Reflexology is an alternative therapeutic technique that assumes that applying pressure to different parts of the feet or hands can influence changes in the rest of the body. A reflexology map is a diagram of the hands or feet that illustrates which pressure points on the extremities are linked to which parts of the body. Usually, the hands and feet are divided into color-coded sections that are each labeled with a corresponding body part. The reflexology map may be on a poster, so the therapist can easily refer to it while applying pressure to the patient, or it may be imprinted on a sock or glove.
The main principle of reflexology is that the hands and feet have pressure points that are connected to the rest of the body. These points are found on both the front and back of the hand and the top and bottom of the foot. Reflexology practitioners claim that they can help patients to achieve a wide array of health-related goals, such as weight loss or the cessation of pain, by applying pressure to these points in a strategic manner. Medical science has found that the application of pressure to the hands or feet does trigger the brain to send signals to the rest of the body that cause body parts to relax, but other medical applications of the technique require further research.
A practitioner of the technique usually uses a chart called a reflexology map to help her target specific pressure points. The reflexology map is usually a diagram of the feet, although maps of the hands also exist. Charts are often color-coded so the therapist can locate important pressure points more quickly. Each part of the body is usually represented by a different color. For example, the heart is usually represented by the color red, and the stomach is often bright green on the chart.
According to a reflexology map, the right foot and hand are connected to the right half of the body, while the left foot and hand are connected to the left half. The toes or fingers, located at the "top" of the foot and the hand, are associated with the head and neck and the organs, glands and tissues therein. Usually, the map depicts the ball of the foot as being associated with the upper back and chest region, as well as the heart and lungs. The inner part of the foot is connected to the spinal region, while the outer part is usually associated with the arms and shoulders.