Anxiety is all too common nowadays and a wide variety of treatment methods exist, some of which rely upon conventional medicine, while others take a more holistic route.

Anxiety might appear in the following ways:

  • Lingering feels of panic, fear, worry
  • Restlessness
  • Consistent difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Notable fatigue
  • Abnormal (newly occurring) irritability or moodiness

When anxiety makes an impact on your daily life, relationships, or other areas of health, you might be seeking a change. If you are already receiving treatment in a conventional manner, or wish to explore other complementary methods, reflexology can offer a simple practice with healing offered to your physical, emotional, and mental layers of self.

Reflexology, a complementary therapy similar to a foot massage, offers immense healing benefits for a wide variety of symptoms, illnesses, and ailments. Anxiety seems to benefit immensely from the method as it takes emotional and mental wellbeing into consideration, as well.

Rather than remaining a merely physical practice, similar to the methods of general massage or a ‘full-body-massage’ from a spa, reflexology relies upon Chinese medicine to account for emotional and energetic shifts.

A reflexologist takes a client’s entire wellbeing and present state into consideration prior to treating them. Once they know how a client has been sleeping, eating, thinking, and physically feeling, they will consider the meridian lines, the reflex points on the feet, hands, and ears, and the corresponding organs and areas of the body.

From there, they will use their hands to apply gentle pressure, some pulling, or tracing on specific areas of the feet, hands, or ears to elicit a response from the corresponding area.

The Main Points

In order to treat anxiety, a reflexologist might consider the following pressure points:

The inner frontier gate point

Located on: Your wrist, about two to three finger-widths below the base of your palm. Benefits might include relief of anxiety, lessening of nausea, lessening of painful sensations

The union valley point

Located on: Your hand, in the space between your thumb and index finger where skin is rather thin. Benefits might include: reduction of stress, soothing of headaches, lessening of neck pain. This point might induce labor, so actively avoid if you are pregnant.

The great surge point

Located on: Your foot, about two to three finger-widths below the space between your big toe and your second toe, in the hollow space above the bone. Benefits might include: Reduction of anxiety, lessening of stress, lessening of painful sensations, balancing insomnia, easing menstrual cramps

The hall of impression point

Located on: Your face, in the space between your eyebrows. Benefits might include: Lessening of anxiety and stress

The heavenly gate point

Located on: Your ear, in the upper shell, at the very tip of the hollow before the cartilage. Benefits might include: Relief from anxiety, stress, balancing of insomnia

The shoulder well point

Located on: Your shoulder muscles when pinched with your middle finger and thumb. Benefits might include: Relief from stress, easing muscle tension, dissipating headaches. These points might also induce labor, so actively avoid if you are pregnant.

Reflexology Foot Map – Pressure Points

Reflexology Pressure Map Explained

Reflexology is a healing technique that is gaining prevalence in modern healthcare owing to an increased desire for more holistic interventions among patients. Despite a relatively recent increase in popularity, reflexology has been around for literally thousands of years.

The consensus being that this practice originated in China over two thousand years ago!

Using the assumption that virtually every organ and anatomical structure can be linked to a specific point on the feet, hands or ears, treatment involves applying direct pressure to these spots in an attempt to alleviate some dysfunction of the correlated organ. While the actual contact points differ across various forms of reflexology, the use of a “body map” to direct treatment is universal.

In this article, we will discuss the “body” or “pressure” map utilized by the western approach to reflexology. Important aspects such as history and correlating body locations will be explained in enough detail to hopefully provide those with an elementary knowledge of reflexology the information needed to grasp the overall concept.

The modern map used in western reflexology is believed to have come from Dr. Fitzgerald. In the early 1900’s, he began work on the topic of reflexology and more specifically, what he called the “Zone Theory”.

Working as an ear, nose and throat specialist at Boston City Hospital, Dr. Fitzgerald began experimenting with the idea of applying pressure to various areas of the feet, hands and ears to alleviate ailments affecting seemingly unrelated body parts. The exact method used to discover these correlations is unclear, though it seems the use of trial and error across multiple patients was utilized.

