by Lawrence Wilson, MD

© January 2012, The Center For Development


Foot and hand reflexology are ancient and amazing methods of therapy that are also extremely safe, simple and effective.  The technique consists of firmly rubbing the feet or hands in particular ways.

Reflexology is sometimes referred to as acupressure or zone therapy.  Zone therapy is an accurate term for it.  Acupressure is not as correct, as this term refers to stimulating various acupuncture meridians using pressure over the acupuncture points.  However, one does not need to know acupuncture to do foot reflexology effectively and, in fact, it is not about the acupuncture meridians.  It is about another system of channels that carry subtle energy in our bodies.  For this reason, the correct term for this therapy is actually channel therapy.

The reflex channels.  A system of tiny tubes or energy channels run vertically down the front of the body and up the back of the body along the entire length of the body.  They form what are called the reflex channels that connect to all the organs, glands and tissues of the human and animal body.  They turn around at the feet and the hands.  This is why rubbing in these locations is especially helpful.  When one does this, it stimulates the entire channel to empty or open, and this action moves the energy along the channel.

Thousands of these ultra-microcscopic channels run the entire length of the body, according to the theory of reflexology channels, although they cannot be seen with microscopes.  They are arranged in bundles that go to each toe and each finger.

Interestingly, each part of your foot and hand – top, bottom and sides - corresponds or connects to a particular organ, gland or area of the body.  For example, the large toe, and all of the toes to some degree, correspond or reflex to the head.  The arch of the foot reflexes or corresponds to the spine.  The middle of the foot corresponds to the trunk and internal organs.

As you rub various areas of the feet or hands, sometimes you can feel bits of hard sand-like crystals.  This is a kind of sediment that build up in the channels.  When it is removed by rubbing properly, the channel opens or empties and energy flows to the organ or gland that the channel is connected to.  It is a very complex system, but simple to work with.  This is somewhat like nutritional balancing science, which is why I include it as part of nutritional balancing science.  It is very sophisticated, but easy to work with.

The reflex channels are a very profound aspect of human physiology that is not well understood.  For this reason, and perhaps others, this method is unfortunately not taught to people and not used much by the medical or even the holistic healing professions.  However, you can use reflexology or zone therapy with great benefits. 



Over the past 30 years, I have found hand and foot reflexology to be an amazingly safe and effective method of healing.  Also, it is easy to do anywhere, and can also be done by almost anyone, even a child.  No formal training is needed, though some instruction can be helpful. Several books and some courses teach its use.  This article will give just a few useful tips to help one get started.  Depending upon where you live, you may also find a professional who offers this therapy.

Emergencies. Zone therapy can be used for emergencies, as described later in this article.  It may even save a life if used during a heart attack, a stroke, shock or a hemorrhage. 

Chronic health conditions: It is excellent for chronic conditions ranging from constipation, pain, subluxation of joints, to very serious conditions as well.

Healing reactions and toxin removal. It can help remove all toxins and infections from the body, and may even be able to shift boney and other structures by some unknown mechanism.  It can even help open certain channels of energy that can permanently improve one’s health status and promote what I call mental or spiritual development.



                  Children.  Reflexology is a wonderful method for parents to help their children’s health in a safe, easy and enjoyable manner. Children usually love having their feet rubbed and respond well, in part, because their vitality level is high.  This is an important point.

It is also a way to connect and touch your children that is non-sexual, yet quite intimate and very caring and nourishing.  It can be used for many problems in children such as stomach aches, headaches, trouble falling asleep (it is fabulous for insomnia), sore throats, colds, other infections, asthma attacks, bruises, other aches and pains, and more.  You can also teach your children to do it on themselves, and maybe they will trade with you and give you a session, as well.

                  Children can also benefit from reflexology in unique ways because the technique may open them to some deeper healing and mental development.  This is a large topic discussed in other articles on this website and later in this article.


Teens and adults.  Teens usually love this technique.  Reflexology is often an excellent way to connect with teenagers, and they can use it safely on their friends, as well.  It is a method of non-sexual and non-threatening touch that most enjoy greatly.  It can be used just for relaxation and stress release, or for therapy as described elsewhere in this article.

Those over age 65 or so. Adults of all ages can respond beautifully to reflexology.  Once again, it is a non-threatening and safe way to connect with elderly patients, and others.

When treating older people, use less pressure, and perhaps do shorter treatments.  Use extra care because the skin is usually thinner and more delicate, and the veins are usually weaker and can be broken more easily. 



