From the American Academy of Reflexology:
Devotees of hand reflexology maintain that there’s a “map” of the human body on our hands. Every internal organ and every other part of the body – is matched by a corresponding “reflex point” on the fingers, palms, backs, as well as inner and outer edges of the hands.
Applying thumb and finger pressure to the reflex points stimulates nerve impulses that travel to the corresponding body area. These impulses produce a relaxation response. As muscles relax, blood vessels open, increasing circulation, which increase the amount of available oxygen and nutrients – key components of healing-that get to cells in that part of the body.
American physician William Fitzgerald, MD, introduced this therapy in his 1917 book Zone Therapy. The techniques soon expanded to include foot reflexology.
In the decades since, reflexology has been popularized by hundreds of books and used by thousands of “reflexologists.”
Over a hundred research studies supporting the benefits of reflexology have been conducted primarily in Europe, the Middle East, China and the USA.
Reflexology is different from massage therapy and acupressure in that it works with the concept of small reflex maps, that suggest a shape of the human body – found on the feet, hands and outer ears – with touch techniques specific to the field of reflexology.
Some practitioners do ear reflexology, based on a whole-body map similar to the one used in the French and Chinese healing system of ear acupuncture (auriculo-therapy).
For quick relief of everyday pain, muscle tension and other – physical discomfort, the hands remain a prime area to work on. You can unobtrusively do hand reflexology anytime, anywhere-sitting in a meeting…at the computer…in an airplane.
Generally if the problem is on the left side of the body, work on the left hand, right side, the right hand. Frequently it is wise to work on both hands.
Research scientists especially in France, but also in China and the USA suggest the mechanisms of how reflexology works is predominantly through the nervous system.
Caution: Don’t do hand reflexology when you have a hand injury. If you have any medical problem, see a medical doctor. Hand reflexology is not a substitute for medical care.
Apply gentle pressure to the reflex points on your hand, using the thumb roll technique…
To reflex points on your left palm, place the fingers of your right hand on the back of you left hand.
Place the pad of your right thumb on your left palm.
Squeeze gently, pressing in with the thumb. Maintain that pressure.
As you press, bend the thumb so that the tip slowly rolls forward and downward.
Maintaining contact between the right thumb and left palm, straighten the thumb so that it inches forward perhaps one-eighth of an inch over the surface of the reflex area.
Repeat this thumb rolling movement, gradually working over the entire reflex area.
Use the same technique to work reflex points on the palm or fingers. To work reflex points on your right hand, of course, perform the thumb roll with your left hand.
Short fingernails are preferable. If your nails are long, use the sides and corners of your thumb rather than the tip.
Each of the following reflexology mini-sessions should be done for at least five minutes. Work a broad area around the specified reflex points, using the illustrated diagram as a general guideline.
Reflexology theory suggests that when something is not working right in the body, the corresponding reflex in the hand will feel irregular, such as harder, softer, “crunchier” than usual, or just plain tender, when thumb or finger pressure is applied to that part of the hand.
Beneficial results are frequently reported within a session or two. Generally, the longer there has been a problem, such as stress related neck discomforts, the more sessions needed to help the body produce desired relief.
Part of what determines how long results last is if the person re-aggravates the situation, such as repeated strain in the neck. Results can last a short time or permanently.
The eye reflex points are at the base of the index, middle and ring fingers – what is sometimes called the “big knuckles” of the hands, or the metatarsal phalangeal joints. Thumb-roll directly on the knuckle at the base of each-as well as immediately above and bellow the knuckle-on both sides of both hands.
The shoulder reflex points are on the backs of the hands, mainly in the grooves between the long bones. To reflex them, use the tips of your fingers. If your left shoulder is the problem, reflex on your left hand. Put your right thumb flat on your left palm. On the back of your left hand, place the tips of your index, middle and ring fingers in the grooves. Gently apply and maintain even pressure in those grooves, slowly moving your finger tips in the direction of the wrist.
If your right shoulder is the problem, reflex points on you right hand.
The soft portion of the palm on both hands-below the big knuckles-contains many reflex points for the digestive system.
The stomach reflex points are mostly on the left palm. For stomach upset and heartburn, use the thumb roll to work the soft palm just underneath the large knuckles at the base of the index, middle and ring fingers. Work lightly, gradually as the tissue softens, working deeper, increasing the pressure a little at a time, using nurturing, pleasing pressure.
Hand reflexology can relieve the neck pain associated with sitting in one place a long time.
The main reflex points for the neck are on the lower half of the thumbs. Thumb roll the area between the two knuckles of each thumb, rolling from the pad to the tip of your thumb, so that you apply sufficient pressure all the way around this area of the thumb.
CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
This painful, sometimes immobilizing hand and wrist condition often results from compression of nerves along the forearm. Working on points for the forearm can reduce the pain. These reflex points are on the outer edge of the hands, midway between the base of the pinkie and wrist.
Thumb roll this hand area completely on whichever arm has the problem.
Caution: Although reflexology can help ease pain for carpal tunnel syndrome, the condition is serious and could require medical attention. If you have symptoms, see a doctor without delay.
Reflex points for the spine are on the inner edge of the hand, from the bottom of the thumb to the wrist. Use the thumb roll to reflex this area on both hands. Reflex points for the lower back are on the inner edge of the hand toward the wrist.
After any reflexology session it is frequently suggested to drink extra water, to help flush out any toxins that might have been released from the tissues into the blood.