Reflexology is basically a study of how one part of the human body relates to another part of the body. Reflexology practitioners rely on the reflexes map of the feet and hands to all the internal organs and other human body parts. They believe that by applying the appropriate pressure and massage certain spots on the feet and hands, all other body parts could be energized and rejuvenated. This review aimed to revisit the concept of reflexology and examine its effectiveness, practices, and the training for reflexology practitioners. PubMed, SCOPUS, Google Scholar, and SpringerLink databases were utilized to search the following medical subject headings or keywords: foot massage, reflexology, foot reflexotherapy, reflexological treatment, and zone therapy. The articles published for the last 10 years were included. Previous systematic reviews failed to show concrete evidence for any specific effect of reflexology in any conditions. Due to its non-invasive, non-pharmacological complementary nature, reflexology is widely accepted and anecdotal evidence of positive effect reflexology in a variety of health conditions are available. Adequate training for practitioners is necessary to ensure the consistency of service provided.
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The underlying theory behind reflexology is that there are certain points or "reflex areas" on the feet and hands that are connected energetically to specific organs and body parts through energy channels in the body. By applying pressure to reflex areas, a reflexologist is said to remove energy blockages and promote health in the related body area.
The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was the first time that massage therapy was televised as it was being performed on the athletes. And then, during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta massage therapy was finally offered as a core medical service to the US Olympic Team. Massage has been employed by businesses and organizations such as the U.S. Department of Justice, Boeing and Reebok. Notable athletes such as Michael Jordan and LeBron James have personal massage therapists that at times even travel with them.
Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state of anxiety. Additional testing has shown an immediate increase and expedited recovery periods for muscle performance. Theories behind what massage might do include enhanced skeletal muscle regrowth and remodeling, blocking nociception (gate control theory), activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which may stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph, and improving sleep.
This may come as a surprise, but in fact there is no therapeutic benefit to stretching skin so hard that it feels like it is going to tear! And it is a completely different and uglier sensation than how fascial stretching can feel and should feel (more like a good massage). When I complained about this (politely), the therapists made no distinction between skin-tearing and fascial stretching, and more or less tried to tell me that I was objecting to perfectly good therapy. Needless to say, I never returned to those therapists.
Myofascial trigger points — muscle knots — are a ubiquitous muscular dysfunction, causing most of the aches, pains and stiffness in the world, and complicating virtually every other injury and disease process. A lot of massage is focused on them, directly or indirectly. Massage may be helpful because it relieves the symptoms of muscle knots, or even unties them. (No, not literally.)
Sports massage is a systematic manipulation of the soft tissues of the body that focuses on muscles relevant to a particular sport. Runner Paavo Nurmi, known as the "Flying Finn," was one of the early users of sports massage. Nurmi is said to have used sports massage during the 1924 Olympics in Paris where he won five gold medals. Jack Meagher is thought to be the father of sports massage in the United States.
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In Japanese, shiatsu means "finger pressure." For shiatsu massage, the therapist uses varied, rhythmic pressure on certain precise points of the body. These points are called acupressure points, and they are believed to be important for the flow of the body's vital energy, called chi. Proponents say shiatsu massage can help relieve blockages at these acupressure points.
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Manipulative approaches to naturally treating pain and other health problems have been utilized for over 3,000 years, dating back to Ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations. Pressure massages were used to improve “Qi” (life force or energy), detox the body and promote better liver function — which today can be explained through the process of activating the lymphatic system.
The recognition of reflexology as a specific type of treatment began with Zone Theory, in which the body is divided into 10 vertical zones. Each zone corresponds to fingers and toes all the way up to the top of the head. For example, if you are standing up with your hands on your thighs (palms facing down) the thumbs and great toe would be zone 1. On either side of the body, the index finger and second toe would be zone 2, etc.
Most deep tissue massages normally focus on major muscle groups — such as the neck or lower back — along with joints and tendons that are susceptible to straining or injuries. Certain areas of the body that tend to tense up in times of stress, including the shoulders, neck and hips, can often benefit the most from this type of deep manipulation. Many people consider “sports massages” to be a form of deep tissue massage, which involves physical treatment primarily to neuromusculoskeletal systems to treat pain and disability, improve muscle recovery and joint mobilization, and prevent injuries.
Ugly pain in massage therapy is, by my definition, never okay. Ugly pain is often caused by things that are not going to offer even minimal, delayed benefits, and may even be dangerous. It’s important to be able to spot ugly pain for what it is and completely eliminate it from any therapy you’re receiving. What kinds of handling may cause “ugly” pain?