You will need a map of the feet, and preferably of the hands as well.  Two decent maps of the feet can be found on this website in PDF format by clicking on Foot Chart 1 and/or Foot Chart 2.  Click here for a Foot Chart in a different format.  Others are available via the internet or in some health food stores.

Also, some stores sell reflexology tools that may be helpful.  These are not necessary, but some people like to use foot rollers and other simple wooden or plastic devices to rub the feet and hands in particular ways.  These are all the materials you will need.



                  I will suggest three different ways to do reflexology on yourself or on another person.  They are:

  • A general or relaxation session.  This is used to help relax the body, for toning of the body, or perhaps if one is in pain or has other symptoms for which one does not know the cause.  It is also excellent for a generalized infection such as a cold or flu, and for many other acute or chronic symptoms.
                      In a general reflexology session, one does not focus on any particular area of the foot or hand.  Instead, one rubs firmly both feet or both hands, and one moves along the entire hand or foot.  If a spot appears tense, or is tender and painful, one can spend a little more time working on it.  Often the tension or pain will diminish after a minute or two.  However, one should continue on to complete the entire treatment of both feet or both hands.  A general session usually lasts between 10 and 20 minutes per foot or hand. 

·           Spot therapy. This approach focuses on a particular organ, gland or area of the body such as relieving a headache by rubbing the reflex areas on the foot related to the head and neck.

·           An etheric treatment. This is a specialized use of foot reflexology that can be helpful for mental and spiritual development.  It is described in detail below.



                  The following will enhance any reflexology session:

  • Be sure you are comfortable.  Preferably lie down, or sit comfortably in a recliner or other comfortable chair.

  • Relax the entire body.  In other words, make sure you are not tense anywhere.

  • Be sure to drink some water if you are thirsty, or eat if you are hungry.  In fact, I suggest drinking a small glass of water before each session even if you do not think you are thirsty, as it will often help the session to be more successful. 

  • Breathe deeply before and during the session.  This is less important, but may help, as well.

  • If someone else is giving you a session, let them know if they are rubbing too hard, or not hard enough.  Also, be sure to tell the person who is treating you if you believe an area needs more attention.  Tell the person exactly where to rub and how to rub the area.  This is very important in some cases.

  • Learn about some odd places to rub, such as the sides and tops of the toes.  Also, the crevices between the toes and other unusual spots will often be found to be very sensitive.

  • Sessions usually need not be longer than 10 to 20 minutes per foot or hand.  At times, a longer session is helpful, while at times, a shorter session is adequate.  Practice will help you determine this.

  • I have had professional reflexology where the practitioner first soaked my feet in warm water.  This is relaxing, and is also cleaner for the practitioner, though it is not necessary.

  • Some people like to use a little almond oil or other oil when doing a reflexology session, especially on another person.  It can make your hand slide along the foot or hand a little easier.  I do not feel this is necessary, but some people prefer it.

  • Reflexology tools.  These are usually rubber or wooden rollers, balls that one rolls under the feet, or others.  These can be very helpful if used correctly.  They are discussed in more detail later in this article.



                  This is a very worthwhile daily or even twice daily use of reflexology.  Here are some tips about it:

·           The order of treatment is not critical.  However, I was taught to begin with the left foot or the left hand first.  After finishing the left foot or hand, then move to the right one.

·           I was also taught to begin on the top of each foot, or back of the hand.  On the top of the foot or back of the hand only, rub from the ankle or wrist toward the toes or fingers.  Then rub the bottom of the foot or palm of the hand.  Here I was taught to move from the tips of the toes or fingers toward the feel of the foot or wrist.

·           It may help to always move in a straight lines, although once again this is not that critical in most cases.

·           Rub quite firmly, enough to cause some pain.  If, however, the person you are treating becomes tense and complains, back off a little until the person relaxes and allows the therapy.  It may take a few sessions for a person to get used to reflexology and to trust you with his or her feet or hands.



This requires that you use a chart or map of the reflexes on the feet and hands.  Two decent maps of the feet can be found on this website in PDF format by clicking on Foot Chart 1 and/or Foot Chart 2.  Click here for a Foot Chart in a different format.  Others are available via the internet or in some health food stores.

You can rub the areas that you feel need attention, and perhaps use the technique to relieve symptoms.  It works quickly on many acute symptoms.  Chronic conditions will require multiple sessions in most cases, and requires both general sessions and spot therapy in many cases.

Spot therapy is excellent as a remedy for headaches, back aches, poisonings of some kinds, infections, and other symptoms such as an upset stomach, or even an emotional upset.  A few simple rules are:

·           In most cases, rub the reflex area you are interested in on both feet, even if the chart shows the problem area to be just on one hand or on one foot.  This may enhance your results.