Although the specific body map that Dr. Fitzgerald created seems to differ very slightly depending on the source, the overall concept is unanimous. The Zone Theory divides the body into ten sections, with each foot containing five sections each. The reasoning behind dividing these ten sections equally amongst both feet lies in the notion that the right and left sides of the body correlate to the unilateral foot.

The Zone Theory offered a more uniform approach to reflexology than prior ideologies. Prior to Dr. Fitzgerald’s work, the points of correlation between certain organs and body structures were described as extremely specific points on the feet.

While this concept possesses somewhat of a crude organizational pattern as it relates to the body as a whole, these specific points are slightly scattered on either foot. The Zone theory depicts the interconnecting locations between the feet and body as uniform, vertical lines running superiorly from the soles of the feet to the head and shoulders. This concept provides a more user-friendly approach that allows reflexology treatment to identify the correct area of pressure more efficiently.

While Dr. Fitzgerald’s theory was met with a large amount of skepticism from colleagues and critics, the Zone Theory garnered enough testimony from patients and physicians utilizing this concept that the idea gained a foothold that still remains today.

Fitzgerald authored a book detailing his theory that enjoyed a high degree of success, being translated into at least seven languages. Using the Zone Theory as a foundational concept, several of his associates continued to build on Fitzgerald’s work and eventually put the finishing touches on this concept.

The pressure map discussed in this article admittedly lacks a tangible concept for its accuracy. These vertical lines cannot be manifested in any visible manner such as neural pathways or blood supply.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence, many individuals claim to receive reflexology treatment abiding by Fitzgerald’s map with remarkable benefits. Whether or not these experiences are caused by an undiscovered biological process or merely a placebo effect does not seem to concern patients nearly as much as the relief of their ailments.

What Research Shows About Reflexology

Although its roots can be traced back literally thousands of years, reflexology is a healing technique that has seen a significant increase in popularity in today’s world of medicine.

This holistic approach to healing bases its approach on the idea that there exist specific points on the feet, hands and ears that contain a direct link to certain vital organs and seemingly unrelated anatomical structures.

Using this connection, reflexology involves applying direct pressure to the three areas mentioned in an attempt to alleviate a variety of ailments in the corresponding body parts.

Given that this technique has only seen a somewhat recent resurgence in prevalence, many individuals question the overall theory, as well as the technique behind reflexology and its effectiveness.

As with most other topics, especially those entailing medical treatments, the research results regarding reflexology are significantly varied.

With that being said, this article will provide several examples of noted studies that support the use of this technique as a viable option for the relief of various health conditions.

The first study to be discussed is unique in that it was reportedly the first known scientific inquiry on the topic of reflexology. Researchers at the American Academy of Reflexology conducted a randomized controlled trial that included a group of women reporting adverse premenstrual symptoms (Randomized controlled study of premenstrual symptoms treated with ear, hand, and foot reflexology; Oleson T).

According to the results of this study, women receiving official reflexology treatment stated a significant decrease in their overall symptoms when compared to a control group.

In another study conducted at Michigan State University (Dr. Gwen Wyatt), researchers enlisted a group of women diagnosed with breast cancer who were receiving chemotherapy treatment. Subjects were divided into a group that received reflexology and a control group that did not receive this technique.

Several functional measures such as walking, climbing stairs and carrying objects were included to evaluate pre/post differences between these groups. This study concluded that the women who received reflexology treatment reported substantially less difficulty performing these tasks when compared to the group that did not receive these treatments.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition affecting nearly 1.5 million people in the United States alone. This ailment is characterized by the body’s immune system actively attacking multiple joints such as the fingers, wrist and knees.

Individuals suffering from this condition are subject to a wide array of symptoms including a severe deprivation of sleep quality.

In a randomized control study conducted at Gaziantep University, researchers recorded the improvements reported by subjects undergoing 6 weeks of reflexology compared to a control group.

