’s theories, Eunice Ingham was the first physiotherapist who concentrated almost completely upon the feet, a sensitive area with many nerve endings. She published many books between 1938 and 1948 and in the late ‘40s her students Hanne Marquardt (German) and Doreen Bayly (British) took reflexology to Europe. Elipio Zamboni, student of the former and Erasmo Buzzacchi, student of the latter introduced this discipline in Italy.
After Fitzgerald’s work, many studies appeared. Although all charts are based on his chart, other scientists have created their own ones. Yet, all of them agree on the idea that areas on the foot correspond to areas of the body.
Foto: © Reflexology-map.com
Fitzgerald divided the human body in 10 vertical zones and 3 horizontal zones. By applying the same division to feet, he found different reflex areas. Reflex areas of central organs such as the spinal column and stomach are in both feet; the organs on the right side of the body (e.g. the liver) are on the right foot, those on the left side (e.g. the spleen) are on the left foot; lungs and kidneys are on both feet; the toes correspond with the brain and its organs.
Before the therapy begins reflexologists observe patients, their posture as well as the way they move and walk. Feet position, tension and shape are also observed. For example, symmetrical feet inclined at 45 degrees, reveal relaxation, while, when the head is slightly bent to the right and the right foot is abducted, there is tension on the right side.
Sessions consist of three steps. Firstly, therapists look for the painful areas of the patient and the zones they have to treat. The second step consists in a general treatment of equilibrium, to balance the organs again. Finally, there is a personalised treatment that focuses on the most painful areas. Generally, 10 to 12 sessions of 45 minutes are needed.
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