Reflexology, or zone therapy, is the practice of stimulating pressure points on the feet, hands, or ears, in the belief it will have a beneficial effect on some other parts of the body, or will improve general health. Most scientists and medical professionals consider reflexology to be a pseudoscience, offering no more benefits than ordinary massage.

The most common form is foot reflexology. Practitioners believe the foot to be divided into a number of reflex zones corresponding to all parts of the body, and that applying pressure to tight or "gritty" areas of a person's foot will stimulate the corresponding body part and cause it to begin healing itself.

Eunice Ingham developed Reflexology in the 1930s, based on earlier theory by Dr. William Fitzgerald known as "Zone Therapy". In 1913, Dr. Fitzgerald noted that specific parts of the body could have an anesthetic effect on another area. Developing this theory, he divided the body into ten equal vertical zones, ending in the fingers and toes. He concluded that pressure on one part of the zone could affect everything else within that zone.

In reflexology, it is believed that there is a "vital energy" that is circulating between organs of the human body, that penetrates into every living cell. Whenever this energy is blocked, the zone of blockage will be affected, and the reflex zones can indicate the blockage of energy in different organs. Therefore, if someone has a problem in a particular organ, a reflexologist will press on the corresponding reflex zone or zones, and the person will experience pain.

This pain is claimed to originate from the deposition of crystals in the reflex zone and, with massage, these crystalline structures can be broken down and the pain relieved. Simultaneously, the pressure applied to the reflex zones by the reflexologist is claimed to pass through the nerves to dissipate energy blocks.

Reflexologists apply pressure on "reflex zones" found on the feet, hands and the ears, which are said to correspond to the different parts of the body. Application is done through thumb, finger and hand technique. Reflex areas, like hand and foot, composed of 7200 nerve endings are stimulated by pressure applied. An improved instruction to every gland, single part and organ of the body could be achieved by such a health science. The body is then believed to pursue a biologically correct, strengthened and reinforced state.The reflex zones are organized in a way that represents the whole body.

First of all, there should be a preliminary talk with the practitioner before treatment. The reflexologist then begins to work on the client's feet, or hands if necessary, noting problem areas. There may be discomfort in some places, but it is fleeting, and also an indication of congestion or imbalance in a corresponding part of the body.

For the most of the part, the sensation is pleasant and soothing. Reflexology can help relax the client and is believed to stimulate the body's own healing mechanisms. Usually a treatment session lasts for about one hour. For some cases, a treatment can last nearly two hours. A course of treatment varies in length depending on the need of the client body. The reflexologist will discuss this with the patient at the first session.

Reflexology is a widespread practice in Asia, where foot reflexology (also known as foot massage) is quite popular. Although many people are skeptical about the concepts underlying this practice, its use is spreading, perhaps because it is being taken simply as a relaxing massage therapy. It is not the practice that reflexologists use foot reflexology only, they prefer to use a combination of foot, hand and ear reflexology to obtain a much better result.

Sales of foot reflexology equipment, such as rollers, are increasing rapidly. In addition, many new instruments using the same principle are being marketed, such as whole body vacuum cans. Socks printed with reflex zone footmaps were developed based on reflexology. By wearing the socks, people can easily locate appropriate areas to apply pressure to. Though not generally used by professionals, these "reflexology socks" have gained popularity in Taiwan and China.

Inexpensive how-to books enabling people to perform the exercises by themselves are also available for self-help practice. Reflexologists advise caution in applying the techniques to oneself, and recommend people to consult an expert before using them if they are pregnant or have a chronic disease.

Advocates claim reflexology is just as effective when used on children as on adults. Some advocates go further and claim it is more effective. Advocates have also suggested that reflexology can also help children create an awareness of self.

Most scientists and medical professionals consider reflexology to be a pseudoscience and claim there are no reliable scientific studies proving its effectiveness as a medical treatment, or that there is any form of link between specific areas of the feet and the various organs of the body. Furthermore, the 'crystalline structures' rationale is unsustained by current understanding of physiology. There is no scientific evidence that healing can be achieved by it or that the claimed "energies" and their supposed pathways through the body even exist. However, research shows the relaxing and pleasurable nature of massage has many medical benefits.

Prominent skeptic Stephen Barrett, M.D., contends there is no scientific support for any of the theories of Reflexology, and refers to several scientific studies that have shown Reflexology is no better than random chance detecting medical problems.In a paper titled "Reflexology: A Closer Look", Dr. Barrett concludes: "Reflexology is based on an absurd theory... Claims that reflexology is effective for diagnosing or treating disease should be ignored. Such claims could lead to delay of necessary medical care..."

William T. Jarvis, Ph.D. says: "Reflexology has almost no potential for direct harm, but its ability to mislead well-meaning people into believing that it can be used for screening for health problems, or that it has real therapeutic value could lead to serious problems."