Traditional Chinese Medicine Foot Reflexology: Benefits and More

Foot reflexology is an ancient technique that involves applying pressure to specific points on the soles of the feet. Proponents believe that these points reflect bodily organs and systems and that stimulating them promotes good health and helps maintain balance in the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) reflexology is one type of this practice.

Although there are no large-scale clinical studies demonstrating the health benefits of reflexology, some smaller studies suggest that it may help reduce anxiety, relieve fatigue, and lower blood pressure.

This article takes a closer look at TCM foot reflexology, including its benefits and risks. It also suggests alternative therapies that people may wish to try.

TCM Foot Reflexology is a non-invasive complementary therapy that focuses on relieving stress by working with the feet.

People trained in this technique are called reflexologists. They believe that all body systems are reflected in the small areas of the hands, feet, ears and face. The idea is that pressure points on the feet and hands correspond to organs and tissues that standard massage techniques cannot reach.

foot reflexology involves applying pressure to specific points on the feet and hands related to particular parts of the body. When the reflexologist stimulates these pressure points, the theory is that vital energy – called Qi in Chinese – flows through the individual’s body, reaching the corresponding area. Here it brings the individual back into balance so that the body can heal itself.

There is no scientific evidence to explain how reflexology works. Some theories are that stress blocks the flow of energy, which then leads to disease. By restoring the flow of vital energy, reflexology maintains balance and health.

Another theory is that human touch calms the nervous system and provides benefits similar to other forms of massage.

Overall, there is little scientific evidence to prove the benefits of reflexology, including TCM foot reflexology, although some studies have concluded that it can reduce certain symptoms and improve well-being.

For example, a study 2019 found that reflexology was beneficial for people with breast cancer. The study involved 57 people who received either four reflexology sessions or no treatment. The researchers found that those in the experimental group were significantly less tired.

A 2014 study with 80 participants looked at reflexology for anxiety. People who had heart surgery the previous day were given 20-minute foot reflexology treatments once a day for four days or gentle rubbing of the feet with oil for 1 minute. Individuals in the reflexology group reported a significant decrease in anxiety compared to those in the control group.

Also, research 2017 found that reflexology decreased nausea, vomiting, and fatigue in people receiving chemotherapy.

More recently, a study 2020 found that foot reflexology was effective in reducing heart rate in people with hypertension or stage 2 high blood pressure. The researchers also found that it was partially effective in reducing blood pressure.

Additionally, according to advocates, reflexology can help by:

  • boost immunity
  • relieve colds and bacterial infections
  • relieve sinus problems
  • improve back and arthritis pain
  • rebalance hormones
  • overcome infertility
  • regulation of digestion
  • relieve nerve tingling that can occur when taking cancer medications

Reflexology is safe for most people and usually causes no harmful effects. However, people with certain medical conditions should exercise caution. These health issues include:

  • blood clots
  • Cancer
  • heart failure
  • foot problems, such as athlete’s foot, sores, ulcers, or gout

Although the risks are minimal, individuals should find a reflexologist who is properly trained and registered with the American Reflexology Certification Board or another reputable organization.

Before a reflexology session, the practitioner usually takes a brief medical history and explains what to expect. They can also ask someone to sign a consent form.

For TCM foot reflexology, the individual removes their socks and shoes, then lies down or sits down. The reflexologist will position themselves at the person’s feet and assess any issues that may interfere with the treatment.

During the session, the reflexologist starts with the toes and moves down the foot using various techniques to stimulate pressure points.

A session can last from 30 to 60 minutes and the person is free to fall asleep or talk as they wish.

Some people experience physical and emotional reactions to reflexology, including sweating, chills, tingling, and deep relaxation.

Massage involves manipulating soft tissues using techniques such as kneading, stroking and friction to relax muscles. This stimulates nerves and communicates with the brain, providing benefits such as:

  • relieve muscle tension
  • reduce blood pressure
  • decreased heart rate
  • create feelings of relaxation

Once the muscles are relaxed, the body releases endorphins which improve sleep and reduce pain.

In contrast, reflexology focuses on specific points on the hands and feet. It uses small movements to create a response in the corresponding area of ​​the body.

Reflexology alternatives include acupuncture and acupressure. In theory, these three therapies influence the energy throughout the body by stimulating specific points. However, acupuncture and acupressure points may not coincide with reflexology points.

Acupuncture involves the use of thin metal needles that the practitioner inserts through the skin. Proponents of technology believe that the body has hundreds of acupuncture points along energy lines called meridians. Inserting the needles at specific points helps restore the flow of energy. In some cases, the practitioner can activate the needles with gentle movements. Common uses of acupuncture include reducing pain and nausea.

Acupressure targets the same energy points and meridians but uses pressure instead of needles. Some people prefer acupressure over acupuncture because it is non-invasive and does not involve needles.

Proponents believe that acupressure can help with menstrual and pregnancy issues, sexual issues, nausea, vomiting, and anxiety.

Traditional Chinese foot reflexology is a non-invasive complementary therapy that uses pressure points on the soles of the feet. Practitioners, or reflexologists, believe that the feet are directly related to other bodily organs and systems. The theory is that stimulating these specific points along the energy lines helps restore vital energy flow and health.

Some evidence suggests that reflexology can help reduce anxiety, reduce fatigue, and lower blood pressure. However, large-scale clinical trials are lacking, and researchers have yet to prove the effectiveness of this practice.

Alternatives to reflexology include acupuncture and acupressure. These complementary therapies also involve the stimulation of specific points along the energy lines to restore energy flow and balance to the body.

Reflexology has few associated risks, but individuals should only consider treatment by a trained and licensed reflexologist.