Foot Massage Pressure Points and How They Can Be Used to Treat Pain and Illnesses

by Kevin Lee

June 15, 2019

Foot Reflexology – What is it?

Have you been hearing about this technique making the rounds of health-conscious circles? This therapy which involves the application of pressure to the feet with thumb, finger and hand techniques, (usually by a trained technician,) is a centuries-old medical practice that the AMA (American Medical Association) would class as “alternative medicine.” Its purpose is to relieve pain and the discomfort of illness, another tool in the bag of tricks available to humankind based on eons of self-help before modern medicine.

Where Did It Come From?

Reflexology dates back to ancient Egypt and China. The Chinese who had an entire system of medical practices long before modern medicine, believed that energy, which they called “chi” flows in our bodies along channels to various organs and body parts, connecting our entire bodies in a holistic manner. By putting pressure on a specific part of your foot, another ailing part of your body will respond and be helped or relieved of blockages of energy. This reflexology is based on fifteen specific foot massage pressure points, each acupoint related to a specific part of the body via a pathway or meridian of energy.

Alternative medicine covers a lot of respected practices including chiropractic, acupuncture, acupressure and herbal medicine regimes. Modern medicine continues to improve while its prices skyrocket. Treatment for an ache or pain can be as costly today as surgery was in yesteryear. And even modern medicine doesn’t have the answers for some of our most basic pains and problems. For centuries, people have found relief from alternative medicine. Studies and scientific exploration continue to this day trying to prove or disprove the authenticity of alternative therapy, but controversy aside, people will use whatever will help them feel well. Hundreds of colleges offer majors in alternative therapies as the western world becomes more familiar with the options.

What Are the Benefits of Foot Reflexology?

Reflexology doesn’t pretend to be a cure, or offer a diagnosis of diseases, but it has been found an excellent addition to other treatments when dealing with headaches, PMS, anxiety, asthma, diabetes, sinus problems and even some cancer and heart disease issues. Chronic pain patients eventually find their way to alternatives. Existing studies show reflexology massage can often help anxiety levels in people about to undergo surgery, hospitalization or reduce pain after breast surgery.

How Is It Different from a Foot Massage?

foot reflexology vs foot massage

One might think that reflexology is simply a foot massage. Massage therapy which can also be very beneficial involves manipulating large areas of soft tissue all over the body and moving the underlying myofascial tissue that holds muscles in place. Foot massage may be soothing, relieve stress and even accidentally hit on pressure points, but it is not the specific intention of a normal masseuse to do so.

Reflexologists target specific pressure points on feet, hands and ears in their work, a different approach with different and specific results.

Acupuncture and acupressure are similar inasmuch as they use a different set of reflexology pressure points, located all over the body. Acupuncture differs in that super thin needles are inserted into the skin to stimulate the acupoints. All of these other alternative therpay techniques have found success in various patients, depending on their issues.

Should You Find a Foot Reflexologist or Do It Yourself?

Just as a person wouldn’t try to massage himself, or perform surgery on herself, reflexology is likely to be a successful and rewarding experience if done by a trained massage foot reflexologist. It is easier to “get at” the feet if they are not your own. There is actually a “map” of the reflex points of the feet which corresponds to the parts of the body affected by those meridians. Properly localizing a pressure point might be difficult for the unschooled. That is not to say that massaging one’s own feet couldn’t be a very relaxing and helpful pleasure unto itself. Get out some lotion and give them a good rubdown. Our feet work hard, take a lot of abuse and frequently get little attention, so it’s not a bad idea—just not a replacement for professional reflexology therapy.

That said, however, if you are serious about helping your own health using reflexology, there is nothing stopping you from learning how to do it. You will want to learn the reflexology maps of the feet. There are many How-To videos on YouTube that will be helpful. Take the time to watch and study, and perhaps you can lend new meaning to the old proverb, “Physician, heal thyself.”

The Foot Reflexology Chart:

As you can see by this diagram, there is a lot to know about the human body as it relates to reflexology. Techniques involve thumbs and finger pressure, finger “walking,” and thumb walking, use of the hands, and the amount of pressure, duration of pressure, and frequency is all part of a reflexologist’s knowledge. By working on yourself, you will find what works for you. Check as many maps as you can find. Often one foot reflexology chart cannot contain all the information that will be helpful to your schooling. The time invested in this will be well spent when you achieve relief and results.

foot reflexology - pressure points map

Foot Pressure Points on Your Big Toe

Each point on your foot corresponds to a different body organ or system. The big toe is linked to the following:

  • Spleen
  • Liver
  • Head
  • Neck
  • Brain
  • Sinus/Nose
  • Pituitary gland

Pressing on different points on your big toe can provide relief for the abovementioned areas. 

Foot Pressure Points for General Pain:

Myofascial release, which targets the tissue that covers your muscles, bones, and organs, can help relieve muscle tightness and general pain. To do this:

  1. Make sure that you are seated comfortably on a chair or a sofa.
  2. Place a golf or tennis ball under your foot.
  3. Begin rolling the ball around with your foot until you find a pressure point.
  4. Press down on it until the tightness begins to soften.
  5. Hold that position for 3-5 minutes then release.

Foot Pressure Points for Headache and Migraine:

When a headache or a migraine strikes, press your thumb on the pressure point between the second toe and the big toe for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times. This is also the spot for alleviating headaches, stress, and anxiety. 