·           If possible, always follow your spot treatment with a quick general foot or hand rub.  This can help balance the entire body and therefore help relieve symptoms and tone the body.

  • Do not overdo a spot treatment.  Usually, ten to twenty minutes is enough.  In a few cases, more time may be needed.

·           Be careful not to rub too hard.  Some people rub too lightly, but others definitely rub too hard.  It should hurt a little, but not be unbearable. Rubbing too hard can tear blood vessels, especially in older people and in babies.  Be careful not to do this, as you will then not be able to do a reflexology treatment until your hand or foot heals.  Short movements are sometimes better than longer, deeper movements for this reason.




This procedure will be found to be extremely energizing and often feels very good.  It consists of:

A) First move each toe in a large circular movement to the right.  After about two revolutions, reverse direction and move each toe in as large a circle as possible in the opposite direction.

B) Now rub all over each toe, including the top, sides, bottom, neck and the tip of each toe.

C) Now twirl or twist each toe.  To do this, first grab the toe with preferably four fingers to hold it tightly.  Then twist it as far as you can in one direction, and then back all the way in the other direction.  Of course, do not hurt yourself, but twist it as much as you can in either direction.  Do this at least 10 times in each direction, rather vigorously.  Spend about 1 second on each twist in each direction.

D) A variation on the above is to first pull each toe downward, and then twirl or twist it back and forth 10 times.  Then move the toe upward as high as you can and in that position, twist or twirl it back and forth 10 times in each direction.



An unusual and interesting use for reflexology is to influence what is called the brain architecture.  This is related to the cranio-sacral system of the body, although it is definitely not the same.  The brain architecture has to do with twists and distortions within the head or cranium that cause the brain not to sit exactly evenly in the head.  This may sound unimportant, but it can be important for health and healing, and is a common problem, in fact.  The cause of the mal-alignment of the brain in the cranium is usually an old accident or other injury or trauma.  Most people who have this problem are totally unaware of it, but it may affect their thinking and perception in unusual ways.  It can even contribute to mental illnesses.

The procedure is somewhat similar to the toe therapy above.  However, instead of twirling the toes back and forth, you must twist each toe in only one direction, and then hold it there for at least 10 to 20 seconds.  An easy way to do this is to do all of the toes, first twisting them inward and holding, and then go back and twist each toe outward and hold.

However, I have found that twisting the second, third and fourth toes, in particular, and perhaps the third and fourth fingers can improve the brain architecture and the cranial system of the body the best.  This is a research area that perhaps others will explore and report on.


3. FOOT “MASSAGE”.  This consists of basically pushing on the feet with your fingers.  It is different from rubbing hard on one spot, or holding one area.  It can feel very good, something like a deep massage.  You can do this for 5 minutes on each foot, pushing fairly hard on the top of the foot, the bottom of the foot, the toes, the heel area, and the ankle bone area on both sides. 


4. HOLDING THE FEET.  This is another simple technique that feels very good in some cases.  One simply holds the foot of the other person, with one hand on top of the foot and one hand on the bottom.  A very good position is to place the hand that is on the bottom perpendicular to the foot, with the center of the palm of the hand over the middle section of the foot – or heart area.  This can be very soothing. Place the other hand on the top of the middle of the foot and join the two hands at the fingers.

One can also hold the heel area, and definitely try holding the toe areas of each foot.  Put a little pressure as you do it, as this may feel even better.  The person who is acting as therapist should send energy into the foot as this is done.



Interlocking the fingers, similar to a prayer position, and then squeezing the fingers together, is what I mean by multiple contacts.  This is done commonly by people, almost unconsciously.  While holding this hand position, one can easily apply pressure to certain reflex points on the sides of the fingers by squeezing the fingers together.  This is very safe, as far as I know, and can be quite relaxing as long as one keeps breathing through it.

The most relaxing is often to interlock the fingers when the hands are back to back, meaning the backs of the hands are touching each other, not the front.  Another relaxing position is to begin with the hands back to back and then interlock all the knuckles that are closest to the hand.



Pulling or “popping” the toes, in particular, should be part of a complete reflexology session.  It is relaxing and helps clear the energy flow through the joints of the feet, and perhaps the hands.

How to pull or pop a toe or finger correctly.  To do this properly without injuring oneself, first take hold of a toe or finger firmly, holding it on the sides or the top and bottom with several fingers.  Then pull the toe or finger slightly away from the foot or hand, and then quickly bend it downward.

