Hand reflexology - the art of applying pressure to specific points on the hands for whole body health benefits - is about as old as massage itself.
Hand reflexology should form is a key part of any full body massage but is often overlooked in preference to other parts of the body such as the feet, legs or back. A hand massage takes up relatively little time of an overall session and when done properly has the power to make you feel instantly relaxed. It also has the potential for improving your health in various other areas of your body too, clearing blocked sinuses to improving the day-to-day functioning of vital internal organs such as your kidneys and liver. Perhaps this particular type of therapy deserves a little more attention than it's been getting?
Reflexology of the hands is believed to have originated in ancient China. It is similar to Shiatsu massage in that it is based on the underlying principle that our bodies contain an unseen energy force, known as "Qi". This force travels throughout our bodies along specific points and lines, known as meridians and energy channels. Blockages in those channels can hamper the flow of energy which in turn causes us to feel unwell. Pressure point massage techniques are used to locate and then release any such blockages with the aim of helping restore health by allowing the vital energy force to flow freely through the body once again.
Anyone can do a relaxing hand massage but to get the most benefit it is best to book your treatment with a qualified reflexologist. Those therapists will have studied and better understand the multitude of pressure points that exist in different parts of each hand and in particular which other body part each of them are connected to. These connections are depicted in hand reflexology charts, like the one below.
Feel free to download the reflex points map above for your own use. Click the image above to access a high-resolution chart which you can save and print.
An experienced therapist will have committed all the points shown in the diagram above to memory. At the start of your treatment, he or she will use their own thumbs and fingers to grasp your hand and rest it within their own, ensuring a comfortable position. Hand reflexologists use a range of techniques which are similar to those used in foot reflexology and also in Shiatsu massage.
To begin with a gentle pressure is applied at certain positions around the hand, to identify and locate particular reflex points. Once a pressure point has been located, your therapist will then apply small circular motions to warm the focal point before finally increasing and holding the pressure to penetrate deeper into the energy channel and release blocks. Pressure points are located all over each hand. Importantly, there are some differences between those on the left hand and those on the right, so if you are self-treating, make sure you do not mix them up.
Hand reflexology typically takes about 5 minutes per hand but if you have a particular ailment that you want focused on, your therapist may spend a little longer than that.
Drinking a cool glass of water after your reflexology massage is highly recommended, to cool and rehydrate your body as well as calm nerves.
All types of reflexology massage offer the same overall benefits as general massage. These include lifting of anxiety, increased blood circulation and short to medium term relief from acute aches and pains in the area being massaged.
In addition, many people believe that ailments in other parts of the body can also be treated through reflexology. The concept is the same as that in acupuncture. Precisely focused firm pressure is applied and held for a period of time at a specific point which corresponds to another zone of the body, as identified by a reflexology chart. This encourages the release of blockages in the channel between the point of massage and the body part in question.
The five most common conditions for which this type of therapy is sought as a remedial treatment are:
→ Clearing blocked sinuses (using the pressure points at the tips of each finger and the thumbs)
→ Reducing headache (at and around the first joint of each thumb)
→ Sciatica pain relief (at the base of the hand, just above the wrist)
→ Easing constipation or an upset stomach (the fleshy part of the hand between thumb and the index finger)
→ Conquering stress and anxiety (at the centre of each palm targetting the meridian channel which leads to the adrenal glands)
Whether you choose to adopt the ancient Chinese beliefs about the extended health benefits of reflexology is up to you. We suggest you try it and reach your own conclusion. Either way, what we do know for sure is that hand massages are one of the most empathetic ways to deliver relaxation therapy and to help others de-stress.
Make sure you allow your therapist the appropriate amount of time during your next full body massage to focus on holding hands too - it's nice.