Outcome measures included the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index as well as the Visual Analogue Scale. At the conclusion of this study, the group receiving reflexology treatment reported a significant decrease in pain, allowing improved sleep quality (The effects of reflexology on pain and sleep deprivation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized controlled trial; Bakir E, et al).

One of the largest studies supporting the use of reflexology was conducted by University of Ulster (The Physiological and Biochemical Outcomes Associated with a Reflexology Treatment: A Systematic Review; Mc Cullough, et al).

A total of 17 research papers were included in a systematic review. These studies included a large number of health conditions such as cancer, heart failure, dementia, pregnancy and multiple sclerosis.

The conclusion drawn from this particular review was extremely notable. Across every health condition included, when psychological parameters such as stress and anxiety were measured, people receiving reflexology treatment experienced a greater reduction of these symptoms.

Researchers went on to correlate these psychological improvements with a more favorable disease outcome, prognosis and rehabilitation potential.

As we previously discussed, there is research available to support or refute virtually everything under the sun. Reflexology is a topic that many believe has little to no data to reinforce its efficacy. This article serves to challenge this notion and provide just a portion of the data available stating otherwise.

Reflexology FAQ

Reflexology is a somewhat unknown medical intervention in today’s society. Due to this general lack of knowledge, there are a significant amount of misconceptions regarding this technique. In this article, we will address a few questions commonly posed by individuals considering or currently receiving reflexology treatment.

Question #1: What The Heck Is Reflexology?

The concept of reflexology is almost entirely based on the idea that certain body parts such as the feet, hands and ears are directly connected to specific organs and seemingly unrelated anatomical regions.

Using this assumption, physical touch and various pressures are applied to these three aforementioned areas in an attempt to alleviate an ailment affecting the corresponding body part.

Question #2: What Does The Research Say About Reflexology?

Since we have already addressed that this technique is relatively obscure in the medical community, it makes sense that there is not a large body of research on the subject. As with all research questions, the information available both questions the validity as well as supports the effectiveness of reflexology.

It is fair to note that the majority of research available is deemed by critics to be of low quality. There is however several studies conducted on patients with diagnoses such as breast cancer and anxiety that support significant symptomatic relief. This is largely related to the belief that human touch in general tends to have a therapeutic effect on people in general.

Question #3: How Is Reflexology Different From Massage?

Given the fact that both of these techniques involve the application of direct pressure to the body, a common misconception is that they are basically the same thing. However, massage involves applying pressure to a region with the intention of directly relieving some form of ailment in the local area.

With massage, the areas subject to this technique can include virtually any area of the body. On the contrary, reflexology attempts to treat a different anatomical region than the area specifically manipulated. Furthermore, reflexology is limited to very specific body parts previously mentioned (feet, hands and ears).

Question #4: What Is The Intention Of Reflexology?

By applying pressure to certain body parts, practitioners of this technique seek to release built up toxins and pressure that may be present in the regions corresponding to the area being palpated. The reported benefits of this release include increased circulation, lymphatic drainage, increased nerve stimulation and relaxation of overactive muscle tissue.

Question #5: What Can I Expect During A Treatment Session?

As with any medical intervention, your first reflexology session will begin with gaining an overall idea of your medical history, areas causing you discomfort and goals you hope to accomplish regarding treatment. You will then be given ample time to ask any questions you may have regarding the specific treatment and overall purpose of the technique.

Afterwards, a normal treatment session will typically be performed for an hour or so. Due to the collection of the aforementioned health information, expect your first visit to by a little lengthier than sessions moving forward.

If you are interested in beginning a treatment protocol in this technique, there are likely questions you have that were not included in this brief discussion. As with virtually everything under the sun, a quick online search of said questions may provide additional insight.

Scheduling a meeting with an actual reflexologist is most likely the most efficacious method of securing more reliable information, if you have this option. The world of medicine is full of unique concepts and techniques that receive varying reviews from medical professionals and patients alike.

