Reflexology is a treatment that applies gentle pressure to the feet, hands, and ears to help promote good health throughout the entire body. There are numerous types of reflexology treatments that can be used to help treat everything from sinus and migraine pain to stress and digestive issues. Although the feet, hands, and ears are the most common locations, reflexology may also be done on the face.
Traditionally, reflexology treatments focused on locating pressure points in the feet. This is understandable, as the feet bear roughly 7,000 nerve endings, which make them very receptive to touch. Foot maps are visual descriptions of what part of the body will be stimulated by having pressure placed on specific areas of the foot. For example, according to these maps, the brain may benefit from pressure placed on the outer portion of the big toe, while the stomach may be stimulated by a gentle massage near the upper portion of the mid-foot. Hand reflexology is very similar.
Like foot and hand reflexology treatments, ear reflexology requires the use of pressure point mapping. Unlike the other two areas, however, ear-focused treatments use a more delicate pressure, as opposed to the sweeping massage frequently used for larger areas of the body. Face reflexology treatments also use mapping; however, facial reflexology uses a different system, known as the Andean tribal body map. Facial treatments often consist of a massage on mapped-out pressure points, followed by the gentle stimulation of the 12 energy meridian points of the face.
Some reflexology treatments have a more specific focus, as with maternity and baby reflexology. Maternity reflexology treatments may be performed on mothers prior to conception, during pregnancy, or while in labor. This practice is said to help relax the woman enough to allow for conception and ease the process of giving birth, as well as relieve certain symptoms associated with pregnancy such as nausea, fatigue, and swelling of the extremities. Baby reflexology is usually performed on the feet and is said to help soothe the symptoms of certain illnesses, as well as relieve the sleeplessness and digestive issues that some babies are prone to. Although these treatments are thought to be effective, many feel that they should not be performed on children younger than one month old.