Making an appointment to go have some reflexology done is a new concept to lots of Yukoners, but it’s actually a very old healing practice.

Archaeological evidence points to reflexology being used in Japan from approximately 690 BCE, and in China from 2704 BCE.

Four hundred years later, an ancient wall painting showed up in Egypt at approximately 2330 BCE suggesting that reflexology was practiced there, too. A painting in the tomb of Ankhmahor at Saqqara, known as the physician’s tomb, shows various medical treatments, including one in which people are receiving foot and hand care.

Reflexology is a non-invasive, drug-free, hands-on technique of applying pressure to reflex points in the feet, hands, or ears. Reflex points correspond to every joint, muscle, gland and organ in the body. By stimulating the reflex points, a reflexologist can strengthen that body part and influence it towards self-healing.

While the whole foot or hand is worked, reflexology is different from a massage, which focuses more on muscle tissue. Reflexology acts on all the body systems through the 7,200 nerve endings, also called reflexes, on the feet. And you don’t have to undress.

Our traditional western medical system recognizes that stress is the most common cause of ill health in our society. One of the main benefits of reflexology is stress reduction. The effects of stress include fatigue, headaches, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and nausea.

Research has shown that reflexology has an impact on a variety of different ailments.

A U.S. study in 1991 at the University of California indicated that women receiving weekly reflexology for premenstrual syndrome experienced a 62 per cent reduction in symptoms. Trials in the United Kingdom in the late 1990s suggest that reflexology accelerates the healing process for post-operative cases in hip and knee replacement surgery. And in January 2004, National Health Service doctors in the United Kingdom were advised to suggest reflexology as a treatment option for multiple sclerosis.

Other benefits include a strengthened immune system; improved digestion; reduced symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome; increased lymph and blood circulation; lowered blood pressure; and a reduction in pain, anxiety, depression and migraines.

While research in North America is gaining a foothold, most studies have been done overseas. In some countries, reflexology has been recognized and has been, or is being, integrated into the national health system, notably, China, Denmark and the United Kingdom. In China, reflexology works together with Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well.

The traditional medical system in North America has not come to a consensus on how effective reflexology is, likely due to the limited number of research studies here.

However, two hospitals in Michigan now offer reflexology for their cancer patients following a 2012 study, and it is being offered at various other wellness programs and cancer treatment centres in hospitals in the United States.

Here in Canada it does not seem to be as widespread as an alternative, complimentary therapy.

There are a number of reflexology practitioners in Whitehorse and Atlin, although the treatment is not covered by the Yukon health care system or most private health insurance companies. However, Green Shield Canada now allows claims for reflexology under their extended health benefit package.