Reflexology – what is it, and how can it help?


There’s something beautiful about a reflexology chart. Steeped in centuries of history, it’s a mark of an ancient massage practice respected the world over. 

All kinds of reflexology draw from the same ideas of reflex points and energy pathways, but different cultures have sculpted the practice in different ways. Here’s some more information to help you understand how it works, and what to expect from a session. 

What even is reflexology?

At its most basic, reflexology is the art of using massage techniques and gentle pressure on certain parts of the body. Most often that’s the feet, but some practitioners can also perform on the hands, ears and face. 

It’s based on the idea that various points on the area being massaged correspond to other parts of the body, linked by nerves and lines of energy. So particular motions on the balls of your feet, for example, might stimulate the lungs – likewise, massaging the tips of the toes might affect the nose and sinuses. That stimulation, practitioners believe, relaxes the corresponding parts of the body and can promote healing. 

Keep in mind that reflexology maps tend to vary depending on the cultural school of the practitioner. There are, however, some common connections these maps make: 

Foot reflexology charts often link:

  • The heel with the lower back and sciatic nerve
  • The ball of the foot with the lungs
  • The underside of toes with the neck
  • The big toe with the head and brain

And hand reflexology charts tend to link: 

  • The tips of the fingers with the head or brain
  • The heel of the hand with the gut and small intestine
  • The area at the base of the fingers with the lungs
  • The base of the thumb with the stomach

What happens in a reflexology session?

Reflexologists begin sessions with a quick assessment of your health – they’ll ask you questions about your medical history and any current conditions to get a sense of which areas they need to focus on. 

Your practitioner will then leave you to get comfortable on a chair or table – either’s fine as long as you can relax, the focal areas are elevated and can be worked at from all angles. 

Then they’ll make sure your hands or feet are clean, and apply a small amount of wax or oil to help with the motions.

Practitioners use a combination of massage motions to treat patients, paying particular attention to points on the hands or feet that correspond to problem areas. Pressure is usually light-to medium, and practitioners mostly use their thumbs to do their work. 

The benefits of reflexology

The most immediate benefit of reflexology is relaxation – in practice it’s a slow, soothing foot or hand massage that’ll boost circulation, lower your heart rate, ease stress and give your tired extremities some TLC. It’s the relaxation aspect that makes it a fantastic complementary therapy, used alongside treatment for ongoing conditions.  

Reflexologists approach the practice with the intention of treating other parts of the body. People often consult a reflexologist for help with: 

  • Arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Hypertension
  • Alleviating symptoms brought on by chemotherapy, like nausea and prolonged pain
  • Anxiety and insomnia

Does reflexology hurt?

That one’s easy. It shouldn’t hurt at all – it’s as widely used as a relaxing treat as a means of treating wider issues. 

Is reflexology right for me?

Reflexology is generally considered a low-risk treatment suitable for all, but it’s advisable to consult a doctor ahead of an appointment if you’re suffering from long-term conditions such as cancer or diabetes. If you’re pregnant, it’s a safer bet to book a pregnancy massage tailored specifically to your needs. 

Any other treatments worth considering? 

That’s a great question. If you’re looking to relax and boost your immune system, lymphatic drainage might suit you better.

Reflexology is a local treatment, if you’re after an all-over massage, check out the Urban Classic, or a Deep Tissue massage for more pressure.

Who are we? We’re Urban, on a mission to empower people through wellness. Our app is the easy way to book massage (including reflexology), osteopathy and beauty services to your home or hotel. Simply choose your pre-vetted practitioner, pick a time and place, and relax.

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