You may well have heard of reflexology massages and be vaguely aware of what they involve – treatment of the feet to treat the whole body, right? – but how much do you really know about them, where they come from and why they’re one of the most popular massages practiced today?
The idea behind reflexology, whether in the form of a massage or another form of treatment, is the application of pressure to specific points of the feet. The theory being that different areas of the feet correspond to different parts of the body, thus applying pressure to these areas will affect relating parts of the body. As a form of reflexology, in some cases pressure may also be applied to the hands or ears.
Reflexology was born out of a technique originally named ‘zone therapy’ and developed by American physician William Fitzgerald in the early 20th Century. Hedivided up thefoot into areas (resulting in the drawing up maps of the foot), believing he could better diagnose and treat medical conditions by focusing on these different areas. He went on allocate each area to 10 different zones within the wider body andlabelled which zone would go with which area on his map of the foot, proscribing gentle pressure on specific parts of the foot to bring relief to their corresponding zones of the body.
Fitzgerald’s proposed ‘zone therapy’ wasn’t a radically new idea, however, because for thousands of yearssimilar techniques had been deployed in both Egypt and China, which may well have informed his foot-focused treatment. In the years to come ‘zone therapy’ would further develop; in the 1930s specifically, nurse and physiotherapist Eunice Inghamadapted Fitzgerald’s maps to include specific reflex points and soon the practice acquired the name reflexology.
Nowadays, reflexologists use methods similar to those established by Inghamor others developed by the reflexologist Laura Norman. Modern reflexology charts also take after Fitzgerald’s map of the foot in that diagrams of feet correspond with specific parts of the body – for instance, the right foot corresponds with the right side of the body, and the left foot corresponds with the left side.In addition to massage therapists, chiropractors, podiatrists, physical therapists and nurses often tend to use reflexology, proof of its appreciation as a widely respected form of physical treatment.
One hypothesisbehinditis that pressure applied to the feet may send signals to balance the nervous system or release chemicals such as endorphins to reduce stress and pain, although sections of the medical community far from agree with this suggestion. A more spiritual take has it that reflexology clears the blockages in the body of an energy field – or an invisible life force (‘Qi’) – that otherwise prevent healing.
Either way, giving your feet up to the safe hands of one of our expert reflexology therapists is a fine way to spend 50 minutes of your day at our beautiful spa located, as it is, in the elegant Montcalm Hotel , to be found at the top of Park Lane in the heart of the West End. After all, our therapists recommend reflexology massages not just to alleviate the likes of back pain, migraines and digestive problems, but also simply to detoxify your mind and body, and enjoy an utterly relaxing, de-stressing experience in the exquisite surroundings of our spa.