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thai romanization
Puzzled about
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Foot Reflexology Massage: A Healing Touch by Ninnart

If only a gentle touch filled with love and care can make you feel relaxed, then imagine the ultimate effect that you will get from a professional massage.
According to the book The Touch of Love, Thai Massage (written by Sombat Tapanya), massage is an art of healing originated some 5,000 years ago. It was mentioned in an ancient Chinese medical textbook in the reign of Emperor Wendi (179-157 B.C.) of the Han Dynasty and in an Indian Ayuraveda Book that "Massage is a self-healing method."


Hippocrates (460-380 B.C.), who received an honour as "the father of medical study", stated that "a physician needs to specialize in several things but being an expert in massage is a must."
There are several kinds of massage and each has its unique benefits. However, this article will deal only with the area of foot reflexology massage. Click here to read the full story of "Thailand -- Paradise for Spa Lovers"


History of Foot Massage
The foot reflexology massage's history dates back to the reign of Emperor Wendi but its most flourishing period was in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). Later, the foot reflexology massage was spread into Japan. Yet, there were some specialists in China who did not pass their knowledge to others or did not make any written records. This resulted in the degeneration of this art of healing. Fortunately, the foot reflexology massage was brought to the Western countries when more and more Westerners started to get in touch with the Chinese around the late Manchu Dynasty (1643-1912 A.D.).



Reflective zones of the feet

Then in 1913, Dr. William Fitzgerald, an American doctor, wrote an article about foot reflexology massage. He developed a systematized chart of longitudinal zones in the body. The 10 zones, ending in the fingers and toes, illustrated reflex areas with their corresponding connections, as well as physical conditions influenced by the connection. Fitzgerald discovered that pressure on one part of a zone could affect other parts of the body within that zone. That's how this ancient modality was restored in the Western countries. And it was V. M. Bechterev, a Russian physiologist who coined the term "reflexology".

Afterwards, Fitzgerald's zone theory was further studied by Dr. Shelly Riley who added horizontal zones across the hands and feet to determine individual reflexes. After that, Eunice Ingham, a physical therapist and associate of Riley, refined the zone therapy into therapeutic foot reflexology through full scale researches with hundreds of clients. She made an anatomical model in which the organs of the body were mapped out on the feet. Her findings, published in 1938, resulted in more precise identification of reflex points and gave us the framework of foot reflexology as it is known today.

History of Foot Massage in Thailand
A La Loubere's Chronicle, written in the reign of King Narai (1656-1689) mentioned the popular use of massage in ancient Siam: "In Siam, when one fell ill, his or her cousins would have him or her massaged." Furthermore, it was said that King Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910) was so fond of this method of rejuvenating that whenever he went out to visit his subjects in remote areas, at least one masseur was included in his entourage.


Different points of foot
reflexology massage

Thus, the art of massage has been practised and developed for centuries in this country. And Thai foot reflexology massage* has been enhanced by comparison with other varieties such as Chinese massage, Korean massage and Japanese massage to bring out the supreme benefits of this modality. Nowadays, Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage School is the centre of massage services and study in Thailand.

*A description of Thai massage was carved on stone tablets which were fixed on pillars and along the corridor of the ordination hall of Wat Pho by Rama III's command. These stone inscriptions are still in good condition today.


The Practice of Foot Reflexology Massage

Not all foot massage is reflexology, even though some non-reflex varieties can be a very rejuvenating experience, and help boost the energy circulation.

The genuine reflexology is the application of pressure onto particular areas of the soles of the feet. A reflex action in another part of the body is stimulated by the manipulation of each specific area. Unlike other massages that use thumbs, palms, hands, elbow, knee and foot, foot reflexology massage uses hands, fingers and a wood stick with cream and oil.

According to Chinese medicine, the sensory nerves of the internal organs that spread throughout the body are mainly gathered around the soles of the feet.

Therefore, the massage is effective in stimulating the functions of the internal organs. Another advantage of this therapy is that there is no risk. Expert masseurs will deal with the critical points on the feet with utmost care. The pain felt there will disappear when the masseur finishes the process.

The Benefits of Foot Reflexology Massage
1. It can relieve pain and stiffness caused by too much exercising or using muscle for too long.
2. It can help prevent and cure many symptoms such as headache, stress, asthma, constipation, sinusitis and migraine.
3. The blood circulation system will be boosted.
4. The body's function will be naturally turned into its homeostasis.

Restrictions:
1. The massage must be done with accuracy to avoid wrong reflection which will cause muscle infection.
2. One should not receive a massage until at least one hour after a meal.
3. After receiving a massage, one is required to drink water to eliminate toxin and lactic acids developed during the massage process.


Wood stick and cream used
in foot reflexology massage

4. Pregnant women, menstruating women and people who are bleeding either internally and externally are not allowed to receive foot reflexology massage.
5. Both masseur and client are prohibited from washing hair, hands, feet or taking a bath within one hour of foot reflexology massage in order to prevent the body's elements from the effect of coldness.
6. Foot reflexology massage can be given every day but the total duration of both feet in a day should not exceed 45 minutes. However, only ten minutes is allowed for patients who used to suffer from heart attack.


Students paying utmost attention in class

Foreigners' Opinions on Thai Massage
As foot reflexology massage is a safe healing method full of benefits and is conveniently administered, the number of people interested in this field is increasing. The following are two foreigners' opinions on Thai massage:


Jana Oldag practising foot massage

Kerry Brooksbank, a 34 year-old English massage therapist told Thaiways that she took Thai massage course because she would like to apply the knowledge to her career. She added, "Thai massage is well known in England. It is stronger than other types of massage. But after completing the course, I will give a softer Thai massage to my clients as the English people prefer softer massage."

Jana Oldag, a 24 year-old German, unemployed, said that she heard the name of Thai massage for the first time from a friend of her father's. It interested her a lot. Ms. Oldag aimed to operate her own massage service in Germany but she needed a certificate to do so. That is why she enrolled in the Thai massage course.

As long as human beings are threatened by ailments and troubled by stress, the art of massage will certainly continue to exist and develop. If you would like to try massage, there are thousands of massage shops and spas around Bangkok and other tourist cities in Thailand offering services at reasonable fees. Three-to five-star-hotels in tourist cities usually provide their clients with spa and massage services.


• Note: Wat Pho, a tourist attraction famous for its Reclining Buddha, is located behind the Grand Palace on Sanamchai Road, Phra Nakhon District, Bangkok. See Map of Bangkok (A3).
• Special thanks to
Khun Preeda Tangtrongchitr, Director of the Thai Traditional Massage School, Wat Pho, for giving Thaiways useful information and allowing us to take photographs.


For the correct pronunciation of romanized Thai words, see
Romanization System of the Thai Language .

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