When this is done, a quick release of tension may occur, usually with a slight popping sound.  If it does not happen, do not worry about it, and in general, do not keep trying to do it more than twice, for example.  In some people, it occurs easily, while in others it takes more pressure or it does not occur.

This procedure seems to relieve some congestion in the joint of the feet or hands, and at times, actually adjusts the joints similar to the way a chiropractic session adjusts the spine.  It can be profoundly relaxing and definitely assists the flow of subtle energy throughout the entire body, at times.

Always pull or pop the foot or hand joints gently, as too much force could damage a joint.  The popping sound is annoying or scary for some people.  When done correctly, however, I am not aware that it causes any damage.  People have done it thousands of time with no apparent ill effects.



                  Health food stores or online natural healing stores sell various kinds of foot rollers, hand rollers, and perhaps rubber, wooden or metal balls, blocks, and other devices to help with your reflexology treatments.  Some people rub their feet with a tennis ball.

                  For example, a foot roller can be wonderful to use when just sitting and watching television or using a computer, for example.  It is placed under your foot and you just roll your foot over it.  This will not work well for an etheric reflexology session, but it will work for a spot treatment and a general session.

                  Wooden tools are probably safer than metal ones, and sometimes a tool can help you probe a few areas of a foot that are harder to reach, though I find for most purposes your fingers are fine.  Tools are also good for people whose hands and fingers may not be strong enough to do a thorough job.

                  Reflexology shoes or shoe inserts.  Special sandals and shoe inserts are sold that have short rubber projections sticking up, supposedly to give one a reflexology treatment while walking.  I don’t know how relaxing or effective these are.  I would guess it depends upon the wearer, his or her weight, activity level and other factors.  I am sure they are helpful for some people, and not for everyone.

                  Wearing socks and shoes made of natural materials.  Wearing natural materials on the feet may assist the body in subtle ways. Many people report feeling more grounded and perhaps more centered when they wear either no socks or socks made of natural materials such as cotton, linen, wool or silk.  The same is true for shoes.  If possible, I suggest avoiding thick rubber soled shoes.  Thinner soles keep one more in touch with the earth and this may benefit some people.  Also, avoid high-heeled shoes that tend to disconnect you from the earth.


                  Reflexology can cause deep changes in the body that may promote what is called on this website mental or spiritual development. This is a specific type of development of a human being that occurs mainly when one is following a nutritional balancing program. 

This use of foot or hand reflexology will have deep and longer-lasting positive effect, in my experience.  This occurs because the treatment described below can open certain energy channels in the body that will remain open for the rest of one’s life.  This can enhance one’s health, improve elimination of all types of toxins, and extend life as well.  The concept of mental development is discussed in several articles on this website such as Introduction To Mental And Spiritual Development.

A session of this type will take about 20-30 minutes.  Older people or those in more delicate health should begin with less time.  Most people can handle one treatment per day, though this may vary.  In some situations, more may be helpful, while in others, sessions should be spread out more.  You must do it in a certain way to have the most lasting and profound effects:

1. Rub only in one linear direction. This is critical.  Here are the proper directions to rub:

A. When rubbing the bottom and inside or medial edges of the hands and feet, rub only from the toes or fingers toward the heel of the foot or hand.
                  B. When rubbing the top and the outside or distal edges of the hands or feet, rub only from the heel of the foot or hand toward the toes or fingers.  This is essential.  Sitting in a recliner chair with the foot rest up is helpful, as you may be able to move your feet gently against the foot rest to do the technique.

2. Rub only in straight lines that are parallel with the length of the foot or parallel to the fingers of the hand.  This is also critical. In other words, do not rub in circles, or sideways, at all.  Instead, on the bottom of the foot, rub straight from the toes to the heel, parallel to the foot.  The same is true of the hand.
                  For example, if you begin rubbing near the big toe, then rub down the length of the inside of the foot only.  Do not move to the outside of the foot.  If you rub sideways, the treatment will not work.

3. Rub in a certain sequence.  There are three “layers” that you can rub, in a special order.  On the bottom of the foot, the layers are:
                  1) The liver.  This is near the outside of the bottom of the foot or palm of the hand.  It begins with the smallest two toes or fingers and one rubs all the way to the heel of the foot or hand nearest the outside or distal part of the hand or foot.
                  2) The kidneys and intestines. These are along the middle of the bottom of the foot, from the middle toes to the middle of the heel of the hand or foot.
                  3) The spinal area. This is along the inside of the bottom of the foot or palm of the hand.  It begins at the large toe and one rubs down the inside of the bottom of the foot or medial aspect.  This area is not as well represented on the hands.

