Reflexology for Stress

Many people relieve stress through reflexology every day without realizing it. They rub a sore spot and thus relieve a temporary imbalance. Or they ask their partner or friend to massage a specific part of their feet. Trained reflexologists use special massage techniques on the feet to relieve tension in the mind and body.

Reflexology is generally understood to be a form of massage that focuses on the hands and feet. The theory behind the approach is that each part of the body is connected to a particular area of the hand or foot, and by massaging an area that is under stress, the reflexologist can bring some relief to the patient. However, reflexology treatment in practice goes beyond simple massage. Practitioners of reflexology need to understand not only the reflex areas of each part of body and the general regions of the foot and hand, but they also need to understand physical indicators of imbalance.

How Can Reflexology Treat Stress?

Long-term stress is believed to affect the endocrine system, and so a good reflexologist will attempt to balance any imbalances in reflex areas associated with the organs that make up endocrine system: the pineal gland, the pancreas, the adrenal gland, and so forth. The manipulation of these reflex areas is not always pleasant, and they may feel painful to the touch.

One good indicator of long-term stress is the condition of the adrenal gland reflex area. The adrenal gland is triggered during the “flight or fight” response. On the foot, the adrenal gland is often shaped like small pea. It can be found by placing your thumb horizontally just under the ball of your foot, directly under your big toe, and running your thumb straight down to the middle of your foot. You can often feel the “pea” pop up as you move your thumb off.

In a person with less stress, the pea feels like a small bag of sand crystals. In people who have been under a large amount of stress, the pea will either feel like a hard lump or will have almost disappeared entirely.

The Regions of the Foot

As with most eastern medicine, reflexology divides the body and soul into four separate elements: earth, water, fire, and air. Reflexologists correlate each of these elements with a specific area of the foot.

  • The heel is associated with earth, and thus with emotional or spiritual issues stemming from physical well-being, such as housing, work, and family
  • The area between the heel and the ball of the foot is associated with water, and thus with issues of emotional balance, such as worrying too much
  • The ball of the foot is associated with fire, and thus with issues such as anger and fear
  • The toes are associated with air, and thus with cognitive issues, such as muddled thinking or inability to focus

By studying the color and feel of these four distinct regions, reflexologists can identify possible clues of emotional or physical imbalances. For example, the ball of the foot tends to be the reddest area. If the toes are just as red, that might indicate that a person’s anger may be overriding rational thought. If, upon massaging the foot, the foot becomes moist, this can be an indicator that the person was holding in emotions and now, through the massage, is beginning to let go of those emotions.

Reflex Areas of the Foot

If you’ve ever looked at a foot chart, a map of the foot that identifies the reflex areas of each part of the body, you may have noticed that these maps are not all the same. There is no general agreement about the position of a few of the organs; one chart may place the heart and the lungs a bit to the right or below the placement on another chart. This variation is due not so much to genuine disagreement as to the fact that every foot is different in size, shape, and texture. A reflexologist must identify the reflex points using cues beyond a two-dimensional map.

Reflexology Treatment for Stress

Reflexologists can approach stress in a number of different ways. First, general massage of the foot and hand tends to make people relax and help them release tension, connect with their emotions, and break pain cycles. These techniques include:

  • Using a closed fist to run up and down the water region of the foot
  • Using the knuckle of the pointer finger to massage the heel
  • Catching the foot between the palms of the hands and rubbing in a circular motion
  • Using the thumb in a caterpillar-type motion to run downward along the backbone reflex area from the side of the big toe to just under the ankle
  • Massaging the ball of the foot, the solar plexus (the spot in the center of the foot just under the ball), and the toes

Self-Treatment of Stress with Reflexology

There are a number of popular reflexology techniques you can do yourself. For example, gently pulling the toes tends to release the tension in the head that is created by having to solve many different or complicated problems during the day. When people say that they feel that their “head is about to explode” or complain that they lack mental clarity, tugging horizontally on the toes, without pulling them upward or downward, often seems to relieve this tension. This method is especially effective when combined with placing the ball of the foot between the palms of the hands and rubbing in a circular clockwise motion.

Another popular technique for stress relief is rubbing the ball of the foot with particular emphasis on the spot that is in the middle of the foot and just under the ball of the foot. Instinctively people are drawn to rub the spot that corresponds to the solar plexus and the lungs, and thus encourage deeper breathing. One thing to remember if you try this, however, is that the solar plexus, the spot in the center of the foot just under the ball, should be rubbed in a circular clockwise fashion.

Avoiding Stress

In considering reflexology as a form of treatment, keep in mind that the best way to treat excessive stress is to avoid it. This generally involves making lifestyle changes. The amount and type of stress a person can handle in a healthy fashion varies from individual to individual, and each person reacts to stress differently. People can help themselves by becoming aware of what is causing their stress and how they are being affected. However, in times of unavoidable stress, reflexology self-treatment and reflexology practitioners can offer a very helpful solution.

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