Foot reflexology for pain relief

An image of the body and its organs on the soles of the feet? This has not been scientifically proven – yet many patients swear by foot reflexology. It is said to have a beneficial effect on the internal organs and any disorders. A study in  knee arthrosis  gives hope. Find out more about foot reflexology here.

Feet as a mirror of the body

Feet are a mirror of all possible organs – liver, spleen, heart, joints and muscles are reflected in small format on their soles. At least that’s what many people   who feel good about having a foot massage are convinced of.

It is said that there are certain zones on the soles of the feet, from which there are fixed connections (namely reflex paths) to the other regions of the body. All organs should be found on the soles of the feet like on a map. However, there is no anatomical evidence for this assumption. As a rough classification, the toes reflect the head and neck, the metatarsus the chest area, ankles and heels the abdomen and pelvis.

Pressure massage –  acupressure  – has been used as a healing method in China and other countries for several thousand years. The feet are particularly suitable for this, as they can trigger effects in the whole organism, because numerous nerve tracts connect them with the other regions of the body.

Reflex zones on the left and right half of the body

The modern form of foot reflexology goes back to the American ENT doctor Dr. William Fitzgerald back. He got to know the method through Indian folk medicine and developed it further. In the 1930s, the masseuse Eunice D. Ingham picked up the concept and expanded it.

A pressure point massage of the corresponding areas on the foot should influence the internal organs and any malfunctions in their function via the reflex pathways mentioned. The organs of one half of the body are located on the sole of the corresponding right or left foot.

Foot reflex zone massage: Special grip technique

The massage is considered useful for  rheumatism , circulatory problems,  migraines , digestive problems and metabolic diseases as well as tension and  allergies . By looking and touching  , the therapist creates a diagnosis based on the reflex zones. He examines the soles of the feet for deformations, swelling or skin changes. A special grip technique shows hardened or painful reflex zones that indicate disorders in the body.

It is mainly treated selectively, for example by dynamically moving the thumb and other fingers up and down. The nerve endings on the foot conduct the stimulus via the sciatic nerve to the spine, from where the signals are passed on to the individual organs. The impulses can lead to an initial worsening of the symptoms – in naturopathy this is almost always an indication that the self-healing powers are mobilized.

Health insurance companies do not pay the costs

Even if the health insurance companies do not pay for a foot reflex zone massage, they still rate it positively. The AOK writes about it. “The idea of ​​reflex zones in the body is not unknown in classical naturopathy: All organs and tissues that are supplied by the same bundle of nerve fibers that emerge from the spine belong to a reflex zone. Since these fibers all converge in a center near the spine (a  ganglion ), internal organs can also be affected by skin irritation in a reflex zone, for example.”

Study: Foot reflex zone therapy for knee problems

A study carried out at the Competence Center for Naturopathic Treatments at the Jena University Hospital (UKJ) has now shown that professional foot reflexology can help with mild knee arthrosis. As part of a doctoral thesis, Catharina Güttner examined the effectiveness of foot reflexology therapy on pain perception and mobility of the affected joint in 30 patients with moderately severe arthrosis of the knee joint.

Implementation and results of the study

For six weeks, the test persons each received twelve treatments, a therapeutic massage of the corresponding foot reflex zones – this zone is roughly in the rear heel area. The patients’ personal assessment of their pain perception was asked and the intensity of the pain was measured. At the same time, the flexibility of the diseased knee was tested and compared.

“Significant improvements were seen in both aspects during and after the foot reflex zone therapy: the pain intensity decreased by more than two thirds and the mobility of the knee joint was improved by 12 degrees,” explains Prof. Dr. Christine Uhlemann, supervisor of the thesis. Almost all patients (92 percent) reported that their condition had improved after completing the study.

The data suggest that the effectiveness of foot reflexology therapy goes beyond a  placebo effect  . “The pain at rest, i.e. the intensity of the pain that occurs even when the knee is not loaded, even went down to zero after the therapy.” At reference points, i.e. areas not stimulated by the foot reflex zone therapy, the pain perception did not change.

Not always effective, but beneficial

But there were also other results, for example from Great Britain: foot reflexology, for example, is often used to treat patients with  irritable bowel syndrome  . A 2002 study found that this treatment was no better than any foot massage. Researchers led by Philip Tovey from the University of Leeds in Great Britain subjected 34 patients with irritable bowel syndrome to foot reflexology ( Brit J of General Practice 52, 2002, 19 ). Half of the patients were treated with a targeted massage on the intestinal reflex points of the foot, the other half with an unspecific “placebo massage” on the whole foot.

After six massage sessions over three weeks, there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of upper abdominal pain, bloating, and  constipation  or  diarrhea . The massage had little therapeutic effect in either group. The main weakness of foot reflexology is that it is not possible to determine exactly which zones of the foot are associated with which parts of the body. Because all knowledge is predominantly experience.

Nevertheless, almost all patients find a foot massage beneficial, relaxing and sometimes pain-relieving. An effect against pain could result from the so-called principle of the “counterstimulus”. By pressing on painful foot zones, a stimulus is created that temporarily cancels other painful stimuli in the body. This principle is also known for the anti-pain effect of  acupuncture  .

Self-experiment or partner massage

The foot reflex zone massage is ideal as a partner massage. You don’t necessarily have to stick to the zones, but massage (have a massage) there, as you find it comfortable. If you  have a runny nose  , for example, you can try to relieve the congestion in your nose by massaging the “lymph zones”. This zone is in the spaces between the toes, the “webbed feet”. Massage these areas vigorously with the tip of your thumb or index finger for about ten minutes.

Foot reflexology: Beware of illnesses

Foot reflex zone massage is offered at numerous adult education centers so that you can acquire a few basic skills and knowledge in a course. However, one should be careful with inflammatory processes in the veins, arteries and  lymphatics , with feverish infections and high-risk pregnancies and, if in doubt, consult the doctor. Professional therapists always ask about acute illnesses before treatment and refer them to the doctor in the event of risks.

By the way,  walking barefoot is  a very simple and useful way of massaging your feet: muscles are stimulated and trained here and the connective tissue strengthens. Walking across pebbles, grass or simply barefoot through the apartment stimulates blood circulation, strengthens the muscles and maintains the mobility of toes and joints.

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