Hand reflexology is a massage technique that puts pressure on various reflex points around your hands. The belief is that these points correlate to different body parts and that massaging the points can help to relieve symptoms in other areas of the body.
There’s limited research supporting the benefits of hand reflexology. Many of the studies looking at its effects have been very small and inconsistent.
However, these studies didn’t find any risks or negative health effects associated with hand reflexology (although pregnant women should avoid it, as explained below). In addition, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from people who tried it and found relief.
Keep reading to learn more about the science behind hand reflexology and some common pressure points you can try.
A 2017 study showed that hand reflexology reduced anxiety in people who were about to undergo coronary angiography (a minimally invasive procedure that helps to diagnose heart conditions). People who had hand reflexology or a simple hand massage experienced less anxiety about the procedure.
For anxiety relief, apply pressure to the Heart 7 (HT7) point. It’s found just below the crease of your wrist on your outer hand. You should feel a little dent here. Massage this area for one minute on both hands.
Reflexology may help to relieve both physical and emotional causes of constipation. A small 2010 study found that 94 percent of participants reported having fewer constipation symptoms following six weeks of hand reflexology.
Many of them also had reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, suggesting that hand reflexology may be especially helpful for stress-related constipation. However, the study had only 19 participants, so more large-scale studies are needed.
Try it by finding your Large Intestine 4 (LI4) pressure point. It’s located between your thumb and index finger. Use your fingertips to apply pressure to this fleshy webbing on your right hand for one minute. Repeat on your left hand.
Many people find that this pressure point is a good target for general pain relief as well.
Reflexology may be useful in treating headaches, especially if they’re caused by stress or anxiety. A review from 2015 reported that reflexology had a positive effect on headaches. After receiving treatment for six months, more than half of the participants noticed reduced symptoms. Almost 25 percent of them stopped having headaches completely, and about 10 percent were able to stop taking medication for headaches.
Try using the same LI4 pressure point described above. Massage and pinch the fleshy area, focusing on any sore areas.
You can also try the Pericardium 6 (P6) point. You’ll find it a few inches below your wrist crease between the two tendons. Gently massage this point for one minute on both hands.
While you can try reflexology on your own at home, you can also seek out a reflexologist, a specialist in the practice.
Try to find one who’s certified by the American Reflexology Board. They can work with you to come up with a plan to provide relief for the symptoms you’re having.
Hand reflexology is generally safe, with a few cautions.
- Pregnant women should avoid acupressure because certain pressure points can induce contractions. If contractions are desired, acupressure should only be used with your doctor’s approval.
You should also talk to your doctor before trying hand reflexology if you have:
- circulatory problems of the feet
- inflammation or blood clots in your legs
- thyroid issues
- low platelet count
- bacterial or fungal skin infections
- open wounds
- hand inflammation
- fever or any infectious disease
In addition, make sure you don’t stop following any other treatments prescribed by your doctor unless they tell you to do so.
Hand reflexology may be a useful tool for reducing symptoms of pain and stress. Just remember that many of hand reflexology’s benefits don’t have any scientific backing.
However, having a hand massage is going to be relaxing. Reducing stress and being in a calm state can help your immune system to function better. And you’ll likely feel better.
Keep up with any ongoing treatment plans recommended by your doctor, and stop applying pressure if your symptoms seem to get worse.