Reflexology is a systematic practice in which applying some pressure to any particular points on the feet and hands give impacts on the health of related parts of the body.1 Each point of the pressure acts as the sensors on the feet and hands and is links with different parts of body specifically.1 These sensors will be stimulated by applying the reflexology technique in order to improve the blood and energy circulation, give sense of relaxation, and maintain the homoeostasis.2 Reflexology session can be improved by other elements such as aromatherapy, peaceful music, and good environment settings.3 There is a term in reflexology called reflex zone therapy. Reflex zone therapy is where the body is divided into ten longitudinal zones from head to toe. In the reflex zone therapy, there are five zones on both sides of the body in which each zone diverge down the particular arm, and also continue straight down the body and down the particular leg to line up with a toe on the respective foot. Practitioners usually choose the suitable technique to be applied to the reflex zone therapy to gain optimized efficiency and impact. Reflexology is a complementary therapy instead of an alternative therapy to other treatments which patient already has based on reflexology maps.2 Complementary therapies nowadays are applied in many of palliative care or to alleviate a problem without dealing with the underlying cause in order to make patient's emotional, physiological, and spiritual health improve and increase the value of their life.4 Two methods of reflexology that have been accepted internationally are Ingham method and Rwo Shur method. The first method does not use any tools in its practice and the second method utilizes the use of tools such as a wooden stick.2 There are five theories that support how reflexology gives impacts to body health.5 First and second basic theories are related to energy. Energy theory advocates that body parts can communicate using electromagnetic fields and the communication can be blocked based on the surrounding respectively.6 Third and fourth theories indicate that energy flow can be restored and the fourth is about the pathway which is blocked can be opened.7 The last theory proposes that reflexology can break up the lactic acid crystal that usually deposited in the feet and allow energy to flow efficiently.5
Integrative Reflexology is defined as “massage therapy-based reflexology, practiced as both energy work and bodywork.” Integrative reflexology is an holistic discipline which uses the therapist’s hands to apply alternating and firm pressure to stimulate physiological changes in the body. The therapist activates the zone reflex points and meridian points to create beneficial responses in the nervous, electrical and chemical systems of the body. Integrative Reflexology allows the body to relax by releasing tension and improving blood flow. It helps the body to adjust to its own healthy balance.
If you are dealing with a serious injury, and don’t have a diagnosis, definitely see a sports doctor. “Massage therapists do not diagnose,” says Denunzio. “It’s not part of our discipline.” And while a therapist can identify and attempt to alleviate any tightness and inflammation in the body, if a problem area doesn’t feel significantly better three days post-massage, you should likely consult a sports doctor then, as well. Once a diagnosis is given, your massage therapist can work with that information and use massage as a helpful tool in recovery.
RCTs have a vital role in the assessment of efficacy in reflexology. However, they only address the effect of reflexology in which other pertinent issues are unexplored such as the mechanism of reflexology, psyche, and the experience of participants receiving reflexology. Nursing research has long used qualitative research to explore various health care phenomena. Similarly, qualitative approach can provide further understanding about the patient's perception and belief towards reflexology.4, 36 Qualitative research also assists in understanding the impact of the context and the process of reflexology intervention. A greater understanding of reflexology intervention has the potential to enhance the delivery of health care. Thus, it is argued that qualitative explorative methods combined with RCTs could potentially reveal the contributing factors of reflexology effect.
Until recently, reflexology was mostly ignored by science and relied on anecdotal evidence to buoy its good name. Today, though, there are many associations and organizations promoting and supporting the work of reflexologists from around the world. There is even an International Council of Reflexologists which has produced a Research Analysis Document that contains over 300 reflexology research studies, mainly from such places as China, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. Even in North America, a study has been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Some of this research studies examined the effects of reflexology upon certain health conditions such as: asthma, back pain, cancer, chest pain, childbirth, PMS, heart disease, constipation, gout, migraine, headaches, multiple sclerosis, and nervous exhaustion.
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Massage used in the medical field includes decongestive therapy used for lymphedema which can be used in conjunction with the treatment of breast cancer. Light massage is also used in pain management and palliative care. Carotid sinus massage is used to diagnose carotid sinus syncope and is sometimes useful for differentiating supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) from ventricular tachycardia. It, like the valsalva maneuver, is a therapy for SVT. However, it is less effective than management of SVT with medications.