The art of holistic foot massage has been practised for hundreds of years in ancient Chinese and Egyptian cultures, but was only named reflexology in 1913 by American medical professionals, William H. Fitzgerald and Edwin F. Bowers.

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With World Reflexology Week coming up (18-24 September), what exactly is reflexology, how does it work and how can it improve your wellbeing and overall health?

What is reflexology?

“Reflexology is a complementary holistic healing therapy that works your whole body system through your feet and also, on occasion, through your hands,” explains trained reflexologist Sharon Walker.

“A reflexologist will work along your feet, massaging particular reflex points which have been found to correlate and reflect other areas of the body – so the toes are linked with the head and brain, for instance, and so on.”

How does reflexology work?

The idea is that energy points in the feet are revitalised through massage, which relieves tension elsewhere in the body, helping to minimise and ward off pain, discomfort and illness.

“Working and massaging congested or ‘crunchy’ points found in the feet can help release tension and pain in the corresponding point in the body, which can help rebalance you,” explains Sharon.

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What can reflexology treat?

Reflexology is used to help soothe physical as well as mental ailments.

It’s a way to find peace and calm mentally, as well as physically. “The fact you lie down for an hour, away from the stresses and strains of everyday life, means reflexology is also great for settling yourself and finding a way to just ‘be’ in the moment, as well as being a great way to reboot your system,” says Sharon.

Do you have to visit a reflexologist?

It is ideal to visit a trained reflexologist, but stimulating your feet with a barefoot walk can help improve your mood.

“A great way to work these pressure and reflex points in the feet, without seeing a reflexologist specifically, is to walk barefoot, particularly on the beach,” says Sharon.

“Doing that, all the points in your feet are worked equally, which explains why we often feel re-energised after a walk on the beach.”

What else can your feet reveal?

Reflexology has found that the shape and colour of your feet can point to certain personality traits and health factors. For example, dry, cracked feet reveals dehydration, while patchy yellow and red skin on the feet can indicate signs of infection elsewhere in the body.

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“Traditionally, foot shapes have also been seen as ways to denote character types,” explains Sharon. “So, if your toes are bent, it has been said that means you may not reach your potential, while if your second toe is longer than your big toe, emotionally you are prone to experiencing great highs and lows.”

Always consult your doctor if you are worried about any health symptoms.