Q. Is reflexology just for sore feet?

A. Reflexology can certainly help revive tired feet, but it is more often used for its gentle therapeutic effects on the entire body. Reflexology works generally to relieve stress and tension, which contribute to numerous ailments. Specific health conditions believed to respond to reflexology include back pain, arthritis, migraine, digestive disorders, and sleep problems.

Also known as zone therapy, reflexology is one of the world's oldest healing arts, dating back to ancient Egypt, China, and India. Reflexologists—who these days undergo hundreds of hours of training to earn certification—apply pressure to specific points on the foot, which are thought to correlate to various organs and areas throughout the body. For example, to relieve an earache, a reflexologist would press a point at the base of the two smallest toes.

After seeking reflexology treatment for a specific problem, many people continue periodic booster sessions to maintain health and well-being. During a general reflexology session, the practitioner stimulates the foot with both stroking and sustained pressure.

The International Institute of Reflexology (www.reflexology-usa.net) can refer you to a qualified practitioner in your area. Or, if you'd like to try this therapy at home, find a good how-to book such as Better Health with Foot Reflexology (Ingham, 2001) by Dwight C. Byers.

This Q&A was written by Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH, author of the The Soy Sensation (McGraw-Hill, 2002) and The Green Tea Book (Avery, 1998).