You may also press your thumb or forefinger for 15 to 30 seconds on the point where the Achilles tendon and the ankle meet. Release and repeat twice or thrice.

The area between the second and the big toe is also the pressure point for alleviating headaches, stress, and anxiety. The spot where the Achilles tendon and the ankle meet may be used as well. 

As an example of the learning available, here is a YouTube video addressing the reflexes for headaches and migraines. It includes using the pressure points for head, brain, neck spinal and solar reflexes. This certified reflexologist shows you how it’s done:

Foot Pressure Points for Nausea:

Nausea can be the result of many things, motion sickness, sea sickness, indigestion,
food poisoning, stomach flu. The reflex points on the foot that connect to the stomach are located below the ball of the foot.

You may also use the point found below the nail of the second toe. Firmly pressing on it thrice for 30 seconds each can relieve nausea and hiccups, or stimulate your appetite.

For nausea with dizziness and headaches, press the spot between your second toe and your big toe firmly for 30 seconds. Release and repeat 2-3 times. 

Foot Pressure Points for Back Pain:

Another pressure point you can use to help relieve back pain is a spot that you can find by running a finger along the exterior side of your foot from your pinky toe to the third of the way. Pressing on this point may provide relief from muscle cramps and lower back pain. It may also even treat symptoms of apoplexy and psychoneurosis.

Depending on where the back pain is, the spinal reflex which runs down the inside of the foot, you can give more attention to places where relief is felt in the process. The knee and hip reflexes might be involved in back pain as well. The professionals in the following videos will help you learn. Note that lubrication or lotion is helpful in the therapy.

Foot Pressure Points for Menstrual Pain and Abdominal Cramping:

There is a pressure point located between the second toe and big toe that’s linked to curing menstrual pain.

One way to help relieve abdominal and menstrual cramps is to press this point firmly for about 15 to 30 seconds. Release and press again for around two to three times.

You may also check this out: 

Foot Pressure Points for Arthritis:

The acupressure point found between the Achilles tendon and the inner bony part of the ankle is believed to help in alleviating sore throat, respiratory conditions (sinus problems, asthma, bronchitis), and arthritis.

To aid in arthritis pain relief, press this spot firmly for 15 to 30 seconds. Release and repeat twice.

Here’s a video that can guide you in doing reflexology specifically for hip and knee pain: 

Foot Pressure Points for Headache and Migraine:

When a headache or a migraine strikes, press your thumb on the pressure point between the second toe and the big toe for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times. This is also the spot for alleviating headaches, stress, and anxiety.

You may also press your thumb or forefinger for 15 to 30 seconds on the point where the Achilles tendon and the ankle meet. Release and repeat twice or thrice.

The area between the second and the big toe is also the pressure point for alleviating headaches, stress, and anxiety. The spot where the Achilles tendon and the ankle meet may be used as well. 

Foot Pressure Points for Sleeping Well:

Stress and anxiety are common hindrances to getting a good night’s sleep. Reflexology may also be able to help ease your worries and allow you to improve the quality of your sleep.

Below are a couple of videos from which you can learn how reflexology can help you sleep better.

Applying pressure either on the spot between your big toe and your second toe or on the point above your heel may also help relieve symptoms of insomnia, as well as reduce the occurrences of night sweats and palpitations.

A Word of Caution:

It is always smart to ask your doctor’s advice before doing new things to your body, even if you do them yourself. This especially applies if you have major health issues.

When performing reflexology, use firm and consistent pressure, but keep in mind that you should not press a point for more than 2 minutes straight. Should you feel any discomfort or pain applying foot pressure, stop. If you notice any bruising after, it means that you’ve used too much pressure.

If you use a professional reflexologist, be sure to supply your health history so they know what areas might be off limits. If you have osteoarthritis in your feet, injuries to your feet or ankles, if you have foot ulcers, gout or heart disease, reflexology might not be safe for you.

If you have circulatory problems, gall or kidney stones, infections or certain kinds of cancer, it is imperative that you check with your doctor first. Diabetic nerve damage can result from foot pressure in some diabetics. Again, ask your doctor’s advice.

Pregnant women should probably avoid reflexology as many doctors (likely the same ones who discredit reflexology) insist that the therapy is so powerful it could induce labor. There are other opinions that foot massage therapy for pregnant women is wonderful and safe IF the therapist knows which foot massage pressure points to avoid – thus even the camp that thinks it is safe tips their hat to the power of reflexology to cause the uterus to contract.

Final Thoughts:

Foot reflexology in our opinion is as valid as all of the other popular natural medical techniques we mentioned. Based solely on the arguments against pregnant women using it, clearly the Chinese knew what they were talking about - if applying pressure to a foot can induce the birth of a child! We urge readers to take the cautions seriously and if trying this on your own, to get educated and really understand that this is not as lighthearted as a rubdown or as purely pleasant as a foot soak. It is a miraculous way to help us with pain and stress, and should be used with care and gratitude to all those who developed it so long ago.

About the author 

Kevin Lee  -  Health and fitness have always been a passion for me; whether its being in the weight room, going for a run before work or even participating in a half iron man triathlon. ShapeJunkie was created to share to knowledge and love of fitness with others.

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