Did You Know?
Reflexology dates back to the ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations. It has been depicted on a pictograph in the tomb of an Egyptian physician named Ankhmahor, which dates back to around 2,500 BCE.
While reflexology dates back thousands of years, this concept was introduced in the United States by Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, as Zone theory, in 1913. As per the Zone therapy (the precursor to the modern reflexology), the entire length of the body from the head to toes is divided into ten equal longitudinal zones. This theory was based on the premise that the tips of the fingers and the toes represent five zones on that side of the body, and applying on-and-off pressure on the corresponding fingertips, as well as toes could not only unblock the nerve impulse but also improve blood flow and restore the energy balance in the zones. This would help the body achieve homeostasis or a state of equilibrium, wherein oxygenated blood would circulate properly, thereby restoring the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells and tissues.

While Dr. Fitzgerald referred to the numbing effect on different parts of the body, it was a physiotherapist named Eunice D. Ingham who mapped out the reflex areas of the hands and feet in the 1930s.
Different Forms of Reflexology
Several theories have been used to explain the principle or the working mechanism of this holistic therapy. According to the nerve impulse theory, when the reflex points in the feet and hands are stimulated, nerve signals that travel from the foot to the brain might block the pain signals. It is also believed that the stimulation of these points might send messages to the brain, which would respond by sending signals to re-position the body. This would help in providing relaxation. Another theory states that stimulating reflex points helps clear the blockage caused by the buildup of chemical deposits around the nerve endings.
Gate-control theory is another theory that is based on the tenet that the pain receptors in the spinal cord regulate the amount of pain that can pass to the brain. If all the receptors are full, the 'gate' shuts, which in turn stops the pain signals from being transmitted to the brain. This has an effect on the amount of pain one experiences. There are some who attribute it to the placebo effect, whereas there are others who believe that applying pressure on these areas helps release endorphin―chemicals with analgesic properties.
These days, reflexologist commonly follow Ingham's methods. However, similar techniques have been developed and are very much in use. The different forms of reflexology methods include:

➠ Foot/Hand/Ear reflexology
➠ Flocco method (Foot, hand, and ear reflexology)
➠ Vertical Reflexology
➠ Meridian Reflexology
Foot/Hand/Ear Reflexology
The most common form of reflexology, foot reflexology involves the stimulation of the reflex points in the solar plexus or the sole of the foot, which is believed to be the nerve center of the body. More than 7,000 nerve endings are present in each foot.
Foot reflexology chart
It is believed that these points correspond to the glands, organs, or parts of the body. When pressure is applied on these points, the nervous system gets stimulated, which in turn helps open the blocked energy pathways, improves blood circulation, encourages healing, and improves the functioning of the internal organs.
During a reflexology session, a reflexologist moves his thumb and fingers in a particular manner for stimulating the reflex points in specific areas. He/she may use techniques such as thumb and finger walking, alternating pressure, apply pressure in and up, rotate on a reflex, etc., during the session.
Hand reflexology chart
Acupressure points of ears
The principle behind the hand reflexology, ear reflexology, or face reflexology is the same; the only difference is that pressure is applied on the points on the hand, ear, or face, respectively.
Vertical Reflex Therapy (VRT)
Foot parts naming
Developed by Lynne Booth, vertical reflexology involves the stimulation of the reflex points on the dorsal aspects of the feet and hands. Thus, the points on the feet are stimulated when one is in a standing position, and the points on the hand are stimulated, while the palms are placed on a flat surface. The logic behind following this technique is that the nerves are more sensitized in these positions.
Flocco Method
Flocco method basically involves the use of reflexology charts of the feet, hand, as well as the ears for stimulation of the pressure points in these areas. reflexologist who are trained to stimulate the points in these areas are in a better position as compared to those who only work on points in one region. This is especially true in case of injuries to the hands or feet. This type of massage is believed to be quite helpful in alleviating the symptoms associated with PMS.
Meridian Reflexology
This technique is based on the traditional Chinese concept of twelve meridians or energy channels/pathways which are located on both sides of the body. It is believed that each of these meridians is related to the five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, and Wood). Chi or energy flows through these channels, and problems arise when there is a blockage in any of these channels. In case of meridian reflexology, the reflexologist stimulates the meridian lines on the feet, in order to remove the blockage and correct the energy flow. It is believed that this technique can strengthen the immune system and promote physical and mental well-being. Besides promoting general well-being, meridian reflexology is believed to be effective for treating headaches/migraines, stress/tension, depression, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, or speeding up recovery following an illness.

Besides the aforementioned technique, there are several other methods that have been developed by reflexologist over the years. Some reflexologist also incorporate the use of hot stones, vacuum cups, wooden sticks, etc., to stimulate the reflex points.
It must be noted that a reflexologist doesn't diagnose medical conditions; however, he/she locates the area of tension, and applies pressure on the reflex points in the plantar, dorsal, medial, and lateral view of the feet or the reflex points in the hands, ear, or the face. He/she exerts pressure using the thumb and fingers to remove the blockage, thereby improving lymphatic drainage and blood circulation. To add to that, sessions can be especially beneficial in case of people affected by physical and mental stress. Those who wish to try this holistic therapy must ensure that they seek the services of a certified reflexologist.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a reflexologist.