With any of these protocols, giving reflexology a try for yourself is always the best way to decide if it is right for you! Learn more about Reflexology in our free eCourse – Reflexology101

Scientific Support

A 2000 study, from East Carolina University, showed that a thirty-minute reflexology treatment on patients undergoing treatment for breast or lung cancer offered positive results. Those receiving the treatment shared that they had lower anxiety levels in comparison to those who did not receive reflexology (Stephenson NL, et al., The effects of foot reflexology on anxiety and pain in patients with breast and lung cancer)

Another study, from 2014, had patients undergoing heart surgery receive twenty-minute reflexology treatments. Over the course of four days, they received reflexology one per day.

In comparison to those who did not receive reflexology, they seemed to have a more relaxed demeanor and were less likely to report symptoms related to anxiety (Masoumeh Bagheri-Nesami, et al., The effects of foot reflexology massage on anxiety and patients following coronary artery bypass graft surgery: A randomized controlled trial).

Overall, the researchers involved concluded that the foot reflexology massage is a reliable and beneficial complementary therapy in the treatment and relief of anxiety.

Training in Reflexology

Have you experienced healing and the immense benefits of reflexology? After seeing the healing firsthand, you might eventually consider taking up the giving practice of reflexology, rather than remaining on the receiving end. Learning to treat yourself with reflexology is rather simple, but it will take a bit of time to become properly trained in the method.

If you are beginning to walk the path towards becoming authorized or certified in reflexology, there are a few things to keep in mind. For starters, think about what you enjoy about your reflexologist or other professional healers.

Do you enjoy their warmth and welcoming nature? Do you prefer to remain more professional? How do they make you feel comfortable? Jot down a list of qualities or specific details related to your fulfilling experiences with healers. You can use these as guidelines for yourself as you work towards learning the method and, perhaps, sharing reflexology with your own clients.

The Necessary Steps

As a form of complementary therapy, energy work, and bodywork, you will have to go through a fair amount of training to become authorized.

There are a few specific concepts and ideas you should be familiar with, including the following:

  • Qi (or ‘chi’)
  • Meridian Lines
  • Zone Theory
  • Human Anatomy

To formally practice reflexology, you need to acquire the proper degree and insurance for your practice. A variety of degrees would do, including but not limited to postgraduate qualifications, holistic medicine studies, Eastern medicine studies, or a level 3 diploma from a reflexology course.

To receive the level 3 diploma in reflexology, you would need to take a GCSE and score between a nine and a four in biology. If you want to stand out more in your field prior experience or additional study in the realm of massage, Eastern medicine, counseling, acupuncture, or general healthcare will benefit you.

A reflexology course typically includes information on theory, proper technique, and practice of the hands-on practice.

After receiving your diploma, you should register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CHNC). This organization will offer support and added benefits, such as guidelines for your practice and business.

In some cases, it might benefit you to shadow a professional reflexologist during or after your training. Shadowing would allow you to gain insight into odds and ends of being a reflexologist that you might not typically notice as a client.
And, finally, find insurance. Acquiring insurance is necessary in order to protect your practice and maintain the professional relationships you will cultivate with clients.

What To Expect As A Reflexologist

As you might already know, most reflexologists create and maintain an independent practice. They run everything on their own and might even treat clients in their own homes. If possible, with a spare room or an extra bit of space in your home, you might see if this is an option. It is a means of cutting costs, as well. Redecorating a spare room is not an option? Search for space to lease or rent a room in a local wellness space where you can meet clients.

Sometimes, reflexologists find work at local wellness centers or spas, so it might be worth exploring the options in your area.
Salary-wise, you can expect to earn about 12,000 to 14,000 dollars per year as you first set out in the field. As you go along, these numbers could grow as large as 20,000 to 35,000 dollars per year. Over time, your client base will grow, and in turn, your salary will do the same.

Keep in mind why you are considering sharing reflexology with others. You might realize it is not about the money for you. Rather, you feel called to offer to heal others in the same healing has been offered to you.

Check out our free eCourse – Reflexology 101