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Reflexology, or zone therapy, is the practice of massaging, squeezing, or pushing on parts of the feet, or sometimes the hands and ears, with the goal of encouraging a beneficial effect on other parts of the body, or to improve general health. There is no broad consensus on how reflexology does or could work in practice; the one unifying theme is the claim that areas ("lumps" or "grit") on the foot correspond to areas of the body, and that by manipulating these on can improve health through one's qi.Concerns have been raised by numerous skeptics who fear that treating potentially serious illness with reflexology, which has no proven efficacy, could delay the seeking of help from proven conventional medicine.
Claimed mechanisms of operation Reflexologists claim to be able to relieve stress and pain in other parts of the body through the manipulation of the feet, a claim not supported by current scientific understanding of the nervous system. Other reflexologists posit that the body contains an energy field, invisible life force, or Qi, the blockage of which leads to illness and pain in a specific part of the body. This hypothesis is rejected by the general medical community, citing a lack of scientific evidence and the well-tested germ theory of disease. Other proposed effects or reflexology include the release of endorphins (natural pain killers found in the body), the promotion of lymphatic flow in the body or the dissolving of uric acid crystals - however, none of these theories are supported by evidence.
History Reflexology was introduced to the United States in 1913 by William H. Fitzgerald, M.D. (1872-1942), an ear, nose, and throat specialist, and Dr. Edwin Bowers. Fitzgerald claimed that applying pressure had an anesthetic effect on other areas of the body. Reflexology was further developed by Eunice D. Ingham (1899-1974), a nurse and physiotherapist, in the 1930s and 1940s. Ingham claimed that the feet and hands were especially sensitive, and mapped the entire body into "reflexes" on the feet. It was at this time that "zone therapy" was renamed to reflexology, and the number of conditions it was claimed to treat increased.Modern reflexologists in the United States and the United Kingdom often learn Ingham's method first, although there are other more recently developed methods.
Criticism Common criticisms of reflexology are the lack of central regulation, accreditation and licensing, the lack of medical training provided to reflexologists, and the short duration of training programmes. Diplomas in reflexology can be attained with as little as six months of home study, and the lack of licensing allows anyone to practice as a reflexologist, even with no qualifications.Despite their lack of medical training, patients may assume reflexologists to be qualified medical professionals. This could lead to patients following unsound advice and not following proven conventional therapies, relying solely on the diagnosis offered by a reflexologist, or halting conventional treatment on the advice of a reflexologist.Furthermore, reflexology's claim to manipulate energy (Qi) has been called pseudoscientific as there is no scientific evidence for the existence of life energy, Qi, 'crystalline structures' or 'pathways' in the body.
Reflexology charts A reflexology chart shows the claimed "reflex zones" found on the soles of the feet. Similar maps exist for the position of the reflexes on the hands. In this chart, the color codes represent the following organs or parts of the body:
|Pituitary gland||Gall Bladder|
|Neck and Throat||Adrenal Gland|
|Shoulder and Arm||Bladder|
|Lung and Breast||Colon|
|Thyroid and Bronchial||Coccyx|
|Solar Plexus||Sciatic Nerve|
Reflexology in the Media An episode of (1-02 Alternative Medicine) focused on reflexology. The original airing was February 7, 2003.
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