When most people think about a true therapeutic experience, they often opt for a full body massage to relax and rejuvenate their mind, body and spirit. But what they might not realize is that the simple act of focusing on the reflexology zones in the hands, feet and ears can help elevate their state of relaxation and recovery to new levels.
Reflexology dates back thousands of years as a preferred bodywork treatment for promoting relaxation and healing specific pain, ailments or conditions. By focusing on the body’s nervous system and connective energy meridians located in the feet, hands and ears, the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals believe that reflexology is an effective method for addressing common conditions that massage helps as well as an effective technique for addressing health concerns that aren’t typically accessible with regular massage, including problems with internal organs or body systems.
“There are hieroglyphics of reflexology so the practice has been around for a lot longer than most people realize,” explains Paul Banks, massage therapist at Elements Centennial. “There are also strong links to Chinese medicine and Native American medicine. I’m a big believer in reflexology because it really works. I add reflexology into all of my sessions as an extra relaxation component because it’s good to help you relax and let everything go.”
Get Into the Zone
Massage therapists who use reflexology during their massages focus on applying pressure to a certain place on your foot, hand or ear that corresponds with the specific zone and area of your body where you are feeling pain or discomfort. The overall premise of reflexology is that your body is divided into 10 vertical zones that run the length of your body, says Banks. Each of your fingers and toes represent one of the zones, connecting the nerve endings in your extremities to relieving pain in the corresponding area of your body. Reflexology also can help stimulate body energies and optimize organ functions.
“The main philosophy of reflexology is that the meridians of the body’s 10 zones are connected throughout the entirety of the body,” explains Banks. “Once you begin to understand and study a reflexology chart, you begin to see how everything is connected and how it’s a natural way to relax your mind and body.”
According to the Maine Council of Reflexologists, there are approximately 7,200 nerve endings in each foot, 2,500 in each hand and 435 in each of your ears that correspond to every part of your body. These nerve endings also are responsible for sending messages to the brain about the specific area in the body that is stressed or in pain so that the brain can respond by producing endorphins to naturally heal the area of concern. Overall, the most common areas in your body that reflexology can help improve include the nervous, circulatory and lymphatic system, as well as sensory stimulation, biomechanics and relaxation responses.
Hands and Feet Connect the Body and Soul
Our hands and feet might be the furthest extremities from the core of our body, but they are two of the most important areas to focus on during a massage to promote relaxation and healing throughout the body. Using simple kneading strokes and applying pressure on various areas of the hands and feet can help increase the circulatory functionality of the body, increase relaxation and decrease pain in corresponding zones that align with specific areas on the foot and hand.
The soles of the feet and the palms of the hands tend to hold the majority of the sensory areas for reflexology work. It is these areas that Banks focuses on during his sessions to give his clients an extra relaxation component during their massage session.
“People wonder if it is coincidental that I’m rubbing a certain area on their hands or feet and they end up feeling relief in other parts of their body as a result,” shares Banks. “But, reflexology really works and I’m a big believer in its positive effects for my clients. I have repeat clients who come in for a massage session and say that whatever I did last time with their hands and feet really helped in the other areas of their body where they were feeling discomfort.”
The Power of the Ear Relaxes and Alleviates Chronic Pain
In addition to helping clients feel relaxation and relief through pressure points on their hands and feet, Banks also likes to focus on the earlobes to help relieve tension and stress in the eyes, mouth and head areas. The earlobes are a key area to helping calm down your mind and body’s stress levels.
If you’re feeling uptight or stressed out, Banks suggests rubbing your earlobes to calm yourself down and start enjoying the basic relaxation results of reflexology. He also has had great success with using reflexology in this area to help alleviate the pain associated with chronic headaches and migraines.
“Every time I have a client come in with a headache, I’m able to get rid of it for them by using reflexology techniques,” explains Banks. “In fact, I’ve had clients who have suffered from migraines and after I’ve given them a reflexology treatment it has significantly lessened the severity of the pain. They also don’t get migraines as often.”
As stress levels continue to rise throughout your daily life, finding techniques and strategies to help calm your mind and body is important to your longevity and outlook on life. Reflexology is a therapy option that can help to enhance the relaxation benefits of a regular massage while stimulating your body’s natural energy zones and connective properties. Give a little more focus to your hands, feet and ears during your next massage therapy session and reap the benefits of a truly therapeutic healing experience.