Furthermore, rub these three areas in sequence in a special way:

A.  Begin with the top of the foot.  Recall that when rubbing the top of the foot or back of the hand, always rub from the heel end or wrist toward the toes or fingers.  Rub in the following order:

1) Rub the top of the inside or medial aspect of the foot or hand, from the heel toward the big toe, or the thumb of the hand.

2) Rub the top of the middle of the foot or hand, again from the heel or wrist toward the second and third toes or fingers.

3) Rub the top of the outside part or distal part of the foot or hand, from the heel or wrist area toward the fourth and fifth toes or fingers. 

B. Now rub the bottoms of the feet or palm of the hands in the following sequence:

1) Rub the bottom outside or distal part of the foot or hand, starting at the fifth (little) toe or pinky finger and rubbing toward the heel of the foot or wrist of the hand.

2) rub the bottom, middle part of the foot or hand, starting at the third or fourth toes or fingers, and moving toward the heel of the foot or wrist of the hand.

3) Rub the bottom, inside or medial side of the hand or foot, from the big toe or thumb of the hand toward the heel of the foot or wrist of the hand.  Here are a few tips:

  • Always rub only in one direction.

·           Always rub only in a straight line, not sideways or in circles.

·           Do one hand or foot, and then do the other.  While this is not always needed, it is the safest and best general procedure.

·           Use a fair amount of pressure, but do not hurt yourself ever.

·           Do your best to ignore any sensations of pain or discomfort.  Any area that is very painful you might want to rub a little more gently and stay there a little longer.  However, never stop the session.  Always finish the entire routine described above – rubbing first the top of each foot or back of each hand, and then rubbing the bottom of each foot or palm of each hand.

·           You need not do both your hands and your feet.  One or the other is fine.


                  Here are the most common errors and difficulties that may arise with foot and hand reflexology:

Healing reactions.  These can occur, at times, when a treatment brings up an old symptom or condition to be healed, or if it quickly removes a symptom.

For example, a good friend in his late 60s called me at 2 AM one night.  He had severe abdominal pain and asked if would I drive him to the hospital emergency room.  I went to his home to help him, and I could not identify the cause of his pain.  Before rushing to the hospital, I decided to rub his feet.  Ten minutes after I began rubbing, he became very nauseous, got up off the bed and soon threw up his dinner.  His pain was suddenly gone and he was able to go back to sleep.  The general reflexology session had somehow brought enough balance or healing to his body that he could simply expel the tainted food he had for dinner.

With chronic conditions, such flare-ups or healing reactions are not nearly as common.

Overdoing a treatment.  Reflexology is actually very powerful.  Do not treat yourself or another person for more than 20 to 30 minutes. Only trained people may be able to do longer treatments.

Reflexology can remove some toxic substances from the body very quickly.  If these are not released fast enough, or if one overtreats, one can experience some mild toxic effects that usually disappear quickly.  These typically include some nausea, light-headedness or perhaps dizziness.  These are not usually worrisome, but are not helpful.

Always have just one person rub your hands or feet at a time.  More than one person working on the same foot or hand is usually too much.  It is probably okay to have one person work on one foot while another works on the other.  However, even here, please be careful, as too much treatment is not helpful and can cause some inflammation. 

Rubbing too hard.  Rubbing too hard may cause pain, and even a black and blue mark.  If this happens, allow the area to heal for a few days, and then use much less pressure on this area, as the veins may be weak in that area.

When rubbing the top of a foot or a hand, be much more gentle. The blood vessels in this area are far more delicate.  Use some oil, if needed, to make rubbing smoother.

 Rubbing too lightly.  During a session, you should find some painful areas, and perhaps some areas that are quite tender.  If you are not feeling any of these, you may be rubbing too gently.  Try increasing the pressure a little bit.

Some people do not have enough strength in their fingers to do a good job at reflexology.  They should use a foot roller, hand roller, or perhaps sit on a recliner and place their feet on the edge of the foot rest to be able to apply enough force or pressure.

Another method if this is a problem is to sit so that your feet or even hands are placed against the corner of a coffee table to do the treatment.  Otherwise, you will need to have someone else do the treatment on you.


                  The solid organs of the body include the liver, kidneys, brain, spleen, pancreas, and all of the glands such as the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries, testis, pituitary and pineal glands. 

The hollow organs are the lungs, stomach, large and small intestines, heart, urinary bladder and gall bladder.

                  When doing reflexology, you may find that the solid organs can take a little more pressure than the hollow organs.  For this reason, you may need to apply less pressure and be more gentle when working on the hollow organs such as the lungs and bronchial tubes.  This may help to fine tune your treatments for the greatest effectiveness.