Can massaging your big toe make your brain work better? Practitioners of foot reflexology, a kind of foot massage based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, would say yes. According to the tenets of reflexology, the foot contains reflex points that correspond to every part, gland and organ of the body. In effect, reflexologists find an image of the body mapped onto the foot and believe manipulating the part of the foot that corresponds to a part of the body, such as the brain, will improve the flow of energy to that body part, bringing it into balance and promoting its healthy functioning.
The Chinese have been practicing the art of therapeutic foot massage for as long as 5,000 years. The oldest known medical textbook, written in China 4,000 years ago, describes the pressure point concepts that form the basis of both acupuncture and reflexology. Foot manipulation also appears to have been a medical treatment in ancient Egypt, as evidenced by a wall painting depicting the practice that was found alongside other wall paintings of medical procedures in the tomb of a high-ranking Egyptian official dating from about 2330 B.C.
The philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine is that a life force called Qi flows through the body along paths called meridians, which function as communication channels within the body, connecting the body's organs and relaying information between them. The life force Qi, which flows along the meridians, is made up of two opposing forces, yin and yang, which balance each other to keep the body vital and whole. The theory holds that some of the body's organs are yin-yang pairs that must be in balance with each other to be healthy. If a person's yin and yang fall out of balance, the movement of Qi along the meridians can be blocked, causing pain, illness, or other kinds of dysfunction. According to traditional Chinese medicine, a practitioner can unblock Qi and restore balance to the body by manipulating places on the skin where the meridians surface, called acupoints. The feet offer a dense network of such acupoints, or reflex points, that allow a foot reflexologist to unblock the life force flowing to every part of the body, including the brain, by massaging the corresponding reflex point.
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